SAMexpert Microsoft Licensing Experts

Have you ever wondered why Microsoft Licensing is so complicated? Why software licensing in general is so complicated, Microsoft included? Why is it not making any sense at times?

Why, for example, if you buy a server license, are you still not allowed to use it until you buy some client access licenses? You have already paid for the server license. What client access licenses?

Or why can you not just buy empty computers for your enterprise and then, because you have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, just deploy Windows Enterprise on those computers?

It just doesn't make sense!

Chances are, you may have been asking these questions. And when I entered the world of IT more than 20 years ago, when I, for the first time, decided to get familiar with software licensing, I was baffled.

And only after spending a few years in Software Asset Management, I have come to this explanation. The reason why it doesn't make sense is that we treat a license as if it were an object. But it isn't.

Say, you go to an online shop. You use your credit card to pay for a Microsoft Visio license. Does that Visio belong to you then? No, it doesn't.

What happened is, you paid a license fee. And in exchange for that fee Microsoft allows you to download Visio, install it, and then only use it according to the rules, inside the boundaries, defined by Microsoft.

When you buy, for example, a camera, or a cup, or a chair, you exchange your money for an object. For thousands of years, that's how trade worked. That's how transfer of ownership worked.

But a license is not an object. Strictly speaking, you cannot "buy" software. You pay a license fee. Then in exchange for that fee, the vendor grants you rights to use that software, again, in the boundaries set by the vendor, the boundaries that they defined. And you have to play by their rules.

So, my advice is, every time you think about licenses, every time you think it doesn't make sense when you treat it as an object, stop. Think about it as a contract, as a set of terms and conditions, rights and obligations.

For that exact reason, the number of licenses that you need does not always correspond to the number of times you install the software. If you misunderstand that, you'll be losing money either by overpaying or through audit penalties. Misunderstanding of the lack of that one-to-one connection is one of the main reasons for non-compliance.

With some products, you may only need one license that would cover multiple instances of that product.

And vice versa, it may be just one instance of Microsoft Visio that your employees access from their homes using VPN. When licensing Microsoft Visio, you need to count their home devices. So if they have 15 000 devices that have even a remote possibility to access that one copy of Microsoft Visio, you need 15 000 licenses.

And I see this mistake everywhere. A corporation buys a new server, or deploys a virtual machine, and it orders a new license for it, whilst it may already have enough licences, or licensing allows for unlimited virtual machines, etc. And thus, money may be wasted.

Requirements do not depend on quantities of instances. Requirements depend on where you deployed the software, how you deployed it, who has access, how they are using it.

So you must read the small print. You must study Product Terms and Conditions in order to avoid wasting your hard-earned budget.

It's not that licensing does not make sense. (Well, sometimes it doesn't.) It's our misunderstanding of licensing that is a problem.

A license is a right. It's not an object. And if you treat all the licensing from that point of view, you'll be making fewer mistakes.

And that applies to Microsoft licenses or to any other vendor for that matter.

And if you have any questions left, please reach out to me at

Have a great day. Save with knowledge of licensing!