Monthly Archives: July 2013

Your Cloud…My Terms

“Oh Cloud” Steve Ballmer once shouted vociferously to an enthusiastic croud at the Microsoft’s World Partner Conference a few years ago. He was later quoted as saying “the cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities” This may sound generic, but feel he’s absolutely right.

I think for vendors such as Microsoft, the opportunity exists to better align themselves with a platform that is more adaptable to the cloud. (Just look at System Center, Office 365, and Azure as examples). I think for the Enterprise space, it means the opportunity to leverage their mission critical applications in a cloud environment with the end result being cost savings. Finally, I think for cloud hosters it means both (opportunity and responsibility). How can they differentiate themselves to end customers so they will be “all in” (another Ballmer line) their cloud and not someone elses, while ensuring their customer can sleep well at night knowing their information is secure?

At the Microsoft Hosting Summit this past spring, one of the presenters discussed ways in which hosters can increase confidence with customers and truly differentiate themselves in a competitive market. They concluded that customers will go to the cloud when they are in control. Things such as security, location of data, and disaster recovery were top of their list. That shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise, but do feel cloud providers must be prepared to address these concerns if they are to grow.

Managing the SPLA program in particular, I regularly hear cloud providers concerned over Office 365 and what other service providers are advertising. I understand, if I was in the hosting business I’d be concerned as well. We may not like it, but we must somehow acknowledge it. Office 365 is not going away, neither is Azure and neither are the other 8,000 SPLA partners. So what are you to do?

I agree with the presenter at the Hosting Summit. I feel customers want to outsource the headache of managing an infrastructure, but still want a sense of control over their data. I read a statistic that showed over 65% of companies would rather have a private and public cloud than hosting everything in-house. Their main concern as to why they do not do it today is security. I strongly believe that if you can create a brand that acknowledges end-user control, keeping the cloud on their terms instead of yours, and have strong (even public) SLA’s that customers can easily read (no small print) it will make switching from an on premise solution to the cloud that much more compelling.

I understand I am not writing something that you haven’t heard or read before, but do feel it is often overlooked. Even in searching the largest of the large providers on the web, I cannot easily find an SLA on their site. If knowing security is a concern, advertise how you address this issue and listen what your customers want. They will thank you later.

Thanks for reading.



Posted by on July 26, 2013 in In My Opinion, Uncategorized


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How To Download SPLA Media and License Keys

You signed a SPLA agreement…now what?

When you sign a new SPLA, you will receive an acceptance notification from Microsoft via email.  This will be sent to the notices and/or primary contact on your agreement. The acceptance notification typically has the following in the subject line “Microsoft SPLA Acceptance Notice” It is sent from an unmanaged alias  You should receive a hardcopy of the SPLA agreement signed by Microsoft via courier .  Keep this for your records, it has your enrollment number and other relevant information.

All that being said, if you still have questions the good news is your browser/search engine directed you to the right place…this post!  To download media and license keys please go to  This is the Volume Licensing Services Center (VLSC) website where everyone with a signed SPLA will have access.  You will need to log in with your email, follow the online steps, and you should be good to go.  One issue that comes up quite frequently is the person attempting to log in to the site does not have online administrative rights.  If you have this issue, please reach out to the primary contact on your agreement.  If you are the primary contact and do not have access, the odds are there’s an error somewhere in the system.  More times than not, the email address used on your agreement was inserted incorrectly.  Check your agreement to verify.  If this is the case, reach out to your reseller who can assist.  If everything checks out correctly and you still do not have access, please reach out to the VLSC directly either by email – or by phone 866-230-0560.  Please include your enrollment number. (found on your SPLA or ask your reseller).  I found this guide to be helpful.  (download VLSC guide) if you have questions.

If you are in the middle of completing an agreement, think about who in your organization you would like to be the online administrator (the one that has authorization and provides others in your organization access).  This will help eliminate future issues!

Keep in mind some products do not have license keys (keys will be embedded in the media) – Exchange, SQL, and CRM are examples.  RDS licenses will require you to enter your enrollment number, not a license key.

Hope this helps!

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Reporting SPLA Usage

Managing the SPLA program for as long as I have, I came to the conclusion that no one likes to report their SPLA.  For what it’s worth, Microsoft and resellers don’t like it either, but it’s the most important aspect of the SPLA program.  Here’s a list of reasons why you need to report on time.

  • It’s unlawful if you don’t report.  Think about this for a moment,  you did not pay for the licenses upfront, but you are charging customers for their access.  In some countries, that’s called stealing.
  • It is part of your signed North America SPLA agreement.   Page 11 section 11a –  “Customer must submit either a monthly use report or zero use report to its Reseller within 10 days after the last day of each month or on a date agreed to by the Customer and its Reseller.”
  • After the 10th, Microsoft runs audit checks.  This doesn’t mean you will automatically get audited, but it does mean Microsoft will be keeping a closer eye on what you report.
  • If you report on the 10th and your credit card has issues or you are on credit hold, the reseller cannot submit it to Microsoft.  That’s one reason you should report prior to the 10th to avoid any errors.
  • Make it routine – you pay your cable bill each month, you should pay your SPLA as well.
  • It’s the cost of doing business
  • Any way you slice it, you have to report something

I understand that no one likes to report.  In a lot of instances it’s your biggest cost as a company.  My advice is always report, the cost of your monthly licensing spend is a lot less than the cost of an audit!  Hope this helps.

Thanks for reading,



Posted by on July 16, 2013 in Compliance, SPLA Reporting


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RDS Licensing Explained

Article update (April, 2018 ) We created a new website called MSCloudlicensing to help SPLA and CSP partners understand the different program options and use rights available to them. The new website is it’s designed to be a collaborative platform that includes a forum to ask and answer licensing questions, document library, and licensing articles.  Check it out, it’s free.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is the number one underreported SKU found in a compliance audit. It’s not deliberate, just misunderstood or simply bad licensing advice.

RDS is licensed by user (SAL) for SPLA customers. This means every user that HAS access would need a license. Let me provide an example. In the month of July you have a total of 150 users but only 100 of them actually logged in/used the software, so you report 100 users the first week of August. Makes sense, SPLA is pay as you go, month-month licensing. The problem is the other 50 users not reported. Since technically they have access (even though they didn’t use it) they would need to be reported. In the above example, you would be required to report 150 users.  Imagine for a moment you went several years of reporting those that use the software instead of those that have access. Microsoft would more than likely require you to true up all underreported licenses! In a competitive market such as cloud computing, this could be detrimental to your business.

Make sure all applications that are installed using RDS is the same quantity reported.  Office is a good example.  One way they (Microsoft) checks compliance is verifying if service providers that report Office have the same amount of RDS licenses.  In other words, if you report 10 Office licenses, you should report 10 RDS licenses.  (don’t forget Windows server as well).  Only exception would be if you install Office on a PC that you own, report Windows OS, and Office.  Office in this example would be installed locally.

If you are new to the SPLA program and looking at RDS, remember to license all users that have access. Secondly, to install RDS, insert your SPLA agreement number in the licensing wizard, not a license key. To find your enrollment number, check out the acceptance notification email you would have received when you signed up. Your reseller also has this information.

Hope this helps, just my opinion




Posted by on July 7, 2013 in RDS


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Forefront…Where Did You Go?!!!

As you may or may not know, Microsoft made significant changes to its security suite of products this past year. I receive numerous inquiries around Forefront specifically, the options available for SPLA customers, and what ultimately this means for you as you move forward.

To recap, Microsoft discontinued the following SKUs from the price list:

• Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint – (supported thru December 31st, 2015)
• Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server –(supported thru December 31st, 2015)
• Forefront Security for Office Communications Server – (supported thru December 31st, 2015)
• Forefront Protection Server Management Console – (supported thru December 31st, 2015)
• Forefront Threat Management Web Protection Services – (supported thru December 31st, 2015)
• Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010 – supported thru April 14, 2015 (extended support April 14 2020)

Microsoft will continue to support the products, (highlighted above) but as a service provider you will only have access up until your agreement expires. Sign a new SPLA, you can no longer offer the above SKUs as part of your offering. In my opinion, Microsoft is not getting away from the security business, but making some of the Forefront features to be included with the new releases of the server software. (You can check out the latest updates at For example, Exchange 2013, has basic antivirus protection built-in, thus encouraging customers to upgrade to the latest version. As a side note, FOPE (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange) is renamed Exchange Online Protection (EOP) and only available through the new Office 365 release.

So what does all this mean to you? If you are hosting these products today, rest assured they will not be there when your agreement expires. You can become a partner of Microsoft to continue offering EOP, or consider third-party vendors such as Symantec, McAfee, or Trend Micro to name a few. Check out for a quote.

Thanks for reading!


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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Forefront


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