Microsoft Volume Licensing

Microsoft Volume Licensing can be a minefield, so here’s a quick guide applicable for small businesses. Generally we don’t recommend it to our clients unless there’s a very good reason, mainly because it often works out more expensive than buying OEM/PKC.


To start a Volume License there are eligibility criteria. For businesses, this typically means you are only eligible for the Open Volume license, whilst charities can quality for Academic licensing. The minimum purchase is 5 points, and normally 1 license = 1 point. EG you might buy 2 Windows CALs, 2 Exchange CALs and 1 MS Office Standard. Your initial purchase volume determines your pricing tier, although we rarely speak to clients who make it onto the 250+ points tier.


The licenses you purchase often include certain rights which are not given to PKC/OEM customers. For example, downgrade rights. That is, if you buy a license for Office 2013 but you need to run Office 2010 for whatever reason, then you are allowed to. Volume Licenses also allow for use on a Remote Desktop Server (previously called a Terminal Server), which PKC/OEM do not.


The agreement runs for 2 years. During that time, you can buy any additional volume licenses that you wish, in any quantity, at the same pricing-tier as your initial purchase. The downgrade rights may also apply e.g. if your initial purchase was for Office 2010 and this is installed on your remote desktop server, you may buy additional Office 2013 licenses and instead add these to your Office 2010 pool on your RDS server.

Expiry – without Software Assurance

After 2 years your agreement expires, after which time you can continue to run the software for which you are licensed but you cannot add licenses to your agreement. If you need additional licenses, you must start a new agreement with a new minimum purchase of 5 points.

Software Assurance

This is a subscription model which allows you to run the latest version of whichever software you license. For example, you may buy Office 2013 now but Office 2016 is due to be released in the next 3 months. Software assurance would automatically upgrade your Office 2013 licenses (not the actual installs) to Office 2016 when it is released. The annual costs typically work out around 33% of the purchase price.

Disclaimer: The information given here may not be complete or applicable to your exact situation, country etc. Please consult us or your local licensing expert, or better still consult 3 and compare the answers.