|« It Takes a Village...to Keep Wikipedia On Track||The Wrong Way to Use Social Media »|
May I See Your License?
One of the more confusing elements of buying Microsoft Office is the licensing. Let me take a moment to clear up a few misconceptions and offer some advice to firms looking to buy or upgrade Microsoft Office.
NEVER buy the OEM version*
When you go to spec out your shiny new computer from Dell they’re going to offer you Microsoft Office 2010 on that package. Don’t get it.
Why? Because what you’re getting from Dell (or HP or IBM or any other hardware vendor) is what’s called an “OEM” (Original Equipment Manufacturer) license of Microsoft Office. “So what?” you may be asking. Have you read the OEM license terms? Let me show you one that should raise your eyebrows a bit:
2.a. One Copy per Device. The software license is PERMANENTLY ASSIGNED to the device with which the software is distributed. [emphasis mine]
Do you see the implication of that? When your computer dies and/or gets upgraded/replaced the license for Microsoft Office goes with it. Buy a different computer and you have to buy a new license of Microsoft Office to go with it.
The Retail license of the software (the one you get if you buy Office in a box from Amazon.com or Best Buy) does NOT permanently attach to a single machine. That means that when you buy a new computer in 3 years you don’t also have to buy a new copy of Office (unless you want to upgrade Office too).
Also the Retail license includes another clause you may be interested in:
2.c. Portable Device. You may install another copy of the software on a portable device for use by the single primary user of the licensed device.
What does that mean? Means if you have a desktop computer and a laptop you take on the road with you that you can legally install the SAME copy of Microsoft Office on both devices. Some of you have been overpaying – buying a Dell desktop with Office on it and an HP laptop with Office on it and paying for Office in both cases! No need. If you had purchased the proper license you could have installed it on both machines…assuming that the same user uses both machines.
The intent here is for the user who has a desktop and a portable and uses both. It’s NOT intended for an attorney to install on his secretary’s desktop and his laptop. It’s for two machines that are both used by the same user.
So why the asterisk? I’m going to make an exception for people who only have one computer and/or who expect to upgrade Office every time they replace their computer. That’s an awfully few people though. So you should buy the Retail version, right!? Not so fast…
Turn Up The Volume
In most firms with more than a couple of computers the best solution is actually Microsoft’s Volume License program. Their Per Device licensing has the same advantages of the Retail license – the license CAN be reassigned to a different device later if you choose to replace your computer and you can install a copy on a portable device that is used by the same primary user as the desktop.
The pricing tends to be favorable on Volume Licensing compared to the retail boxes you get at Best Buy, though perhaps not as favorable as you might expect.
The other big advantage is in management of the licenses. With Retail Licenses every box comes with a product key – a series of numbers and letters that looks like this: A1B2C-D3E4F-G5H6I-7J8K9-0L1M2 (obviously that one’s fake) The thing is you have to keep track of which product key goes to which machine. And when you install the software on multiple machines you have to enter the product key for each machine manually. OEM versions tend to print the product key on a sticker, attached to the system. Makes sense, the license goes with the system so the key might as well too.
With volume licensing, however, you get ONE product key, which you’re allowed to install on as many devices as you bought licenses for (plus additional portables if applicable; see above). “But I don’t have hundreds of machines!” you may say. You don’t have to. Volume licensing agreements start at just 5 (yes FIVE) licenses. And they don’t have to be 5 licenses of the same thing. If you only have 3 machines you can buy 3 licenses of Microsoft Office Professional 2010 and 2 licenses of something else…maybe Microsoft Streets and Trips or “Microsoft Math 3.0”. Something cheap. Ask your software dealer they can probably find you something.
Adding additional licenses later is easy – once you have the initial five licenses you have a Volume License Agreement and you can purchase additional licenses as needed. You add another member of staff? Buy one more license of Office 2010 for them. No problem.
Most firms with 3 or more computers should be using Volume Licensing in my opinion, if for no other reason than the simplicity of management. No need to track a bunch of product keys – just use one and your licenses are NOT handcuffed to the physical computer.
Beware the Product Key Card
One new term in Microsoft Licensing is the “Product Key Card” license. This is a license card that activates pre-installed software that came on a new computer. Don’t be fooled, the Product Key card is just an OEM license by another name. It doesn’t include any media (CDs) and like the OEM license is 1 device/license only and NOT transferrable to a new device.
Office Home and Student
Microsoft Office has a LOT of SKUs – different varieties of the package. “Home and Student”, “Home and Business”, “Small Business”, “Professional”, “Professional Plus”, “Academic”, “Ultimate”, “Super Amazing Ultimate Plus” (o.k., I made that last one up) and more. Back in the Office 2003 days the Home and Student Edition was surprisingly popular. That’s because it was only $99 and included Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook! Everything most business users needed! Lots of companies sidestepped the more expensive Small Business or Professional versions and used the Home and Student version…even though that was technically a violation of the license terms.
Well Microsoft got wise to that game and starting with Office 2007 the Home & Student Edition no longer contained the application that most business users craved most: Outlook. Instead it was replaced with Microsoft OneNote, very handy for students.
The same holds true today. The Home and Student Edition of Office 2010 includes OneNote, but not Outlook. The good news is that almost all of the other SKUs of Office include OneNote too! (and Outlook) Business users shouldn’t waste their time on Home and Student, it’s not for you.
Really there are 3 versions of the suite that most business users should care about and here’s a handy chart that shows what’s included in each build: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/buy/office-2010-which-suite-is-right-for-you-FX101825640.aspx
But if you’ve taken my advice above and gone with volume licensing then there are only two suites for you to be concerned with and here’s a comparison of those: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/buy/office-2010-volume-licensing-suites-comparison-FX101825637.aspx
For most users the Standard edition is the best choice here.
For those of you who actually ARE Homes and/or Students however there is one nifty trick about the Home and Student license that may interest you… The retail license terms for Office Home and Student 2010 allow for installation on up to three home computers. Not intended for use in any commercial, nonprofit, or revenue generating business activities, or by any government organization. (From Microsoft’s website) Yep, the computer in the kitchen, the desktop in your son’s room and your daughter’s laptop…can all legally use the same license of Home and Student.
If you’re a business user and you have 3 or more computers…you should almost certainly be using Volume Licensing. It’s simpler, ultimately cheaper, more flexible, easier to administer and install. Don’t waste your money on OEM licenses or fill your supply closet with a bunch of Office 2010 retail boxes from Office Depot.
For more information please contact Ben M. Schorr at (808) 782-6306 or via e-mail at email@example.com.