Microsoft Office License options explained

As a certified Microsoft Partner, one of the responsibilities we have to our customers is to ensure they are correctly licensed. Simple some might say, but is it really? Unless you really understand what you are buying it can work out to be a costly exercise and one that could leave you sorely disappointed when you find you cannot transfer licenses or simply upgrade when you thought you could.

Now, as this product is almost essential in the day-to-day life of the standard business worker you would think that the Microsoft would have made it easy to understand…oh no, I’m afraid not! If only it where that easy, although, giving credit where credit is due, Microsoft have made it slightly easier of late, pairing it down for to just two main options:-

1. Home & Business
2. Professional

Looking at Home and Business, this includes the staple applications, these being Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. In comparison, the Professional version includes all of the aforementioned applications with the addition of Publisher and Access.

The ‘types’ of Microsoft Office licensing and buying options available

For the purpose of this blog I am going to talk about ‘installable’ versions of the Office Suite. However, looking forward and what with ‘cloud’ computing becoming increasingly popular in the work place, Office 365 may also a viable option for you – more about this in my next blog.

The ‘locally’ installed version of Microsoft Office is available in a number of licensing options, coming as either a license key only – OEM, a Full-Boxed copy which includes media and a license key or, if the licensing is being purchased for a larger number of users, then it is possible to purchase the licensing under either an Open Value agreement. Open Value is the recommended program if you have a small to midsize organization with five or more desktop PCs and want to simplify license management, manage software costs, and get better control over your investment. It also includes Software Assurance, providing access to valuable benefits such as online training, deployment planning, software upgrades, and product support to help you boost the productivity of your entire organization. Or, if for a very large enterprise, then an Open License agreement would be required. Open License is a good choice if you are a corporate, academic, charitable, or government organization that wants to pay as you go. You must have a minimum initial purchase of five software licenses for an Open License agreement, but you can acquire additional licensed products through Open License in any quantity at any time during the two-year agreement term.

Have your Microsoft Office licensing on lease!

To make life slightly more interesting, you can also acquire your Microsoft Office licensing on lease through an OVS agreement – Open Value Subscription. This option provides the lowest up-front costs of the Open Program options, with the flexibility to reduce or increase the total licensing costs each year as your hardware count declines or increases. This option gives your organization the rights to run the software throughout your organization only during the term of the agreement with Microsoft (3 year agreement). When going with this option you will be given access to the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) to download licensed products, access product keys, and manage your Volume Licensing agreements and license acquisition activity—all in one online location.

Will I get Software Assurance with that?

You will probably have noticed the mention of this earlier. Well, it’s relatively straightforward as, should the option of software assurance be taken, then it covers the recipient for all version upgrades through the life of the agreement. OEM licensing does not come with software assurance but it is either included or available at additional cost with all other licensing options.

So, what’s best for me?

In-all-all then, it very much depends on what type of organization you are and how many licenses you need to buy. If, for instance, you are a small organization that purchases just a few PC’s per year, then an OEM license is for sure the most cost effective way of purchasing your licensing – be aware though, that OEM licensing can only be installed on a brand new machine and the license is non-transferable, it therefore lives and will die on that specific machine if it breaks.

If you are a small organization of over 5 users that is looking to refresh your existing users hardware or just upgrade the Office licensing on existing hardware, then an Open Value Agreement (minimum order of 5) is probably the way forward as it gives you the flexibility of outright ownership of the licensing at the version purchased (unless software assurance is taken too) and, should a machine die, then this type of licensing can be transferred to a new machine.

Lastly, if you are a larger organization then you will be looking at either at an Open license agreement or to take your licensing on a leased basis through an OVS agreement.


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