Office 365 A1 Plus Retirement: What You Need to Know and How to Navigate It

Microsoft has officially announced that it is retiring Office 365 A1 Plus, a decision that will affect many educational institutions. Introduced in 2015 to ease the provisioning burden for IT of moving users to the cloud, Office 365 A1 Plus was intended to help schools transition to the cloud. However, it also led to many institutions becoming non-compliant.

With the announcement of its retirement, a whirlwind of questions has been raised. If you find yourself among the many asking, "Why is Office 365 A1 Plus being discontinued?" or "What's the difference between A1 and A1 Plus?" or "What are my options now?" — you are in the right place.

What's Happening with the Office A1 Plus Retirement?

Microsoft is officially retiring the Office 365 A1 Plus Program. This program, often unbeknownst to educational institutions, was provided to a vast number of organizations, and the retirement may leave many in a lurch.

If your organization has an Office 365 A1 or A1 Plus license, applications like Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint will no longer be available as desktop versions. Instead, those programs will exclusively be accessed online as web apps.

Additionally, Microsoft is introducing storage limits to Office 365 A1, A3, and A5 customers. Gone is the unlimited storage feature for education customers, instead all school tenants will receive 100TB of free pooled storage across OneDrive, SharePoint, and Exchange. A1 clients will also be limited to 100GB per user in the organization’s 100TB tenant.

While the transition might seem intimidating, HBS is here to help you determine the best option for your organization going forward.

Why is Microsoft Retiring Office 365 A1 Plus?

A prevalent question is, "Why?" The simple answer is that the A1 Plus program was never intended to be used as widely as it has been. Microsoft is taking corrective measures to align its services better. This change, in part, is due to Microsoft's attempt to regain the market share they lost to competitors like Google.

When is Office 365 A1 Plus Officially Ending?

A1 Plus functionality will end on August 1, 2024. However, it is crucial to start planning your transition now. HBS has already successfully assisted many clients through similar changes, and we look forward to helping all our education customers assess their entire tenant to see which licensing options work best for them.

Challenges Ahead and How You Can Simplify the Process:

  1. Awareness: The foremost challenge is simply becoming aware of the impending change. Some institutions have received alerts, but others remain in the dark.

    We have created a one-page PDF that should prove helpful in sharing this information with your faculty and staff

  2. Deciphering Microsoft: For most educational institutions, especially K-12s that predominantly use Google, Microsoft's terminologies and plans can seem like a foreign language.
  3. Understanding Implications: The big question - What does this mean for you? With numerous licensing  options, finding the right fit for your institution can be confusing. It is essential to understand that very seldom is Microsoft's A3 or A5 offering the right fit for K-12s.
  4. Budgetary Constraints: The transition from a free program to potentially paid licenses can strain budgets. However, it is important to realize that many alternatives exist. With HBS's expertise, you can be assured of finding the best license based on your specific needs without the unnecessary overheads of blanket agreements.

Important Next Steps to Take

  1. Entire Environment Assessments: A comprehensive assessment of your entire environment will be enormously helpful in determining the correct licensing mix between on-prem, hybrid, and cloud solutions.
  2. Optimizing Student Benefits: Student Use rights are critical, and an emphasis should be placed on maximizing student use benefits during this transition.
  3. Staying Compliant: While A1 Plus might be your primary focus, think of this change as an opportunity to make sure you have all your licensing ducks in a row, no matter which Microsoft applications you are using.

HBS Is Here to Help

The retirement of the A1 Plus offering is a significant change, but with HBS by your side, it does not have to be daunting. Whether you need more clarification about your Microsoft licensing or need assistance with a transition plan, HBS is here to help.

Are you an educational institution seeking clarity on the A1 Plus retirement? Whether you are familiar with the ins and outs of Microsoft Office, HBS is here to provide a tailored solution. Reach out to HBS today for an environment-wide assessment of your needs. Remember, with change comes opportunity. Let us navigate this transition together.

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Olivia Marlow