Much like learning the difference between Formula 1 and Formula 3 cars by reading the proverbial “high-speed racing weekly” to help choose which car or racing format is for you, read on to understand the difference between the various Frontline Workers licenses to help you decide which suits your business.

Let’s ensure we have the correct definition of the rights of frontline workers.

From Microsoft: “Frontline workers are employees whose primary function is to work directly with customers or the general public providing services, support, and selling products, or employees directly involved in the manufacturing and distribution of products or services.”

You can also think of these as people who are NOT in front of a keyboard all day.

What are the F1, F3 and F5 SKUs in M365

The world of Formula Racing is complex. Similarly, although entirely different, the world of Microsoft licensing is also. As of December 2021, there were 1858 different SKUs available. Today we will cover just 5 of those designed for Frontline Workers: F1, F3, and the F5 add-ons.

So, let’s get into it.

For the most part, Frontline workers won’t need to use many of the applications used by their desk-bound counterparts. They need tools to do their job and do it securely and, in some circumstances, be compliant with relevant standards in that industry.

Microsoft appears to have considered the essential applications and services they need and offers plans to cover all your needs when it comes to Frontline Workers.

In the Frontline range of licenses, there are only five licenses:
  • F1
  • F3
  • F5 Security
  • F5 Compliance
  • F5 Security and Compliance

As you would expect, F1 is the simplest of the lot. It gets your worker online with the bare apps needed to do their jobs securely. Or as Microsoft refers to it: “Lay the foundation for secure communication.”

These are key apps like the Office Suite on the web (but not the desktop apps), Outlook, Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive.

F3 builds on this “foundation” and adds a swag of other applications like Full Outlook and Office Desktop, Sway, and Power Automate, amongst others.

Then there is F5, which is an add-on. It might come as a surprise, but F5 does not actually offer the same as F3. It isn’t a standalone license. F5 is all about Security and Compliance. All F5 add-ons require Microsoft F1, F3 (or Office 365 F3 Enterprise Mobility + Security E3).

The base F5 add-on comes in 2 flavors: “F5 Security” or “F5 Compliance.” Depending on the security requirements of the Frontline worker role or environment, a third SKU is available with security and compliance.

Have a look here to download the full breakdown and comparison for these licenses. See here for an online comparison in a simpler tabular format.

Limitations of the different Frontline SKUs

Formula 3 racing is considered the entry point for rookies getting into the racing game. The engines are limited to top out at only 270 kmph. You know where this is going. The Frontline Worker F1 license is like Formula 3 racing. In this instance, it’s the starting point.

It can be tricky choosing the right license to ensure your Frontline Worker has access to the tools they need while, so here’s a summary of key services and what you get for each one.

  • F1 does not give the user an actual mailbox. Access only to Teams Calendar.
  • F3 comes with a license for Outlook and a 2GB mailbox, available as an app or online. Office
    • F1 and F3: PowerPoint, Word, Excel, and OneNote
    Device and app management
    • F1: Microsoft 365 admin center, InTune, Endpoint Configuration Manager
    • F3: All of the above plus Windows 11 Enterprise and Autopilot
    • All plans include SharePoint, Yammer, and Viva connections
    Files and Content
    • F1: OneDrive (2GB) and Stream
    • F3: All of the above plus Sway
    Work Management
    • F1: Microsoft Planner
    • F3: Microsoft Planner plus the Power Suite, Forms, and To Do
    Meetings and Voice
    • F1 and F3 Teams
    • Available on F3 only

    The summary above is intended to help in decision-making, comparing what you do or don’t get with each license. Read on for some examples of specific use cases and how they will affect your bottom line!

    Use cases for the different Frontline licenses

    Frontline worker Productivity Tools

    Frontline worker Productivity Tools | Microsoft 365 (courtesy of Microsoft)

    Not all racing cars in Formula 1, Formula 2, and Formula 3 are created equal. In fact, F1 cars are uniquely designed, whereas F2 and F3 are all designed by an Italian firm called Dallara. Bet you didn’t know all that?

    Circling back to who Frontline Workers are and typically where you’ll find them. Some of these Frontline Workers might be in a niche service or industry and need their own “unique” choice of which license combination suits them (see what I did there?).

    The four photos above – taken from Microsoft’s 365 Enterprise page – capture places where you’ll find Frontline Workers and help cement who they are and what they do. It drives home the wide spectrum of how Frontline Workers are classed or considered.

    What are my thoughts on the above and what to choose?

    Starting top-left. Honestly, I’m unsure what role or job this person performs. Based on clothing, I’m picking a medical supply service. Drive-through-drugstore anyone?

    Moving on to the first responders at the top-right. I suspect high-end security and compliance probably won’t be necessary for them. They need the basics, so F1 for you. Thank you very much.

    On the other hand, the healthcare professional at the bottom left will have access to patient data. One thing to remember is the various regulations, such as HIPAA in the US and similar regulations in other countries. That extra $13/month with the Security + Compliance add-ons is worth the spend to remain secure and compliant.

    What’s it going to cost me?

    The price of a Formula 1 car is around $20m. For a Formula 2 car, you’re looking at parting with only around $670,000 and a Formula 3 dropping to just $120,000.

    Pricing for Frontline Workers licensing is a tad less but still requires due consideration when choosing.

    Here’s the skinny on pricing for each of the Frontline Worker licenses.




    F5 Security

    F5 Compliance

    F5 Sec +Compliance







    (All prices are based on an annual commitment)

    At the top end of the scale, purchasing for Frontline Workers in a high-profile or sensitive industry (e.g., Pharmaceutical or Bank), where security and compliance are common, you’ll probably opt for the F3 + F5 Security + Compliance add-on, which will set you back $21 user/month.

    On the other hand, for Frontline Workers in a tin-can factory or the first responders mentioned in the previous paragraph, the F1 license will be your likely choice.

    Note that these are simply suggestions and my starting approach. Each business needs to do its own due diligence to decide what is right for the person and the business, and ultimately, the budget!


    Microsoft’s catchy terms like “Connect your workforce,” “Protect your organization,” and “Empower with devices” to describe this class of license can’t be faulted. Collectively, they explain the benefit you get from the Frontline Worker license and why you should hand over your shiny dollars.

    At the start of this article, I stated the number of Microsoft license SKUs available: 1858. By offering such a variety of licenses, including those for Frontline Workers, there’s something to suit virtually any business, in almost any environment, and in all industries.

    I hope you enjoyed learning as much as I did a bit about the world of Formula racing and, more importantly, Frontline Workers licenses and are now better informed when choosing.

    The views expressed in this article are my own and are unrelated to my employer’s views.