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Volume Licensing Service Center – Software Assurance Benefits

Learn about Software Assurance benefits and how to access them using the Volume Licensing Service Center

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TechSoup - November 11, 2012
Learn about Software Assurance benefits and how to access them using the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC), Microsoft's website to help you get installation keys, download or order Microsoft installation software, and access other benefits.

About Software Assurance

Software Assurance is a collection of benefits included with Microsoft products requested through TechSoup. These benefits include free software upgrades, Office Multi-Language Packs, Office suites for use at home, E-Learning courses, and more.

Microsoft includes two years of Software Assurance with all Volume Licensing products it donates through TechSoup. Get Genuine operating systems do not include Software Assurance benefits.

Software Assurance benefits are not the same as product licenses. Product licenses do not expire: they're valid for as long as you own the product. Software Assurance (SA) benefits expire after two years, though they can be renewed for a fee up to 90 days before the date they expires. There is no grace period after the end of the license period to renew your benefits. Software Assurance benefits add value to your products but are not part of them.

Note also that the Software Assurance benefits that come with donated products are not identical to those that come with commercial products. All benefits described on this page come with donated products.

Software Upgrades

Software Assurance allows you to get free upgrades to new versions of products that were released within the two-year period of the benefit. The Software Assurance for an upgrade product has the same end date as the original product obtained through TechSoup. Like all products, the licenses remain valid, and you can continue to use the product after Software Assurance expires. For more information, see New Product Versions.

When You Can Upgrade

You can upgrade to any new version of your licensed products that Microsoft releases during the two years your Software Assurance is in effect, but the actual upgrade does not have to take place within those two years. For example, if Microsoft releases a new version of Office in October, and your Software Assurance for the old version expires in January, you don't have to upgrade before January. You can upgrade at any time in the future, as long as Microsoft still makes the new version available. You can't, however, upgrade to versions that Microsoft releases after your Software Assurance expires.

License-Only Products

Under Microsoft's licensing terms, client access licenses (CALs), external connector licenses (ECLs), and management licenses (MLs) must be for a version equal to or later than their server software. For instance, without Software Assurance, you wouldn't be able to use Windows 2008 Server CALs on Windows Server 2012; you would have to get new ones. With Software Assurance, the CALs are also usable on the upgraded product. Software Assurance upgrade benefits for licenses are automatic: you don't have to do anything to activate them.

Getting the Installation Software

Software upgrades can be obtained online or ordered by phone or fax. For more information, see Downloading and Installing Software.

Office Multi-Language Packs

Office Multi-Language Packs are available at no cost if you have a license for an Office suite. Office Multi-Language Packs are add-in products that can display the user interface of the Office desktop applications — windows, tabs, help, and so on — in more than 90 different languages. These packs also allow you to check spelling and grammar and use other proofing tools on documents created in these languages.

To get the Office Multi-Language Pack, click Software Assurance from the navigation bar, then Office Multi Language Packs. You'll need to have a license for an Office suite, not just an individual Office product.

Office Multi-Language Packs are listed among the licensed downloads as described in Downloading and Installing Software. They are available in both CD and DVD versions. The CD version is for individual language packs; the DVD version is for all language packs. For more information, see Microsoft Office Multi-Language Pack.

Office Suites for Home Use

Any employee who has a Microsoft Office suite on their work computer can get a copy of the current version of Office Professional or Office for Mac for home use through a low-cost download. They can also request installation software for an additional fee to cover the costs.

There are two purchase options: Employees can purchase the software individually, or Software Assurance administrators can place a bulk purchase order for quantities of 20 units or more.

Office software can be used only while the user continues to be an employee at the organization and Software Assurance for the Office suite remains active. For more information, see Home Use Program.

Note: The product use rights for desktop application software allow the organization to install a copy on a portable device for use by the single primary user of the licensed device. This option makes it possible for an employee to continue working away from the office.

Activating the Home Use Benefit

The Home Use benefit is managed through the VLSC by the person with the Software Assurance Manager role. You must use Internet Explorer 5.0 or greater.

  1. Sign into the VLSC.
  2. Choose Software Assurance from the menu bar.
  3. Click Home Use Program. The Manage Software Assurance Benefits details page appears showing the license IDs that have this benefit.
  4. Click the license ID for which you want to manage benefits. The Benefit Summary page appears, showing all benefits for this license ID that can be managed through the Software Assurance menu item.
  5. Click Home Use Program. The Activate Benefit page appears.
  6. Accept the benefit terms, enter contact information and applicable domains for your organization and click Activate Benefit.

When activation is complete, a 10-digit alphanumeric access code appears. You will also receive an email with the same access code and an email template you can send to your employees to inform them they are eligible for this benefit.

Microsoft E-Learning Courses

E-learning courses are self-paced, interactive training on the use of Microsoft products developed by Microsoft experts. Courses are designed to gain maximum skills in minimal time. Assessments, hands-on virtual labs, expert advice, and an interactive, nonlinear approach make e-learning an engaging and flexible experience.

You must have a Windows Live ID to enroll in a course. Students must start a course before Software Assurance expires and complete it within one year of when they started it.

How Many Courses Are Available?

The number and type of courses available depends on the number and type of products with active Software Assurance. Courses are grouped into three categories: applications (desktop applications), systems (operating systems), and servers.

To see the number of courses available through any licensing ID, follow steps 1 through 4 of Taking E-Learning Courses, below.

Viewing a List of Courses

To view the current list of E-Learning courses available through Software Assurance, go to the Software Assurance and Volume Licensing Product Catalog. You must use Internet Explorer 5.0 or greater.

Make the following selections and click View Report:

  • Product Type: E-Learning
  • Program Type: SA
  • Offer Type: One or more of the following:
    SA Applications for courses about desktop applications.
    SA Servers for courses about servers.
    SA Systems for courses about operating systems
  • Other filters as appropriate. For example, you might want to select the course language.

Taking E-Learning Courses

E-learning course assignment is managed through the VLSC by the person who has the SA Manager role.

  1. Sign into the VLSC.
  2. Choose Software Assurance from the menu bar.
  3. Depending on the types of products in your license, click E-Learning Applications, E-Learning Systems, or E-Learning Servers. The Manage Software Assurance Benefits page appears, showing the license IDs that have this benefit.
  4. Click the license ID for which you want to manage benefits. The Benefit Summary page appears, showing all benefits for this license ID that can be managed through the Software Assurance menu item.
  5. Click the type of course you want. The Activate Benefit page appears.
  6. Enter contact information and applicable domains for your organization and click Activate Benefit.

When activation is complete, a 10-digit alphanumeric access code appears. You will also receive an email with the same access code and a link to the course website, which you may distribute to others in your organization. For more information, see Microsoft E-Learning.

Cold Backups for Disaster Recovery

If your organization has a server product with active Software Assurance, you have the right to use Volume License media to install the same software on a server that is turned off until an emergency situation, known as a "cold server." In a disaster, this server can be moved into production so that users can continue to access critical data and applications.

You have one disaster recovery license for each server license with active Software Assurance.

After Software Assurance expires, you can continue to use cold backup software already installed, but you cannot install any additional cold backups. For more information, see Cold Back-ups for Disaster Recovery.

Windows 7 or Windows 8 Enterprise

For every Windows license covered under Software Assurance, you are eligible for one Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 8 Enterprise license. For more information, see Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 8 Enterprise.

License Mobility

You can run eligible server application products in a virtual space in a Microsoft-approved server farm from Microsoft's Authorized Mobility Partners list. To find out which server products are eligible, search for the phrase "License Mobility Within Server Farms: Yes" in the Product Use Rights document. For more information, see License Mobility Through Software Assurance.

Windows Virtual Desktop Access

This benefit allows a licensed device to access a virtual desktop infrastructure. As the primary user, you can remotely access your desktop from third-party devices such as home or contractor-owned PCs. For more information, see Windows Virtual Desktop Access.

Roaming Use Rights

If you use Office product, Project, or Visio, you can remotely access your software on a virtual desktop from third-party devices such as a home PC, a contractor-owned PC, or an internet kiosk. For more information, see Office, Project, and Visio Roaming Use Rights.

Windows Thin PC

For each Windows license you have with Software Assurance, you have access to Windows Thin PC, a smaller footprint, locked down version of Windows 7. Windows Thin PC is useful for reducing the costs of licensing end point PCs because each device accesses a virtual desktop environment. It also provides consistent security and allows administrators to manage multiple clients from the System Center. For more information, see Windows Thin PC.