Editor's Note: This article was adapted from an article authored by Chris Peters in March 2009.
Microsoft's server licensing can be complicated. Do you need a client access license (CAL)? If so, should it be a user CAL or a device CAL? And should your CAL operate in per-server or per-seat mode? If choosing licenses for your Microsoft products is making your head spin, our guide to Microsoft server and client licensing is here to help.
We'll cover licenses for server software, licenses for clients, and some advanced Microsoft licensing scenarios. And while this article focuses on Microsoft server applications, similar issues can arise with other server applications.
The license required to install and run most server applications usually comes bundled with the software itself. So you can install and run most applications "out of the box," as long as you have the right number of client licenses and meet the server licensing requirements. More detail on client licensing is provided below.
In some cases, though, you may need additional licenses in order to run your server software:
For more information about server licensing, read TechSoup's Guide to Microsoft Server Licensing, which contains links to guides on licensing specific Microsoft server products.
Depending on the licensing scenario, "clients" can be either the end users themselves (employees, contractors, clients, and anyone else who uses the software in question) or their computing devices (for example, laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.).
There are a few things to think about when you're planning for client licenses.
With Windows Server, you use a CAL in one of two licensing modes: per user/per device (sometimes referred to as "per seat") or per server. You make this decision when you're installing your Windows Server products, not when you acquire the CALs. The CALs themselves don't have any mode designation, so you can use either kind of CAL in either licensing mode.
The licensing scenarios described in this section are less common, so we'll cover them only briefly. The Additional Resources section provides more information on these advanced scenarios.
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