A Comprehensive Guide to M365 E5 [Features, Security & License]

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What is the quickest way for a small to midsize business (SMB) to enhance productivity, ensure security, and maintain compliance in what seems to be an ever-changing business environment? There is a compelling case to be made that Microsoft 365 E5 is designed to meet these needs and exceed expectations. This guide delves into the features, security measures, and licensing options of M365 E5, tailored for IT leaders in the SMB space.

Introduction to M365 E5

Microsoft 365 E5 represents the pinnacle of Microsoft's commitment to providing comprehensive, cloud-based solutions for businesses of all sizes. The journey to Microsoft 365 began with the launch of Office 365 in 2011, which marked Microsoft's foray into delivering its traditional productivity suite through a subscription-based cloud service. Over the years, as cloud computing became more integral to business operations, Microsoft expanded its offerings to include more than just the Office suite. This evolution led to the introduction of Microsoft 365 in 2017, which bundled together Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), offering a more holistic solution for businesses.

The Microsoft 365 Enterprise suite, particularly the E5 plan, is the most advanced and comprehensive option available. It is designed to meet the needs of organizations requiring robust security, compliance, and analytical capabilities on top of productivity tools. The E5 suite includes all the features of the E3 plan, with significant additions in security, compliance, and analytics:

Feature Category

Microsoft 365 E3

M365 E5


  • Microsoft Defender Antivirus and Device Guard.
  • Basic threat protection.

Existing E3 features plus:

  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint.
  • Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).
  • Azure Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).


  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for emails and documents.
  • Basic eDiscovery and audit capabilities.

Existing E3 features plus:

  • Advanced eDiscovery.
  • Advanced Data Governance.
  • Insider Risk Management.
  • Information Barriers.
  • Compliance Manager.


Not included in E3.

Power BI Pro for advanced analytics and visualization capabilities.

So, for businesses where these priorities are paramount, the investment in an E5 license could be justified by the advanced protections and capabilities it delivers compared to either an E3 plan or Microsoft 365 Business offering.

M365 E5 Features

M365 E5 Features

Think of the M365 E5 license as the pinnacle of Microsoft's offerings for business productivity, security, and compliance. It's designed for organizations that demand the highest levels of protection and efficiency, integrating seamlessly into the modern workplace with:

Microsoft Office Apps

The core Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) are enhanced with AI and cloud capabilities, offering unparalleled productivity. For instance, a marketing team can use AI-powered Excel features for predictive analysis of customer data, enabling targeted campaign strategies with higher ROI. Here are three real-world examples illustrating how a M365 E5 license can be a game-changer for small enterprises:

  1. Real-time Document Collaboration - Consider a small marketing firm that needs to collaborate on client proposals and presentations frequently. With Microsoft 365 E5, team members can co-author documents in real-time in Word and PowerPoint, regardless of their location. This means that a proposal can be drafted, reviewed, and finalized without the need for back-and-forth emails or file versions, leading to faster turnaround times and improved client satisfaction.
  2. Professional Business Communication - Email remains a critical communication tool for small businesses. Outlook, as part of the M365 suite, offers not just email but also calendaring task management, and contact management capabilities. Small businesses can leverage Outlook's advanced email organization features, such as Focused Inbox, to prioritize important messages. Additionally, the integration with Teams allows for a seamless transition from email to video calls, enhancing both internal and client communications.
  3. Enhanced Productivity with AI - The AI enhancements integrated into the Microsoft Office apps can transform the way small businesses operate. For example, PowerPoint's built-in Designer feature uses AI to provide professional layout suggestions, helping businesses create impressive presentations with minimal effort. Similarly, Ideas in Excel offers AI-powered insights, helping businesses analyze their data more effectively.

SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online facilitates secure, cloud-based collaboration. A construction company might use SharePoint to manage project documentation, allowing real-time updates and access controls for both office and on-site personnel, streamlining project management and execution. Here are some real-world examples of how SharePoint Online under a M365 E5 license can be instrumental for small enterprises:

  • Centralized Document Management - Imagine a small legal firm that handles a vast amount of case files and documents. SharePoint Online allows for the creation of a centralized document repository where all case files can be organized, tagged, and easily retrieved. This not only improves efficiency but also ensures that sensitive information is securely managed and compliant with legal standards. Version control features mean that multiple attorneys can work on the same document without losing track of changes, ensuring accuracy and consistency.
  • Intranet Sites for Team Collaboration - A small manufacturing company with departments like R&D, production, and sales can use SharePoint Online to create department-specific intranet sites. These sites serve as centralized hubs where employees can access departmental resources, news, and updates. For instance, the R&D department can share its latest prototypes and gather feedback from the production team, fostering collaboration and innovation within the company.
  • External Sharing and Collaboration - For small businesses that frequently collaborate with external partners, vendors, or clients, SharePoint Online offers controlled external sharing capabilities. A small event planning business, for example, can create shared spaces for each event, where vendors can upload contracts, clients can review event plans, and staff can coordinate tasks. This streamlines communication and project management, making the planning process more efficient and transparent.
  • Customized Business Processes - SharePoint Online's integration with Microsoft Power Automate allows small businesses to automate workflows and streamline their operations. A small online retailer could automate order processing workflows, where a new order triggers inventory checks, updates the customer database, and initiates the shipping process. This automation reduces manual errors, saves time, and allows the business to scale operations more effectively.
  • Knowledge Management and Retention - Small businesses often struggle with knowledge retention, especially when employees leave or roles change. SharePoint Online can serve as a knowledge base where employees document processes, best practices, and solutions to common problems. For a small tech support company, having a searchable knowledge base in SharePoint means that solutions to technical issues are readily available, improving service quality and response times.

Power BI

Power BI

A feature often overlooked by small businesses, Power BI provides simple yet powerful tools needed to analyze data, uncover insights, and make data-driven decisions. Whether it's optimizing operations, managing finances more effectively, understanding customers better, or improving project management, Power BI can help small businesses leverage their data to compete more effectively in three key scenarios:

  1. Enhancing Sales Operations - A small retail business can use Power BI to track and analyze sales data across different locations and time periods. By creating interactive dashboards, the business owner can identify which products are performing well and which are not, enabling more informed stock management decisions. Furthermore, integrating customer feedback data into Power BI can help identify trends in customer satisfaction, allowing the business to make adjustments to its product offerings or customer service strategies accordingly.
  2. Financial Planning and Analysis - Small businesses can use Power BI to consolidate financial data from various sources, such as sales, expenses, and payroll, into a single, real-time dashboard. This allows for more effective tracking of key financial metrics like cash flow, profitability, and cost centers. By visualizing financial data, businesses can identify trends and anomalies, enabling them to adjust their strategies quickly. For example, if a dashboard shows a sudden increase in expenses in a particular category, the business can investigate and address the issue promptly.
  3. Enhancing Customer Insights - Service-oriented small businesses, such as those in hospitality or consulting, can use Power BI to gain deeper insights into their customer base. By analyzing data on customer behavior, preferences, and feedback, businesses can tailor their offerings to better meet customer needs. For instance, a small hotel chain could use Power BI to analyze booking data, identify trends in occupancy rates related to seasons, events, or promotions, and then adjust their marketing and pricing strategies accordingly.

Azure Information Protection

Microsoft Azure Information Protection offers advanced capabilities to classify, label, and protect documents and emails across your Microsoft 365 environment, including Office apps, Teams, and more. Some real-world scenarios for how Azure Information Protection helps small businesses protect employee and customer information include:

  • Protecting Intellectual Property - For a small technology startup, protecting intellectual property such as product designs, source code, and business strategies is crucial. Microsoft Azure Information Protection allows the startup to classify and label sensitive documents automatically. For instance, any document containing the word "patent" can be automatically labeled as "Confidential" and encrypted, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access it. This helps prevent accidental sharing of sensitive information and safeguards the company's most valuable assets.
  • Secure Collaboration with External Partners - Small businesses often need to collaborate with external partners, vendors, or contractors, which can pose a risk to data security. With Azure Information Protection, businesses can set policies that restrict access to documents or emails shared externally. For example, a small manufacturing company can share product designs with a supplier while preventing the supplier from forwarding, copying, or printing the documents. This ensures that sensitive information remains secure, even when collaborating outside the organization.
  • Safeguarding Email Communications - Email is a common vector for data leaks and security breaches. Small businesses can use Azure Information Protection to protect sensitive emails automatically. For instance, any email containing financial data can be automatically encrypted and marked as "Confidential," ensuring that only the intended recipient can read it. This is particularly useful for businesses that regularly transmit sensitive information, such as legal firms, ensuring client communications are secure and private.

It should be noted that Microsoft has evolved its Azure Information Protection service into what is now known as Microsoft Purview Information Protection.

Compliance and Governance Tools

Advanced tools assist in managing compliance effectively. A healthcare provider might use these tools to navigate the complexities of HIPAA compliance, automating data governance and risk assessment processes to protect patient data and avoid costly violations.

Advanced Security Features

With features like Microsoft Defender for Office 365, businesses are equipped to defend against sophisticated cyber threats. A financial institution could utilize Advanced Threat Protection to safeguard against phishing attacks, securing customer data and financial transactions.

Productivity and Collaboration Tools

Tools like Microsoft Teams enhance productivity and collaboration. An educational institution could use Teams to facilitate remote learning, enabling interactive classes, assignments, and collaboration on projects, all within a secure and compliant environment.

Implementation and Migration Support

Comprehensive support ensures a smooth transition to Microsoft 365 E5. For a small business upgrading from a legacy system, this support can be crucial, providing expert guidance through the migration process, minimizing downtime, and ensuring that employees can leverage the new tools effectively from day one.

M365 E5 Licensing Options

M365 E5 Licensing Options

Microsoft offers flexible licensing options that can empower businesses to scale their solutions according to their specific requirements and budget constraints. At a high level, the various Enterprise options available for Microsoft 365 plans include:


M365 E1

M365 E3

M365 E5

Core Office Apps

Web and mobile versions only

Full desktop versions included

Full desktop versions included

Email & Calendar

Yes, with a 50 GB mailbox

Yes, with a 100 GB mailbox

Yes, with a 100 GB mailbox and advanced features

Files & Content

OneDrive for Business (1 TB/user)

OneDrive for Business (unlimited)

OneDrive for Business (unlimited)


Basic security

Standard security features

Advanced security features including Microsoft Defender for Office 365 Plan 2, Microsoft Entra ID P2, and more


Standard compliance features

Advanced compliance features

Advanced compliance features plus eDiscovery, Advanced Data Governance, Insider Risk Management, and more

Identity & Access Management

Basic management features

Entra ID P1

Entra ID P2


Not available

Not available

Power BI Pro and MyAnalytics

Choosing the right Microsoft 365 license depends on your organization's size, needs, and budget. While M365 E5 is the most expensive, it also offers unparalleled features that can significantly benefit SMBs by prioritizing advanced cybersecurity, simplified compliance, and data governance.

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M365 E5 Security

The most advanced cyber-security features offered by Microsoft are bundled with the M365 solution. This alone makes M365 E5 a serious consideration for many SMBs, where security threats are increasingly complex and damaging, with recent stats showing the average cost to clean up a data breach is now over $4 million. Below, we explore real-world examples of how these features can be applied across various scenarios to safeguard businesses:

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)

This feature helps protect against sophisticated threats like phishing and zero-day malware. A financial services firm uses ATP to protect against sophisticated phishing attacks. ATP's Safe Links feature dynamically scans URLs in emails and documents in real-time, blocking access to malicious sites that could lead to data breaches. This proactive approach prevents a potential security incident that could compromise sensitive customer financial data.

Information Protection

Microsoft 365 E5 helps safeguard sensitive information from unauthorized access and leaks with robust information protection capabilities. For example, a healthcare provider can use Information Protection to classify, label, and protect patient records. Sensitive information is automatically encrypted, ensuring that it can only be accessed by authorized personnel. This not only helps in complying with HIPAA regulations but also secures patient data against unauthorized access, even if it's shared externally.

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

The cloud-based IAM in M365 helps provide secure access to resources with sophisticated identity and access management solutions. With IAM in M365 E5, a retail chain secures all user identities and controls access to its systems. By using multi-factor authentication (MFA) and conditional access policies, the retailer ensures that only employees with the right credentials and from trusted locations can access the inventory management system, significantly reducing the risk of insider threats and data breaches.

Cloud App Security

Gain visibility and control over your cloud apps with comprehensive Cloud App Security in E5. A common scenario for Cloud App Security is a company with lots of cloud application users. By monitoring for unusual activity, such as an abnormal volume of file downloads, the company can quickly identify and respond to potential threats, such as a compromised user account attempting to exfiltrate data.

Insider Risk Management

Not all cyber-security threats come from outside the corporate firewall. Subscribers to E5 can detect and manage risks from within the organization. Imagine an IT services firm deploys E5 to all users and activates these tools. By analyzing user activities and communications, the firm can identify potential insider threats, such as an employee attempting to leak sensitive project information to a competitor, enabling timely intervention.

Threat Intelligence

Cyber-security professionals rely on threat intelligence to understand the hows and whys of a cyber attack. Microsoft 365 E5 provides a steady stream of threat intelligence to users, empowering them to stay ahead of cyber threats with actionable intelligence and threat analytics. By receiving alerts about emerging malware targeting their industry, a company can proactively update its defense mechanisms, such as firewalls and antivirus software, to prevent potential attacks.

Compliance Management

Complying with industry regulations is crucial for many businesses. Microsoft 365 E5 offers comprehensive tools to ensure a plethora of compliance regimes. For example, a legal consultancy could use Compliance Management to continuously assess its compliance posture against industry standards, making it easier to identify and remediate any gaps.

Secure Score

The built-in Microsoft Secure Score feature helps IT admins assess and improve security posture with personalized and actionable cyber-security recommendations. One example of this would be a marketing agency checking its Secure Score to improve its security posture. By following personalized recommendations to configure security settings and adopt best practices, the agency enhances its defenses against cyber threats, reducing its overall risk profile.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Controls in place for DLP prevent customer and employee data from being accidentally shared outside the company via email or stored in unauthorized locations, mitigating the risk of data breaches and financial fraud.

M365 E5 Compliance

M365 E5 Compliance

For highly regulated industries, the compliance tools built into M365 E5 empower businesses to navigate the intricate world of compliance with confidence and efficiency. Whether you're dealing with GDPR, HIPAA, or any other regulatory framework, M365 E5 delivers an unparalleled array of compliance and governance tools designed to simplify and strengthen compliance processes such as:

  1. Compliance Center: Centralize your compliance management with the Compliance Center, providing tools and reports to manage compliance across your organization.
  2. Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Implement DLP policies to protect sensitive information across your organization.
  3. Advanced eDiscovery: Respond to legal and regulatory requests efficiently.
  4. Compliance Manager: Simplify compliance and reduce risk with Compliance Manager, offering continuous assessment and actionable insights.
  5. Information Governance: Manage your data lifecycle and reduce risk with information governance tools.
  6. Insider Risk Management: Mitigate risks from within with insider risk management.
  7. Customer Lockbox: Ensure that Microsoft cannot access your data without your consent with the Customer Lockbox feature.
  8. Compliance Score: Measure your compliance posture with Compliance Score, offering insights and recommendations to improve.


Microsoft 365 E5 offers a comprehensive suite of productivity, security, and compliance tools designed to empower SMBs in their digital transformation journey. With its advanced features and flexible licensing options, M365 E5 is tailored to meet the diverse needs of SMBs, ensuring they are equipped to face the challenges of the modern digital landscape.

For IT leaders looking to deploy M365 E5, partnering with a Microsoft Cloud Services Provider like Amaxra can provide the expertise and support needed to optimize security, productivity, and cost. Connect with the experts at Amaxra to explore how M365 can transform your business.

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