I was curious to see how Microsoft would improve Office 365 this year, and just days into 2014, we see our first hint: Microsoft is now partnering with GoDaddy to offer a wider range of Office 365 options for small businesses, some of which are less expensive than Microsoft's stock Office 365 subscriptions.

This is the second step in Microsoft's partnership with GoDaddy. In October, Microsoft made it possible to buy or set up a GoDaddy-based domain from within the Office 365 admin center. (In fact, GoDaddy is still the only option if you want to buy a domain from within Office 365. I assume that will change.)

Although this domain purchase capability is a nicety, this week Microsoft announced a furthering of its GoDaddy partnership that's truly interesting. Now, GoDaddy is reselling Office 365 subscriptions directly to small business customers. And the neat thing is that GoDaddy is offering more choices than you'd get from the stock Office 365 sign-up, including some options that can save you some money.

To see what I mean, check out Microsoft's Compare all Office 365 for business plans page. Whereas enterprise customers can choose between multiple plans that offer a very granular access to the service's many capabilities, small businesses have two choices. There's Office 365 Small Business, which costs $5 per user per month and offers 50GB of email from Exchange Online; 25GB of SkyDrive Pro storage from SharePoint Online access; Lync Online-based online meetings and HD video conferencing, plus some additional capabilities; and Office 365 Small Business Premium, which adds a subscription to Office for up to 5 PCs/Macs per user for $12.50 per user per month.

But if you sign up for Office 365 through GoDaddy, you see a set of account choices that are more akin to what enterprise users get directly from Microsoft. These include:

  • Email Essentials. For just $3.99 per user month (*see below), you get 5GB of email storage, 2GB of SkyDrive Pro storage, and of course all the EAS-based device syncing capabilities you'd expect from a modern cloud productivity service.
  • Business Essentials. For $8.99 per user month (*see below), email storage is bumped up to 50GB and SkyDrive Pro storage up to 25GB. You also get Lync Online for online meetings and HD video conferencing, as well as access to the Office Web Apps. This offering appears to be comparable to Office 365 Small Business.
  • Productivity Plus. For $12.49 per user per month (*see below), you get access to the latest version of desktop Office on up to five PCs and/or Macs, and the Office Mobile apps for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone. This offering appears to be comparable to Office 365 Small Business Premium.

A few points about these plans.

The pricing is variable. The prices noted above are for annual licensing, but you'll spend more if you pay monthly. So the $3.99 Email Essentials plan will cost $4.99 per month if you go with a monthly payment. You can also pay for two years up front, although there's no additional savings. (This is true of Microsoft's stock Office 365 plans, too, by the way: You can pay $6.00 per user per month for Office 365 Small Business if you prefer to be billed monthly, for example.)

All of the GoDaddy plans also come with 24/7 support from GoDaddy, not Microsoft, which might or might not be a selling point depending on the experiences you've had with the company. If you're going to be using GoDaddy for web hosting or other online services associated with your domain(s), this could absolutely be a plus.

Basically, what I like about these options is that they let you run your small business like a much bigger business and pick the plans that make the most sense for your users, saving money in the process. On the flip side, I'd like to see a free trial option. If you're not familiar with Office 365, you can try Office 365 Small Business Premium for free for one month.

But choice is good, and especially for those small businesses that are already doing business with GoDaddy, this is a welcome addition to the Office 365 lineup.