How does Windows 8 licensing work at home?

The sun is shining as I sit at home and write this blog entry, and it is giving me cause to think! When it comes to the licensing of Windows 8 we need to think about the flexibility of how we can deliver Windows 8 to a client device and the opportunities it gives us as users to work in different locations and on different devices. Yet whilst we may love the flexibility of working in different locations on multiple devices, we do need to be aware of the impact it will have on the licensing of Windows 8.

The first step we need to think about is how we license Windows 8 to run on a company owned device in the office, as this will then have an impact on the flexibility we have as users. Windows 8 is licensed per device; this means that any device running Windows 8 needs to be licensed to do so, irrelevant of how Windows 8 is delivered to that device. So, if I have a computer assigned to me in the office it will need to have a Windows 8 Pro license assigned to it. A basic Windows 8 Pro license licenses you to install Windows 8 Pro locally on the device. Now, that means that the device is now licensed to run Windows 8, and if I or one of my colleagues wished to take the device outside of the office and use it at home for instance, then we would absolutely be licensed to do so.

Having Windows 8 installed locally on a device is a perfect solution for many organisations, but it does reduce the level of flexibility we have with regard to a single user working with multiple devices.

What if our users need to access their corporate desktop from multiple devices in multiple locations, then we need to build the ability to do that into the licensing. And this for Windows 8 Pro is where Software Assurance comes in.

Software Assurance (SA) is an extra you can purchase with your licenses, optional in some agreements and mandatory in others. When you purchase SA with your licenses it gives you a whole range of benefits, some of which suit exactly the example I am talking about here.

The first SA benefit to mention is the Windows Virtual Desktop Access benefit. By definition this benefit allows you to:

  • Extend the value of your virtual desktop environment by deploying your desktops anywhere, locally or in the datacenter
  • Expand end-user productivity with increased flexibility to access virtual desktops outside of the work environment

Meaning that you can implement a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. The impact of this benefit is that rather than having to install Windows 8 locally on the licensed client device you can hold an image of the desktop on a server and virtualise that image down onto the licensed device. But not only can you virtualise the desktop onto the licensed device, but you can actually virtualise it onto any company owned device that has been licensed for Windows 8.

So at the moment, we can virtualise the Windows 8 desktop onto any corporate device licensed to run Windows 8. But we know our users may need to access their desktop on any device including non-corporate devices from any location. And here we are going to think specifically about non-corporate devices outside of the company premises. And this is where the next SA benefit comes into play, Windows Roaming Use Rights.

Windows Roaming Use Rights is available for the “Primary User” of the device licensed for Windows 8 Pro with SA. But what makes a Primary User? The Product Use Rights document or PUR contains the definition of a Primary User, and states:

  • “Primary user,” means the user who uses the device more than 50% of the time in any 90 day period.

So to have the flexibility to roam, you must be the Primary User of the device licensed for Windows 8 with SA, and what exactly does the benefit allow? Again, by definition this benefit states:

  • Roaming Use Rights allow the primary user of any licensed device to access a virtual instance of Windows running in the datacenter (VDI) or Windows To Go from non-corporate devices such as personally owned or hotel business center PCs while away from the office.

So we can now see that if you have covered your corporate client device with a Windows 8 Pro with SA license the primary user of that device is now licensed to access their desktop on the corporate device in any location, but also on any non-corporate devices outside of the corporate premises.

In the example above I have been talking about covering a corporate owned PC with Windows 8 Pro with SA. And you may well be aware that Windows 8 Pro licenses purchased through Volume Licensing are upgrade only licenses, which means that there must be an underlying qualifying operating system on the device. So what happens if you have thin clients in the organisation that you wish to virtualise your desktop onto? Well, rather than purchasing Windows 8 Pro with SA, you would purchase a VDA subscription, which then allows your corporate desktop to be virtualised onto the VDA licensed thin client, and the Roaming Use Rights would also come into play allowing the primary user’s desktop to be virtualised onto non-corporate devices outside of the corporate premises.


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This is one scenario and licensing situation. Each customer scenario can vary by deployment, usage, product version, and product use rights.  Always check your contract, and the current Products Use Rights document to confirm how your environment should be fully licensed.  The blogging team does not warrant that this scenario will be the right licensing solution for other similar cases.

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