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bbonnerFlag for United States of America

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Windows 2008 Server CAL's

I am very confused with the number of CAL's I need to make sure I have on hand.  If I have 50 users, 10 servers running Windows 2008 Server R2 Enterprise, how many CAL's do I need to have on hand to make sure I am legal?  2 of these servers are running Exchange 2010.  Do I need 50 CAL's for each copy of Exchange that is running or do I need 50 for each server?  the second server is for a Database availability Group.  Thanks!
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Gabriel Clifton
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Avatar of Lee W, MVP
From what you've described, you have a fairly basic setup in which case, it's fairly easy to explain.

Understand - a Client Access License (CAL) is assigned EITHER to a USER (Human Being) or to a DEVICE (and it depends on which you bought in the beginning).  It's NOT assigned to a USER ACCOUNT.  What does this mean?  It means that You CANNOT have 5 user accounts shared by 50 users and be legal. If you have 25 computers and two shifts of workers (say an 8am to 4pm and 4pm to midnight shift) you COULD buy 25 DEVICE CALs for those 25 computers.  Then those 50 employees would be legitimate using ONLY those 25 computers.  follow?

Continuing, because a DEVICE is basically anything that authenticates with the domain, using the Device model is usually NOT appropriate, especially when you have users getting e-mail through cell phones, tablets, web mail at home, their friend's computer when they visit their friend's home, etc.  If you were to license by device, you would need potentially a device cal for EACH of those systems, so that one user could end up needing 5-10 CALs themselves.  But if you just get a USER CAL for the user, they are licensed to use ANY device ANYWHERE to connect to resources.  This is why, generally, you just want USER CALs unless you have a very specific circumstance to want device CALs.

With rare exception (and none that I can think of off hand), CALs are ADDITIVE - so assuming you use the USER CAL model, every user needs a regular User CAL.  Every user that connects to a Remote Desktop Server (RDS; Terminal Server) needs an RDS CAL.  Every user that connects to a SQL need a SQL CAL.  Every user that connects to an Exchange needs an Exchange CAL.  Buying an Exchange CAL does NOT include a regular Windows user CAL.

Because CALs are assigned to USERS or DEVICES and not servers, you could have 50 Windows servers but you still only need ONE CAL for a user to access all 50 (again, assuming you license by USER CAL).

With that said, you should understand that licensing changes - in 2000 (I think) and NT4 you COULD license by connection so you could have 50 users but if only 10 ever connected at once, then you might only need 10 CALs and those were assigned to the server... so if you had 50 servers and each server might find 10 users MAX connecting, then you'd need 500 CALs - 10 for each server.  But again, that was the OLD days.  At this point, everything is USER or DEVICE (for the most part).

And because licensing changes and what you're asking is, in essence, a legal question, you need to contact Microsoft or an appropriate reseller to answer this question definitively.  "They told me on Experts-Exchange" will not be a valid defense in a software audit.
The selected answer is only minimally correct - I hope you read mine because if you license by computer, you'll either under-license or potentially cost yourself FAR FAR more than you should be paying.