Licensing software with CALs and MLs can be complicated due to the technical nature of server products and networks. Microsoft offers a device-based CAL (Device CAL) or a user-based CAL (User CAL) for purchase. In addition, an External Connector (EC) license is offered for some products as an optional alternative to address specific customer scenarios.
For managing devices, Microsoft offers Server MLs for managing server Operating System Environments (OSEs). For managing non-server devices, Microsoft offers OSE Client MLs and User Client MLs.
This overview is for reference purposes only. Before purchasing, you should visit the "How to Buy" section for each product and consult your Microsoft representative or local reseller regarding your specific licensing needs.
With the User CAL, you purchase a CAL for every user who accesses the server to use services such as file storage or printing, regardless of the number of devices they use for that access. Purchasing a User CAL might make more sense if your company employees need to have roaming access to the corporate network using multiple devices, or from unknown devices, or simply have more devices than users in your organization.
Client Access License based on user
With a Device CAL, you purchase a CAL for every device that accesses your server, regardless of the number of users who use that device to access the server. Device CALs may make more economic and administrative sense if your company has workers who share devices, for example, on different work shifts.
Client Access License based on device
If you want external users—such as business partners, external contractors, or customers—to be able to access your network, you have two licensing options:
External Connector licensing
An external user is a person who is not an employee or similar personnel of the company or its affiliates, and is not someone to whom you provide hosted services. An EC license assigned to a server permits access by any number of external users, as long as that access is for the benefit of the licensee and not the external user. Each physical server that external users access requires only one EC license regardless of the number of software instances running. An "instance" is an installed copy of software.
The right to run instances of the server software is licensed separately; the EC, like the CAL, simply permits access. The decision on whether to acquire CALs or an EC for external users is primarily a financial one.
Server Licensing Not Requiring CALs
Some server products are available to be licensed on a “per core, "per processor" or "per instance" basis.
The following table provides information on a variety of Microsoft Server products and the CALs for those products.
You can also find up-to-date licensing information for specific products on the Product Licensing Web site.
Visit the Product Licensing Web now
Server + CAL
*Windows Server Per-Processer licensing also requires a CAL
The Microsoft Server CAL Suites consist of two offerings:
Microsoft Core CAL Suite: Provides six innovative technologies from Microsoft that can be used to establish a solid IT infrastructure and delivers the essential capabilities that every user needs.
Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite: Delivers the Future of Productivity with 13 of the latest products in compliance, real-time collaboration, security, communication, desktop management, and more.
Learn more about the Microsoft CAL Suites
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Client Access License Suite Licensing Rights
A Client Access License (CAL) Suite is a single license that provides use rights that are equivalent to multiple licenses. Like other CALs, CAL Suites can be licensed on either a per-user or per-device basis. CAL Suites simplify licensing and tracking by reducing the number of licenses that are necessary to access Microsoft servers. CAL Suites may also provide pricing that is more attractive than licensing the equivalent components individually. However, because a suite is a single license—the sum of individual CALs—CAL Suites cannot be split up among multiple users or devices; each CAL Suite is assigned for just one user or device.
There are two types of Microsoft CAL Suites:
Microsoft Core CAL Suite
Microsoft Enterprise CAL Suite, which includes all of the functionality of the Microsoft Core CAL Suite
CAL Suite Bridges
Microsoft Client Access License (CAL) Suite Bridges are used when you are transitioning from a CAL Suite (on premises) to a comparable Product and Online Service combination. As such, CAL Suite Bridges are comprised of those CAL Suite workloads that are not included in Office 365 or Windows Intune. CAL Suite Bridges allow existing CAL Suites customers to retain their current software access to those CAL Suite workloads that are not licensed through the corresponding online service.
Figure 1: Comparing CAL Suites workloads with Microsoft Online Services
Managing Deployed Volume Licenses
Software Asset Management (SAM) is a vital business process that provides a system for effectively managing and optimizing your organization's IT assets. Implementing SAM practices helps you to protect your software investments, recognize what you have, where it's running, and if your organization is using your assets efficiently.
SAM can help you:
Control costs and business risks for a stronger, healthier financial position.
Optimize existing investments, so that you can do more with what you already have.
Grow with your company's expanding needs in size and maturity through increased flexibility and agility.
Learn more about SAM
Guidance for Software Usage Tracker - MAP Toolkit Users
The Microsoft Assessment Planning (MAP) Toolkit features an IT-based Software Usage Tracker functionality which provides usage reports for the following server products: Microsoft Windows Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.
This automated software asset management-related functionality is designed to be used by Microsoft Volume Licensing customers. Learn more about MAP Toolkit.
The Software Usage Tracker reports provide you with a view of your actual server usage. This information is valuable for comparing with your purchased CALs; it is also useful for licensing "True-up" and licensing agreement renewal discussions.
The Licensing Management Series of in-depth "how-to" guides can assist you in interpreting the MAP Toolkit Software Usage Tracker reports.
These white papers provide background about CALs and specific directions to help generate reports that you can use for software asset management purposes.
- A Guide to Assessing Windows Server Licensing
July 2010, PDF, 1.35 MB
- A Guide to Assessing SharePoint Server Licensing
October 2011, PDF, 723 KB
- A Guide to Assessing SQL Server Licensing
May 2011, PDF, 1.19 MB
- A Guide to Assessing System Center Configuration Manager Licensing
May 2011, PDF, 984 KB
- A Guide to Assessing Exchange Server Licensing
April 2012, PDF, 879 KB
- A Guide to Assessing Lync Server Licensing
January 2013, PDF, 917 KB
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Get help with thinking about User CALs vs. Device CALs in the context of factors such as compliance, overall cost, user profiles, and organizational growth.