Tips and tricks for navigating the Microsoft licensing morass

Just in time for the end-of-year licensing push by Microsoft's sales folks and partners, the analysts at Directions on Microsoft have compiled a list of five resources to help companies decipher their Microsoft contracts.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It's almost the end of the year, which means Microsoft is putting the hard sell on many users to renew their license agreements.

Microsoft officials have admitted Microsoft's licensing contracts and policies are a maze that often require experts to help customers decipher. The Softies repeatedly promise they are working to simplify everything from End User License Agreements (EULAs) to volume agreements, like Select. But for the most part, Microsoft licensing is still a no-person's land which few feel confident in navigating.

The Microsoft watchers at Directions on Microsoft know this. And just in time for the end-of-year license push, they've compiled a list of five resources to help companies figure out their Microsoft contracts.

Directions analyst Paul DeGroot has published a list of these resources, which procurement managers, asset managers and other IT folks should keep handy and evaluate regularly. Those include EULAs, product use rights, volume products lists, Microsoft Licensing Advisor, licensing briefs and the actual volume license a customer signs.

DeGroot offers some potentially useful licensing tips and tricks under each of these resource headings. Example, under EULAs:

"(C)ompanies exploring a virtual desktop infrastructure may be able to design a system that complies with the rules for remote desktop access rights that are described in the EULAs for business versions of Windows (XP, Vista, and Windows 7). These rights let users remotely access a physical or virtual machine over the Internet without requiring special Client Access Licenses (CALs), Software Assurance (SA), Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktops, Terminal Services CALs, or any of the myriad programs that Microsoft tries to put between remote users and centralized physical or virtual machines. These rights are governed by some specific restrictions, but they are usable if you read the EULA carefully and design an infrastructure that can detect the OS or identify the license status of particular users."

Another goodie from DeGroot:

"Another Windows client right embedded in the EULA: if you want to run a lightweight Web server, you don't need an expensive server—the EULA lets a workstation (even one running Windows Home Premium) run Microsoft's Web server software, IIS, and handle up to 20 connections."

DeGroot's whole post is worth a read if you're one of the folks in your home, small business or enterprise stuck with the task of figuring out what to buy and not to buy from Microsoft.

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