RDS Licensing Explained

07 Jul

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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11 responses to “RDS Licensing Explained

  1. Bruno

    August 7, 2013 at 4:10 am

    Thanks, it’s important to notice the difference between users that have access and users that accessed the service. Do you know if this is the same with Sharepoint SALs ?

  2. splaman

    August 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Yes SharePoint user licenses work the same. I wrote a blog on SharePoint as well. There is a processor license for SharePoint Extranet scenarios

  3. splanoob

    August 21, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    If I am deploying an RDS server for one client in particular, should I just put in my company details in the RDS licensing wizard, or theirs? Seems strange to put their company details but with my SPLA agreement number.

    Also, how do I track the number of users? Via RDS manager or equivalent? Can I see how many RDS licenses have been activated from my VLC console?

    Thanks for clearing up the confusion with reporting licenses. I would absolutely have under reported.

    • splaman

      August 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Thanks for reading. Glad this helped in your understanding of SPLA. It’s one thing to be compliant, just make sure you are licensing the most cost effective way. You might want to contact the activation center for a definitive answer. You need to enter your enrollment number for activation.

  4. jakspla

    May 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Hello, is it necessary RDS sal for windows server?
    Thanks in advance

    • splaman

      June 3, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      If they are using RDS – Yes!

  5. Brian B

    February 4, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Is using security controls to prevent the use of Office adequate to justify reporting a different # of Office licenses vs RDS licenses?
    100 users can log into the environment
    25 need office. Security groups control who can launch Office executables.

    • splaman

      February 22, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Sure I suppose. You have to prove there is no way they have access.

  6. Thomas

    February 16, 2018 at 2:41 am

    So why do you need to install a licesnse server and licenses to begin with? if acces and reportin is based on security group, why then do i need license installed in order to use RDS?

  7. Pascal Dorion

    March 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    How does billing work for deploying RDS SALs via Azure and CSP setup? How do I get Azure (MS) to bill the RDS SALs I deploy with an SPLA license? I don’t see RDS SALs as a monthly subscription with the MS Partner portal to add to clients in a CSP setup.

    • MS Licensing

      March 12, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      It’s not available in Azure (meaning you can’t license RDS from Azure- you can deploy it, not license it). Only way to do it is thru your SPLA that you’d report monthly.


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