The most expensive tier of licensing for Microsoft 365 is their ‘E5’ service. Many companies will be on E3 which is one step down, but there’s several other tiers too. This article will look at what’s in the E5 suite and clarify what each service does, to help you decide if E5 is something worth investigating. Before we dig into it, Microsoft 365 (M365) is the new name which contains a package of 3 solutions; Windows 10, Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). EMS is the one people are least familiar with, which contains services like Azure Active Directory and Intune. Now let’s compare Microsoft 365 E3 vs E5.

Microsoft Docs

If you look at a page like this from, it’s not really helpful in showing what’s different about E5. In the table comparing it to E3, the only difference is Power BI! There’s a lot more to it than that though. It’s hard to find an official, clear link but I did end up finding this which did a decent job of listing the differences, but it only covers Office 365, not the full M365 suite.

Here’s the first half of a list showing everything I could find that comes as a part of Microsoft 365 E5 beyond an E3 license, with a brief description of each (note that the names constantly change and I couldn’t find an official source for what the names are at the time of writing).  Understanding these components and the differences between Microsoft 365 E3 vs E5 is important to determine which features you will use and how much budget will be required.

Advanced eDiscovery

This builds upon more basic eDiscovery options, where you can search specified data in your tenant for a bunch of different reasons. Some of the notable advanced options are predictive coding and machine learning (normally found in other enterprise grade eDiscovery solutions), and OCR capabilities, meaning images can be text searched. This solution will generally be used for legal and compliance reasons and could save a lot of money vs exporting data and getting a 3rd party to perform.

Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection

This is a sort of package for several features that apply to emails in Office 365, such as Safe Links where any link in an email goes through checks at the time of being clicked to check for malicious intent, and Attack Simulator that lets you run a pretend attack on your company for user awareness and reporting.

Customer Lockbox

This adds an extra layer of protection against Microsoft staff accessing your data, which might be needed for compliance reasons. It forces a workflow to occur and requires your consent before Microsoft can do anything at all with your tenant.

Advanced Data Governance

Extra options in Data Governance such as the ability to auto-apply retention labels, rather than manually classifying.

Office 365 Cloud App Security

This allows data to be fed into this solution to have an overview of what solutions users are using – are they using Dropbox to send data to customers when they shouldn’t be? Ca be fed data from many different sources, including firewalls.


There’s a ‘light’ version of this in lower plans, but the full solution uses data from their account to show reports on how long they spend in meetings, emails, who they spend time with and suggestions on how to potentially improve the way staff work. This can be a good solution to show once you make the jump to E5 as an immediate staff benefit.

Wrapping Up

Now you have some good insights into the differences between Microsoft 365 E3 vs E5.  Part 2  shows the other half of the extras contained in Microsoft 365 E5 compared to E3.