Do I Need Microsoft 365 to Use SharePoint?

by Yvonne Harris

Considering all the Microsoft products, applications, and services that exist today, it’s reasonable to have some questions. In this article, we will provide helpful information regarding the relationship between Microsoft 365 and its web-based collaborative platform SharePoint.

Do I need a Microsoft 365 subscription to run SharePoint?

Let’s start with the obvious question. No, you do not need a Microsoft 365 subscription to run SharePoint Online. Microsoft offers various SharePoint plans, starting with a standalone SharePoint Online subscription from $5/month per user that does not include access to Microsoft Office applications like Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. This is a basic plan which only includes SharePoint, OneDrive, and Lists. If you are a small business already using alternatives for email, writing, etc., this may be sufficient but is unlikely to meet the needs of most organizations.

However, if you want to benefit from the full Microsoft 365 suite and SharePoint, you will want a more comprehensive plan. The Microsoft 365 SharePoint Plan 3 starts at $23/month per user and includes access to Microsoft 365 apps and services, including Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and more.

Not sure which plan your organization has? It’s best to check with your internal team.

When choosing a package, of course, the higher-priced packages will offer more options for users. It all comes down to what you’re looking for and your budget.

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There are distinct differences between Microsoft 365 and SharePoint Online

Now that you know you can run SharePoint independently or as part of a complete Microsoft 365 subscription, let’s examine the key differences between the two programs. On the most basic level, Microsoft 365 is an umbrella term for the different Microsoft programs, apps, and services.

Conversely, SharePoint is a program that was created by Microsoft in 2001, with SharePoint Online arriving in 2013. It allows organizations to create intranets and provide a collaborative environment for business teams.

The use-cases for Microsoft 365 applications are as follows:

  • Document management – create and collaborate on documents created within Microsoft Word.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration – use Microsoft Teams to connect with others for learning, planning, and innovation. Note: Microsoft 365 is best used for uncomplicated collaboration efforts. See the specifications below for a more complex collaboration.
  • Spreadsheet creation and management through Excel
  • PowerPoint creation, management, and collaborations through Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Email and calendar management through Outlook
  • Organize your note-taking through OneNote digital workbook
  • Cloud storage and file sharing through OneDrive Business for personal documents while SharePoint Online will be the storage solution for documents intended to be widely shared
  • Employee experience through Microsoft Viva, Engage, and Connections

Microsoft describes Microsoft 365 as being the “productivity cloud designed to help each of us achieve what matters, in our work and life, with best-in-class Microsoft Office apps, intelligent cloud services, and advanced security.”

While SharePoint does have similar integrations, such as the ability to manage documents, its primary features are:

  • The ability to create websites
  • Security management for certain kinds of custom content management
  • Custom views
  • Complex collaboration efforts (in contrast to Microsoft 365, which is best for uncomplicated collaborations)

Microsoft explains the purpose of SharePoint by saying it is a way to “share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organization.”

These features allow many organizations to use SharePoint as a base for their company intranet.

How the two work together

Now that we’ve discussed how SharePoint and Microsoft 365 differ, let’s talk about how they work together – because the beauty of the Microsoft 365 suite is that everything integrates to create a seamless experience for employees.

SharePoint is a great space for document management, team collaboration, and data management. Yet, it is most powerful when combined with other Microsoft 365 apps like Microsoft Teams.

With Microsoft Teams, users can integrate with SharePoint through a team app or channel tab.  Users who prefer the app option are provided with “SharePoint” and “SharePoint News” options. “SharePoint” allows users to add pages or lists, in which the pages are read through Microsoft Teams.

In addition, the “SharePoint News” option sends out notifications to users when News posts are added to your site. That said, SharePoint integrated with Microsoft Teams helps users access information and resources more quickly and efficiently. It essentially eliminates the need to hop off the site to view newly added information.

For those that choose the channel tab, a document library is provided. This helps extend storage from SharePoint sites. It’s also a great way to provide additional materials to site users.


While Microsoft 365 is not essential for SharePoint Online, it’s clear that an M365 and SharePoint package offers several advantages. If your organization would benefit from Office 365 apps like Word, Excel, or Outlook, a Microsoft 365 and SharePoint package might be a good option for you.

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