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Licensing guidance for the NHS

The responsibility for ensuring the correct licensing of Microsoft software lies with each individual NHS Trust.


Here you will find information on an organisation’s obligations around Microsoft licensing, the use rights lost by expiration of the NHS-wide Enterprise Agreement (EA) in May 2010 and the rights that will be renewed by the organisations entering into an appropriate licensing agreement with Microsoft. This will provide you with a good view of the licences you need in order to expedite any future licensing discussions.

What to do

To assess the licensing requirements for your organisation, please review the "Helping your NHS organisation to meet its licensing requirements" section below.

For information on managing your software assets effectively, please refer to the Software Asset Management website.

For guidance on the optimal route forward for licensing Microsoft products, we have identified the best option for NHS organisations to continue an agreement for key products that were included under the Enterprise Agreement. For more information, please contact us.

You can also contact your Large Account Reseller (LAR) or Microsoft if you require further assistance in determining your licensing requirements.

For more information on the Home Use Program, see "NHS Employees and the Home Use Program" below.

Helping your NHS organisation to meet its licensing requirements

This resource provides information on the software licensing changes that came into force on 31st May 2010. For many organisations, this change in the software licensing arrangement may have resulted in non-compliance. Microsoft is working with individual organisations going forward to ensure a compliant licensing position is maintained.

This section provides detail on an organisation’s obligations around Microsoft licensing, the use rights lost by expiration of the EA and the rights that will be renewed by the organisations entering into an appropriate licensing agreement with Microsoft. By working through these pages, you will get a good view of the licences you need in order to expedite any future licensing discussions.

Qualifying desktops

To start the process of licensing compliance, a line has to be drawn in the NHS infrastructure as of May 31st 2010. This was the last day of the Enterprise-wide Agreement and therefore is key to defining the infrastructure (PCs, devices etc) that can make use of the perpetual rights of the terminated agreement.

All organisations need to have a clear record of deployment pre and post May 31st 2010 to ensure and ascertain compliance on any new devices.
  • Confirm the number of licences that are allocated to your organisation from NHS Connecting for Health
  • Confirm the physical devices that had Microsoft licences assigned to them prior to May 31st 2010

Windows 7 Enterprise

Physical devices that had Windows Enterprise assigned to them prior to May 31st 2010 and acquired the perpetual right through Software Assurance (SA) can use Windows Enterprise.
  • If Windows Enterprise was not deployed prior to May 31st 2010, an organisation can deploy the upgrades after their coverage has expired
  • If the assigned device was replaced after May 31st 2010, then Windows Enterprise cannot be re-assigned to the replacement device
  • New PCs that are replacing old machines can continue to use the perpetual right of Windows Professional
  • New PCs that will exceed the number allocated to your organisation will not be covered under the perpetual rights of the EwA and need to be licenced separately
  • New PCs will need to have active SA assigned to them to deploy Windows Enterprise and BitLocker

Windows 7 features

As a reference, with Windows 7 Enterprise, you can take advantage of the following features that are not available in Windows 7 Professional:
  • DirectAccess: Give mobile users seamless access to corporate networks without a need to use VPN
  • BranchCache: Decrease the time branch office users spend waiting to download files across the network.
  • Federated Search: Find information in remote repositories, including SharePoint sites, with a simple user interface.
  • BitLocker and BitLocker To Go: Help protect data on PCs and removable drives, with manageability to enforce encryption and backup of recovery keys.
  • AppLocker: Specify what software is allowed to run on a user’s PCs through centrally managed but flexible Group Policies.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) optimisations: Improved user experience for VDI with multimon and microphone support, which have the ability to reuse virtual hard drive (VHD) images to boot a physical PC.

Enterprise CAL Suite (ECAL)

The ECAL suite is a single licensing vehicle for a broad software portfolio. It provides a significant package value over acquiring separate components. In the current economic climate, a strong case can be made for a careful managed approach to vendor consolidation.

The Enterprise CAL Suite enables specific functionality in Microsoft solutions. The NHS has licenced a limited number of ECALs and it is recommended that you confirm the allocation assigned to your organisation by NHS Connecting for Health.

If you are using any of the functionality below, you will need an ECAL:
  • OCS (e.g. Instant Messaging)
  • Forefront Protection Suite (Anti-Virus)
  • SharePoint Enterprise (e.g. Electronic Forms, PerformancePoint, FAST)
  • Exchange Enterprise (e.g. Voicemail, Email Archiving)
Once you have confirmed your allocation, any shortfall in licences needs to be covered immediately.

Thin clients

Microsoft Windows upgrade licences are designed to upgrade pre-existing qualifying licences you have bought. This means you must first have a full licence for the qualifying underlying Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) OS for each PC before you install the upgrade.
Please be aware that Windows software is licenced differently from other Microsoft software and Windows Desktop OS is an upgrade licence only.

If your organisation has thin clients that access Windows or have planned transition plans, you will need to acquire Windows on a Virtual Desktop Access subscription. This can be acquired most cost effectively in an Enterprise Subscription Agreement.

Step-Up Licences

Please be aware that organisations with Core CAL will need to maintain active Software Assurance on a new Enterprise Agreement or Enterprise Subscription Agreement in order to acquire an Enterprise CAL (ECAL) Step-Up licence. The right to use the software under a Step-Up licence is conditioned on having and retaining a licence for Core CAL on all qualified PCs.

Remote Desktop Services CALs

Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services: You must acquire a Windows Server 2008 Remote Desktop Services CAL for each user or device that directly or indirectly accesses the Remote Desktop Services functionality. You also need one of these CALs for each user or device that directly or indirectly accesses the server software to host a graphical user interface (using the Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services functionality or other technology).

NHS employees and the Home Use Program

Software Assurance (SA) benefits such as the Home Use Program (HUP) have expired for the NHS as a whole.
However, NHS organisations are able to arrange local solutions to enable their employees to use of copies of Microsoft Office licenced via the HUP. NHS organisations can retain the right to the HUP (and other benefits) by entering into a local Enterprise Agreement.
We therefore recommend that all NHS employees who have purchased a licence for Microsoft Office via the Home Use Program refer to the IT department within their organisation for entitlement information before continued use of the product.