Exchange Online Plan 1 and Exchange Online Plan 2: What’s the Difference?

June Castillote

June Castillote

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If your organization is looking to get a cloud email service, Microsoft offers several subscriptions that include Exchange Online. Among these subscriptions is the Exchange Online Plan, 1 which is priced at $4.00 user/month and Exchange Online Plan 2, which is priced as double at $8.00 user/month.

Unless you have an unlimited source of funds to pay for the license, it would be best to evaluate whether the features of Exchange Online Plan 2 are worth spending the extra $4.00. Because maybe, Exchange Online Plan 1 already has everything you need.

In this article, Exchange Online Plan 1 and Exchange Online Plan 2 will be compared side-by-side. You’ll know what benefits you get from both plans, and what you’d get as extra if you opt for the more expensive plan.

Exchange Online Plan 1 vs Exchange Online Plan 2

Exchange Online Plan 2 can be regarded as an upgraded version of Exchange Online Plan 1. This means that all features of Exchange Online Plan 1 are included in Exchange Online Plan 2. Some of the features in Plan 2 may not even be available in Plan 1, to begin with.

Apart from the apparent difference in pricing, what are the other differences between the two Exchange Online plans? These differences may help you decide which plan to finally get. The next sections will attempt to help you answer these questions.

  • Is the mailbox space enough?
  • Can users archive old messages?
  • Can deleted messages be retained and restored?
  • If an employee leaves, can the mailbox data be preserved?
  • How are sensitive data protected?
  • Is there support for voicemail integration?

Mailbox Storage (User, Shared, Archive)

The answer to how much mailbox storage is big enough is subjective. It depends on how the mailbox is used and managed. Bigger mailbox space means that the mailbox can accommodate more messages and likely less number of times to manage the size.

With Exchange Online Plan 1, each user mailbox is allocated with a maximum of 50GB of mailbox space. Shared mailboxes and public folder mailboxes are also given the same maximum size as a user mailbox. The 50GB maximum mailbox size limit cannot be increased.

In Exchange Online Plan 2, user mailboxes are given a 100GB maximum mailbox space, which is double the maximum size of an Exchange Online Plan 1 mailbox.

A User Mailbox with Exchange Online Plan 2 License
A User Mailbox with Exchange Online Plan 2 License

The maximum mailbox size of a shared mailbox is initially set to 50GB, without a license. The screenshot below shows the mailbox size of the shared mailbox without a license.

A Shared Mailbox Without An Exchange Online Plan 2 License
A Shared Mailbox Without An Exchange Online Plan 2 License

But, if a shared mailbox is assigned with an Exchange Online Plan 2 license, its size would increase to 100GB.

A Shared Mailbox With An Exchange Online Plan 2 License
A Shared Mailbox With An Exchange Online Plan 2 License

Note: While shared mailboxes do not require a license to be assigned, the users who will access a shared mailbox must have an Exchange Online license assigned.

Both Exchange Online Plan 1 and Exchange Online Plan 2 enables mailbox archiving by provisioning an archive mailbox. Exchange Online Plan 1 allows up to 50GB of archive mailbox size. While with Exchange Online Plan 2, the archive mailbox size is unlimited.

Although, to clarify what unlimited means, the initial size of the archive mailbox is set to 100GB. If more archive mailbox space is needed, another 100GB of another archive mailbox space is automatically added. This behaviour is referred to as the auto-expanding archive.

To summarize the mailbox storage differences between Exchange Online Plan 1 and Exchange Online Plan 2:

  • User Mailbox Storage Size
    • Exchange Online Plan 1: 50GB
    • Exchange Online Plan 2: 100GB
  • Shared Mailbox Storage Size
    • Exchange Online Plan 1: 50GB
    • Exchange Online Plan 2: 100GB
  • Archive Mailbox Storage Size
    • Exchange Online Plan 1: 50GB
    • Exchange Online Plan 1: Unlimited (100GB initial, auto-expanding when more space is needed)

Mailbox Preservation

There are times that employees or even the organization itself could be involved in a legal proceeding. And in these cases, mailbox data may need to be preserved so that if summoned, this information may be retrieved.

Organizations may preserve selected or all mail items from mailboxes. These can be preserved by putting items in an In-place hold or placing an entire mailbox in the Litigation hold.

Another way to preserve the mailbox is by turning the mailbox into an inactive mailbox. However, a prerequisite for creating an inactive mailbox is by placing the mailbox in litigation hold before the Exchange Online license is removed.

All of these mailbox preservation methods require that the mailbox is assigned with an Exchange Online Plan 2 license. If the mailbox is assigned with an Exchange Online Plan 1 license, the mailbox can still be preserved, but a separate (add-on) archiving license has to be assigned.

Placing a mailbox in litigation hold requires an Exchange Online Plan 2 license
Placing a mailbox in litigation hold requires an Exchange Online Plan 2 license

To summarize the mailbox and mailbox data preservation requirements; In-Place Hold, Litigation Hold, and Inactive Mailbox need an Exchange Online Plan 2 license.

Data Loss Prevention

Protecting sensitive information is of the utmost importance. Whether it is your organization or your client, data leak must be prevented by those who are responsible for keeping them safe. And honestly, in this day and age, data loss prevention should be a requirement already. Don’t you think?

Suppose you consider getting an Exchange Online plan with data loss prevention (DLP) feature included. In that case, it is only available in the Exchange Online Plan 2 subscription. With it, you can make use of built-in DLP policies or even create custom ones based on your business requirements.

Below are just some of the information that you could protect with DLP policies.

  • Social security number
  • Banking details, such as bank account numbers from different countries.
  • Passport number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Tax file number

For example, if an employee responded to a phishing email and was asked to send their tax file number by email. Having a DLP policy to protect this type of information from being shared would prevent possible data leakage.

The image below is just an example of what happens when a message that matches a DLP policy assigned in the organization.

A message containing DLP
A message containing DLP

In summary, data loss prevention is an excellent feature to have if your organization is concerned with protecting sensitive information. DLP is a feature that is not available in Exchange Online Plan 1 and is only available in Exchange Online Plan 2.

Unified Messaging Services

Another feature that is only available in an Exchange Online Plan 2 subscription or any Microsoft 365 subscription that includes Exchange Online Plan 2.

With unified messaging (UM), enterprise-voice enabled users can receive voicemails in their mailbox. Users can also call into their mailbox to retrieve or manage their voicemails.

Another benefit of the UM feature is the auto-attendant. The auto-attendant is like a digital phone receptionist that answer calls and provide options or menus that users can then press on their phone. If you’ve called into a bank’s phone system and was asked to press numbers to be directed to the right department – that’s what the auto-attendant does.

Conclusion

The Exchange Online Plan 1 subscription already offers plenty of features, and perhaps for some organizations, these features are enough. The basic features are available to both plans like SMTP relay, mail hygiene, and hybrid deployment, among others.

However, the additional/upgraded features offered with the Exchange Online Plan 2 makes it an even better choice. The differences between the two Exchange Online Plans can be summarized as follows.

  • Mailbox Storage – Exchange Online Plan 2 gives double the mailbox space (100GB) compared to that of Exchange Online Plan 1 (50GB).
  • Mailbox Archiving – Mailboxes assigned with an Exchange Online Plan 2 license enjoys the benefit of auto-expanding archive space. Initial size of 100GB is allocated and would increase if more space is needed. While an Exchange Online Plan 1 licensed mailbox is only entitled to 50GB of archive space.
  • Mailbox Preservation – With the Exchange Online Plan 2, mailbox and mailbox data can be preserved by utilizing the In-place hold and litigation hold features. A mailbox can be set as inactive, which would put the mailbox on hold indefinitely.
  • Data Loss Prevention – This feature is available in Exchange Online Plan 2. There are built-in policies that can be deployed to prevent leakage of sensitive data. These sensitive data include personally identifiable information (PII) and payment card industry (PCI).
  • Unified Messaging Services – This feature is only available in Exchange Online Plan 2. This plan allows your organization’s voice infrastructure to integrate with Exchange Online. Voicemail can be stored in the user’s Exchange Online mailbox. Users can then call into their mailbox to listen to these voicemails.

Looking at the features alone, Exchange Online Plan 2 has better (and bigger) features than Exchange Online Plan 1. However, while those additional features are great to have, they come at double the cost. And as always, money tends to be a huge factor when deciding to get into a deal.

In the end, I hope that this article has helped you determine what you’re getting (or not getting) with the Exchange Online Plan you’ll choose.

Further Reading

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