Back to the basics

22 Jul

Now that Microsoft has wrapped up their fiscal year, I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and review the basics of the SPLA Program.  In this post I will highlight who uses SPLA, why SPLA, and who should not use SPLA.

Who should sign a SPLA agreement and why does it exist?

If you are hosting Microsoft software on behalf of a third-party; this is SPLA.  Let’s break this down a bit to try to make sense of this statement.

What does behalf of a third-party really mean?  Let’s say I own a company and want my employees to have email using Microsoft Exchange.  I don’t want to build a datacenter nor do I have the technical knowhow to administer a server.  So what do I do?  I contact a service provider who hosts  Exchange.  He/she informs me that I can pay a small monthly fee and my employees can have email.  As with every Microsoft licensing program, to access any server you will need a license.  The license to get access to a service provider’s server is called a SPLA license.   It’s non perpetual, non transferable, and in fact, being a customer I probably wouldn’t even know I am really paying for it.

So why couldn’t the service provider use his own licenses to host this solution?  Well for one, it’s part of the PUR (Product Use Rights) “No commercial hosting” but it’s really more than that.   Why would I want someone else accessing a server that I paid for?  Not only that, but using a volume licensing agreement (non subscription) is perpetual.  If you decide to buy Client Access Licenses (CAL’s) for all your customer’s, what happens if they leave?  You cannot return the licenses; you would be stuck with them.  Not only do you have to use SPLA from a compliance perspective, you really should use SPLA if you are indeed hosting software.  I wrote a blog about separate hardware and all that fun stuff here

Who Should Not Use SPLA

If you have external users just viewing information or if you created an e-commerce site to sell your own products; that’s not SPLA.  Yes, external users are accessing, but if you are not hosting software for another organization, volume licensing external connectors comes into play.  External Connector is defined by the following (page 7 of the PUR).

External Connector License means a license attached to a Server that permits access to the server software by External Users.

External Users means users that are not either your or your affiliates’ employees, or your or your affiliates’ on site contractors or onsite agents.

Let’s use  as an example. Why are they not under SPLA?   External users are accessing!  No one is hosting, it’s a site to promote our business. We set up a web server, users are accessing it.  This website is used to run our business, not someone else’s.  If we went to a hosting provider and asked them to host our website on our behalf, the service provider would charge us for this service.  Part of that charge would be a SPLA license.  Why? The service provider is hosting a server on behalf (there’s that word again) of our organization.

Here’s some useful links describing external users for some common products in which external users are accessing from TechNet and other bloggers.

Lync –

SharePoint – I found this blog helpful

Great article from my friend and colleague at around this topic in general.

More general terms for Client Access Licenses (CAL’s). I thought this would be helpful if you have customer’s that purchased their own licenses.


SPLA is not a bad program, in many ways it’s very practical.  Month-month, true up and true down easily, and you can terminate the agreement at any time.  One of the few programs that allows early termination I might add.  If you lose a customer, you are not out any money, since your only paying monthly.

Here’s my suggestion – I would partner with a reseller that understands the program.  Secondly, be sure to consider licensing impacts before implementation.  Too many times service providers will sell a solution and ask about the licensing later.  You need to do the opposite – ask about the licensing than worry about how to deploy.










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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Uncategorized


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