Microsoft will split Defender pricing plans to lower the entry bar for SMBs

Microsoft plans to split the pricing model for the commercial version of its antivirus product, known as Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, introducing a cheaper plan and making its product more easily and broadly available to companies that typically couldn't afford it.

Prior to today's announcement, Microsoft Defender for Endpoint was primarily available for companies that signed up for a Microsoft 365 E5 license or a E3 license with a E5 security extension tier, both of which are some of the most expensive tiers in Microsoft's enterprise licensing scheme.

Priced at $57 and $44/user/month, respectively, both of these two primary options are out of reach for many companies with smaller IT budgets, which will often use cheaper third-party antivirus solutions instead.

But in a new blog post today, Microsoft said it plans to split Defender for Endpoint into two new licensing options named Plan 1 and Plan 2.

The difference between the two is that Plan 1 will include only a subset of the Defender for Endpoint features, namely those focused on endpoint protection capabilities.

The rest of the Defender for Endpoint features will be available as part of Plan 2, where most of Microsoft's current customers will be automatically moved later this year.


Plan 1 will be primarily made available for E3 customers, while Plan 2 will be accessible after purchasing one of the more expensive E5 licenses.

As several security experts have pointed out today on social media, the move is a boon for small and medium-sized businesses, which have wanted to sign up for Defender's broad detection and monitoring capabilities but could not afford the extremely expensive licenses.

Prior to today's announcement, many security experts called on Microsoft to move Defender into its E3 tier in order to make it more accessible for companies with lower budgets, which often couldn't afford dedicated security teams and needed more help into security assets.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 is currently free while in a public preview. Companies can test it for free by signing up for the preview period.

Microsoft expects Plan 1 to become generally available later this year. Once generally available, Plan 1 will be offered in two ways:

  1. As a standalone SKU licensed per user. Eligible licensed users will be able to use Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plan 1 on up to five concurrent devices.
  2. Included as part of Microsoft 365 E3/A3 with the same per user model and device entitlements as stated above.

Other details and exact pricing will be available once Plan 1 reaches general availability. E3 licenses are currently priced at $32/user/month.

Despite some price hikes for Office subscriptions that are expected in 2022, Microsoft told CNBC last week that E3 and E5 licenses will remain at the same price points.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint was previously known as Defender Advanced Threat Protection and is currently available for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices. The commercial version of Defender has been almost universally reviewed and acknowledged as one of the best security solutions for Windows systems. The product is has a wide install base in many of the world's largest companies and many western government agencies.

Additional documentation on the two plans is available here.

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Catalin Cimpanu

Catalin Cimpanu

is a cybersecurity reporter who previously worked at ZDNet and Bleeping Computer, where he became a well-known name in the industry for his constant scoops on new vulnerabilities, cyberattacks, and law enforcement actions against hackers.