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MS RDS - Office 2010 licensing

Posted on 2013-01-24
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-03-10
I am setting up my first RDS server.  It is an existing Windows 2008 R2 server with File services and Application services Roles installed.

I chatted with Microsoft today about MS Office 2010. I was attempting to get part numbers for Office licenses that will work on an RDS server.  They informed me that Office is a per device license.  I am trying to find out if that is true, and if it applies to my situation.

My users will not be using RDS from the LAN.  It is a law firm and the attorneys want to connect remotely to work on documents and e-mail.  We presently use LogMeIn, buth they complain about tiny screen resolution (a subject for a different thread).

So... Since we have multiple 2008 servers and one of them is very under utilized, we are wanting to try RDS.  

Now, one of the folks wanting remote access has two different desktops and one laptop at home.  According to Microsoft, this one user will use 3 Office licenses unless we  purchase the Software Assurance.  

Is this correct, since the license will be used on ONE device (the server)?  I can understand that if I have 5 remote users at one time, I should have 5 Office licenses for the server, but I don't understand this "per device" thing that Microsoft is talking about.

I would like some confirmation and/or insight from someone who has / is doing this presently.

Question by:tcampbell_nc
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Expert Comment

by:Schnell Solutions
ID: 38816568

For making it easy, and it is exactly like Microsoft tells it. There is not difference for a virtualiced license or a normal license. So... it is the same from the licenses perspective to install office 2010 in 5 PCs that in 5 RDS in a server

When they mean about per device license, is making the conparicion with CALs, that can be per device or per user, but it is different

Now making the focus in your case. if you want to use Office 2010 from 5 different places you will need 5 Office 2010 licenses (doesn't matter that they are running in a virtual sección, like RDS does), additionally you will need the RDS CAL (It can be per user or per device) and additionally you need your desktop license for the client computer (For example Windows 7) and the server license (Windows Server 2008 R2)

Author Comment

ID: 38821112
OK.  I think I understand.  

I am not concerned about the RDS CALs.  I know about that.  

My question is about the Office 2010 Licenses.  If a single user is going to connect remotely from multiple computers (but only one at any one time) that means I have to purchase a license for every device she connects from?  Makes no sense to me.  In the old days, there was something called "concurrent usage" with licenses.  

If a user is connecting remotely, it seems the license should be for the User, not the thin client device the user happens to be using to connect with.

Am I wrong?
LVL 14

Expert Comment

by:Schnell Solutions
ID: 38830664
If that is the case you are right,

When you are connected remotely using RDS in one section from one computer, them you disconnect and connect from another computer with the same session, because in this case it is the same session, you are using just a MS Office 2010 instance, so it is just one license

But if you open it concurrently from many pcs at the same time using different RDS sessions, each session requires a license
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Author Comment

ID: 38831092
So, why, when I talked with Microsoft, did they tell me I would "need a license for each device that will use an RDS session"?  In fact, here is a snip of the chat log....

MS:  In order to use Office with RDS, you would require a volume license. Office is licensed per device, so any device accessing Office from the server would require a corresponding license.

Me:  Well I thought user, but you are saying that Office is a "Device" license? Don't they have to match? So if one of my users has 3 home PC's, and she may connect to the RDS Server from any of the three, she will be using 3 of the Office licenses?

MS:  They don't have to match. With the user CAL, your licensed users can access the server from any device. The only option for Office would be by device. If your user is going to be accessing it from 3 different PCs, you would need 3 Office licenses. Another option would be to add Software Assurance to your Office licenses. When you do that, the primary user of the licensed device has roaming rights. That means that they could access Office from any device.

Me:  OK, please keep in mind that each of these "remote" users are office workers working from home. They have office PCs with Office 2007 or 2010 installed. So they already are using a license (that came with the Dell computers). So do we need additional licenses since those users can not be at home, and at work at the same time? (I assume the answer is yes, but I have to ask).

MS:  They would need to somehow have a license assigned to their devices. You could do this by purchasing volume license editions of Office and assigning them to their devices. Another benefit of Software Assurance is the Home Use Program. It allows employers to offer HUP licenses to their employees. It would cost the employee about $9 to download it, but that HUP license would allow them to access Office from your RDS/Terminal Server.

So I am still confused.  Why the heck is licensing so complicated?

To heck with the MS Licensing folks, and guessing....

Surely someone here at EE has an RDS server running with MS Office installed.  How did you set it up and license it (again not the RDS licenses, but the MS Office Licenses).


Expert Comment

ID: 38958556
Yes, others deal with this on a daily basis.  

As much as I can gather from Microsoft's information is that any device connecting to the Remote Desktop Services server and using Office on that server must have a licensed copy of Office on their device with a version at or greater than the version installed on the RDS server.  We have a volume licensing agreement, but that agreement doesn't extend to employee owned devices or our vendors.  As such, we are currently using the free viewers only from Microsoft on the RDS server.

So to your point, if an employee has 3 or 5 or 10 devices at home and connects to your RDS server, each of those devices must have a licensed version of Office at the same version or greater than the version on the RDS server for the products they will use on the server.  For example, employees with Office Home and Student 2013 on their home computer but you have Office Professional 2010 installed on the RDS server would be OK for the products included in Home and Student (Word, Excel, etc) but would not be licensed for the other products (Access, Publisher, Outlook).  A employee with Office Standard 2003 at home and you have Office Professional 2007 on the RDS server would NOT be OK to use as it offers a newer version than what they are licensed for on their home computer.

Since you cannot guarantee what the employees have installed on their home devices, Microsoft's chat log indicates you purchase licenses for each device an employee could connect to your server with under a volume license agreement or grab a Home Use under Software Assurance for $9 per employee.

Author Comment

ID: 38958786
Therin lies my confusion.....

If an employee creates a remote session to our RDS server, then in layman's terms, are they not creating a "virtual machine" within the server?  

The remote station could be anthing that supports a RDS client, and it is doing nothing other than providing a screen, keyboard, and mouse to remotely control this "virtual machine" contained within the RDS server.  

What does it matter what is installed on the remote machine, when all the work, and in my eyes, applications (and their licenses) reside within the RDS server?

So... If our RDS server only permits 5 remote users at any one time, why should it require more than 5 licenses for MS Office?  This would be equivalent to having a company with 10 employees and only 5 PC's setup in a common area.  If there are only 5 computers, do we need 10 licenses (one for each employee)?

Accepted Solution

TalokEchelon earned 2000 total points
ID: 38958936
A virtual OS or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure would be a different discussion and introduces Roaming Use rights.  In a virtual OS or VDI setup, new virtual machines are spun up to service the user's desktop and in that sense each user has a complete independant and seperate Operating System environment (a guest OS in the virtual machine).  When a user connects to a Remote Desktop Services session, that session is a user logon just as if they were sitting at the server.  There is still only one Operating System (kernel, services, etc.) running.  I really nice way to see this in action visually is if you run Process Explorer from SysInternals (a free application from the Microsoft development teams) on the RDS server when you have multiple people logged on. You will see in the hierarchy of processes how each user's session is independant process tree running under explorer.exe (which displayes the desktop and taskbar) but all running on the same operating system.

Unfortunately, Office is licensed per device.  In fact, according to Microsoft's Licensing and Use information, the RDS server itself does NOT require an Office license.  It relies on the client computer's device license which allows for a network-copy access to the software.  The Office server installation requires a volume license key in order to run.


If there are only 5 work computers and the RDS server, you only need 5 Office licenses...one for each device PC.  If each of those 5 employees also has a home computer that will connect to your RDS server to use Office, then you would require 10 (5 work and 5 home) Office licenses...one license per device accessing the RDS server to use Office.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 38972059
This makes sense... finally.

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