Back to the basics with Microsoft software licensing options

My colleagues and I get asked a lot about licensing. Frankly, Microsoft doesn’t have a great reputation for keeping it simple. And to be totally transparent – I, like many of my colleagues, would usually rather stick a fork in my eye that talk about it because it can get complicated. And confusing. And just…ugh.

So you can imagine my joy when I was asked to write a newsletter editorial about simplifying licensing. Exactly.

Then I had a very enlightening conversation with Terry Choquette, Licensing Marketing Manager at Microsoft and she pointed me to a few resources that got back to the basics and laid it all out very simply. I like simple. And I decided that this simple information was as blog worthy as it was newsletter worthy. While details about software licensing is not everybody’s favourite reading material, stick with me on this.

Ways to buy a license

First of all, there are 3 ways to buy a license as illustrated in the slide below: a full packaged product from a retail store, an OEM product on a new computer or a volume agreement from a reseller.

Ways to buy a license

Volume licensing agreements

While you could simply walk into the nearest Best Buy or Future Shop and make your purchase, most organizations that need 5 or more licenses can benefit best from volume licensing agreements. Why? Well, there are some pricing advantages, there are more flexible options based on size and type of business, payment structure, ownership of software, etc., there are additional use rights for cross-language and reimaging machines, and there are use rights to new product versions, support, training, tools, etc., with Software Assurance (more about this below). 

For this post, I’m going to limit my discourse to those organizations who want to license less than 250 devices or users, which I would hazard a guess applies to most of you reading this blog. If you need help with licensing options for 250 devices/users or more, lemme know and I’ll put you in touch with people who can help you or you can check out these online resources.

Below is a great 3.5 minute video that lays out the volume licensing options that are part of the Microsoft Open License program for small and medium sized businesses:


Basically, there are 3 volume licensing agreement options: Open License, Open Value and Open Value Subscription. Now if you want more detail than the video gives (you did watch it right? C’mon it’s only 3.5 minutes long and it’s pretty entertaining!), you’ll want to take a look at the Open License Program Guide. It has a very useful chart on page 8 which compares what you get with an Open License agreement compared to an Open Value agreement.

Software Assurance

Software Assurance is something that can be added to your volume license agreement which provides 24x7 support, deployment planning services, training, and the latest software releases. Although once viewed as simply an insurance policy for free software upgrades, Software Assurance has now been recognized by analysts as an essential tool for getting the most out of your licensing purchase.

Below is a screen shot from an interactive PDF listing the benefits of Software Assurance with each type of licensing agreement.

benefits of software assurance

For more information about Software Assurance and what it can do for your organization, check out the Software Assurance site.

Let me know if this was helpful!

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[Cross-posted from the IT Manager Connection blog]