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hconantFlag for United States of America

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Microsoft Office server licensing

I have read most of the threads here, and made a number of calls to MS and still do not understand the licensing. I will add that MS on each time I called was of little to no help and borderline rude.  Arrogant and sent the message that I should already know the answers to what I was asking. That said, here is my question.

If I have, for example, a law office with 30 employees that I would like to have MS Office use.  And lets say they each have an office PC and a laptop (of their own), that they use to connect to the office remotely, and they each may have a personal home desktop that they also use for office connectivity, and some may use hotel computers.  Now lets say that there is an average turnover of 2 employees per month.  Two leave, and two are new hires.  I still need 30 users.  I believe I understand that I need some type of volume license version of Office, and I presume (may be an innacurate presumption) that I need some type of 30 user license.  I want Office to run in Terminal Services so all staff is running the same versions at all times.  Also, obviously, an employee cannot be expected to keep a licensed copy of Office on their personal equipment so TS RemoteApps is the logical choice there.  So I also need 30 Cals or TS cals or RDP Cals so the staff can access the RemoteApps via Terminal Services.  My question is not the CALS or TS, but the Office version and licensing.  It would seem there must be a licensing model whereby I can obtain a multi-user Office license for 30 users, or instances, or whatever you want to call it.  And as long as there are no more than 30 users on the servers, or in the GPO that controls access to Office, we should be good.  In this instance it would be necessary that it was not user specific, and it was not machine specific.

My son is a freshman at ASU.  To my surprise, his school login credentials also includes a full MS Office suite.  He is able to acccess it at any time from his school/student home page by simple app icons.  He can access it from any computer, public or private he has access to.  So there must be a licensing model to accomplish what I am asking since it appears ASU does exactly that.

Thanks for any help.  If the MS support was ANY help at all I wouldn't have to be bothering you all.
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If you haven't found it yourself yet. This will give you more detail than you need. (Download the pdf)
If you are running Office on a Terminal Server you need to have Office CALs for the user's that will be logging into the TS server for the application. For an example if you have 30 users that would be using this app then you need to purchase 30 licenses for this app.
Yes 30 licenses of Office. If you buy it with Software Assurance, I believe that your employees can also load a copy on a home machine. I am not near a computer so I can't look it up.
Avatar of oBdA

Microsoft's desktop applications are licensed Per Device accessing the software at any time (not concurrently), full stop.
Clients with a local Office installed can use the local Office license if and only if the edition, language, and version on the desktop are the same as on the terminal server.
The licensing is described in detail, including examples, in this document:
Licensing Briefs > Licensing of Microsoft Desktop Application Software for Use with Windows Server Terminal Services
From the FAQ:
"How do the license terms for Microsoft applications (e.g., the Volume Licensing Product Use Rights (PUR)) address use in a Terminal Services environment (where the application runs on the server and not on the client desktop)?
Microsoft licenses its desktop applications, like Microsoft Office, on a per-device basis. Device-based licensing means a license must be obtained for each desktop on or from which the product is used or accessed. You may not share a license for the product with another desktop or assign it to different desktops. Therefore, in a Terminal Services environment, you must acquire a license for all desktops that access the product running on the server."

As far as private home desktops are concerned, a "Work At Home" CAL is probably best.
"Scenario 6:
Company employees remotely access a corporate network from home, using desktops that they own. While dialed in, the employees use Terminal Services to access Microsoft Office on a corporate-owned server. A Microsoft Office license for the version of Microsoft Office running on the server is required for the home desktop in this scenario. The company can enable this scenario by purchasing Work At Home (WAH) Licenses for the employees’ home desktops. Customers with active Software Assurance can also acquire Home Use Program (HUP) licenses for their employees’ home desktops. Please contact a Microsoft licensing specialist or Microsoft Volume Licensing Partner for more information about “Work at Home” and ”Home Use Program” options available for Microsoft Office."

And, yes, Office 2007 and later will only install on a terminal server if it's a Volume Licensing version of Office.
I know you said MS Licensing to be rude.  Ask for a supervisor and take down names when you call.

DISCLAIMER: Licensing advice offered here is a "best effort" and based on the understanding of the respondents. Licenses can change and we may not be aware of these changes or may misunderstand them. Further, licenses can differ by country and/or region and what we understand to be true in our region could be false in your region. "they told me on Experts-Exchange" will not be a valid defense in a software audit.  All licensing questions should be confirmed with the appropriate licensing authority (the maker of the software/issuer of the license).  
Just a tip:  When I need to verify I am in the clear with MS licensing, I call their license help desk at (800) 426-9400 and tape record the conversation.  This happens to be legal in Nebraska where I live (consent of only one party on the call is required).  If it is not legal where you live then you should only need to inform them that you are recording the call (obtaining consent of both parties on the call).

I have frequently gotten conflicting answers from actual Microsoft employees at the actual MS license help desk.  So if their licensing it too convoluted for their own advisers to keep track of, then one needs to protect oneself.

You can potentially work this to your advantage by calling a couple times and picking the best answer as the recorded call to retain and archive forever.  I am not an attorney, but I suspect a recording of a Microsoft employee answering a specific license question would weigh strongly in court.  I save the recorded call to CD and keep it with the license keys/volume license agreement forever.
Avatar of hconant


Obda:  Thank you for your detail.  The other respondents thus far have only pointed me to links I already had and don't understand.  Your explanation is somewhat what I had believed to be accurate, even though it seems overly restictive.  For example, assume in my example the company server is hosting Office 2010.  Or even simpler, MS Word 2010, so we dont get into different versions of Office suites.  Now is it my understanding that in order for the user, the employee to access Word on the TS they must have Word 2010 installed on their laptop and home PC, for example?  That is rediculous.  And what about the supposed "cloud."  Sounds like an administrative nightmare.  But that may just be the way it is.  And, this still does not explain the ASU example that I gave.  At no time was my son asked any questions or agreed to and licensing terms when he registered at ASU, and I was with him, as to what machines he had Office installed or licensed or what versions they were.  He never requested Office access and it was never specifically offered. It was just there fully accessible from any machine he has access to without any Agreements or anything else.  That is what has really thrown a curve ball into my understanding of this.
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evanmcnally:  That is a good idea, but first I have to get an answer I can understand.  Single party consent recording is legal in most States, and is in mine.  thanks for the heads up.
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Another thought that I have, is it possible that MS has sold ASU a Cloud/Azure agreement that facilitates the ASU example I have given.  If so, isn't that somewhat of an anti-trust issue if they are offering a service, MS Office Cloud, no per devices license needed, but will not sell a private or corporate user a license to do the  same?  I know that is highly hypothetical, but I have no explanation for the ASU example given any understanding I have of the MS Office licensing I have looked into yet.
Larger companies, universities, etc. usually have special contracts with Microsoft; you won't be able to get one of those for a 30-user-company.
And the machines don't need to have Office installed on the clients (would be kind of impossible for a Linux based client ...); the main point is that you need one Office CAL per device accessing the TS. Only if a device happens to have Office installed in the exact same version you have on your TS, then access from that machine is already covered by the "client" license.

Avatar of hconant


Tommy, thanks.  I didn't read your link until after I babbled on.  The virualization licensing takes care of it.