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Microsoft volume licensing programs - How to choose a program

SoftwareOne blog editorial team
Blog Editorial Team
Publisher advisory

Before choosing and entering into a volume licensing program you should always ask yourself the following questions in order to determine which program is best suited for your needs.

  1. How many licenses does my company need to purchase?
  2. Do I want to license all the company’s devices?
  3. Do I need perpetual or subscription based licenses?
  4. Do I need them installed within the company (on-premise), online (Cloud) or both?
  5. Do I need Software Assurance services included or as an option to be added at a later stage?

The below offers a bigger picture on the Microsoft volume licensing programs and where they stand from a commitment and quantity point of view. 

Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs Overview, source: Microsoft

Open license

Open license is meant for organisations of different dimensions (from 5 to 250 PCs) for which the pay-off is made integral at the moment of the license acquisition.

The contractual term is 2 years, during this period the prices will remain at the level of the moment of original purchase. Licenses purchased are perpetual, but clients can also acquire subscription based licenses.

The program has two levels of applicable discounts:

Open Business – in the pricelist licenses that have an Open Volume discount can be easily identified because their name will contain the reference NL or OLP NL (Open No-Level)

Open Volume with the name reference OLP C. To obtain this level of discount, the acquisition contract has to be for Applications, Windows Desktop and Server category and the initial purchase has to amount to a minimum of 500 points per category.

Every new license, software assurance purchase and software assurance renewal made in a Volume Licensing Program carries a point value. Software assurance for a software license is worth half the total point value of its linked license. The point value for each transaction is available in the price list of the specific Volume Licensing Program.

The software assurance for this program is optional. The most important benefits provided by it are: new version rights, step-up license availability, Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), Enhanced Edition Benefits, license mobility, Windows Virtual Desktop Access Rights, Windows RT Companion VDA Rights etc.

The products acquired through this program can be Online Services or on–Premise 

Open Value Non-Company Wide

Open Value Non-Company Wide is for organisations of different dimensions (from 5 to 250 PCs) for which the pay-off is made integral at the moment of the license acquisition. During the term of the contract the organisation can change the number of PCs by 50% from what was initially declared. The contractual term is 3 years, during this period the prices will remain at the level of the moment of the initial acquisition and the payment of the licenses can be done up-front or annually, by activating the Spread payments option. Licenses purchased are perpetual, but the client can also acquire subscription based licenses. The program can be terminated at any time. The software assurance for this program is included in the license price and contains all software assurance benefits except for Enterprise Source Licensing Program.

The list of software assurance benefits, per volume licensing program, can be downloaded by accessing this link.

For all of these programs, at the moment of the license acquisition you will receive an Authorisation Number that will enable you to make transactions, with various Microsoft resellers based on the same contract number.

The activation of the licenses will be based on the installation keys which are available through the Volume Licensing Service Center site. Also, license administration, the download of the installation kits and all new purchases can be made from the VLSC site. 

Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement

Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement is a dedicated license agreement and covers all Online Services sold through the Microsoft Online Subscription Program, a subscription-based Microsoft Volume Licensing program. The services available in this program are Windows Intune, Windows Azure Platform, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

The contractual period is not defined, which means that the agreement remains in effect even upon termination. Termination will only terminate your right to renew subscriptions under an existing order or place new orders for additional products.

The termination of the subscription can be done at any time during the contractual term; however, you must pay all amounts due and owing before the termination is effective. Software assurance is included in this program and the products acquired through this program can only be Online Services. 

Microsoft volume licensing programs for large organisations

Select Plus

Select Plus is fit for organisations with over 250 PCs for which the payment is made Up-Front or Annually. The first purchase must be for a minimum of 500 points per pool and then all annual purchases must also have a minimum of 500 points per that certain pool.

The contractual term was perpetual and licensing was done based on the number of pools. This means that your initial order qualified you for a discount level (eg. for 500 annual points per pool you are qualified for price level A). Registered affiliates that submitted orders also help the organisation to acquire points that are piled into pool minimums in order to achieve a higher discount level for a specific pool.

Points that were in excess of the current price level but didn’t touch the next pricing level were being carried over to the next year.

The license purchase administration, the download of license installation kits and new orders were made through the Volume Licensing and Service Center site.

The agreement had three components:

  1. the Microsoft Business and Services Agreement (MBSA);
  2. the agreement itself; and
  3. the Select Plus affiliate registration form.

The MBSA was usually signed on or prior to the effective date of the Select Plus agreement. This can be considered as a framework agreement because it covers the most important clauses: service warranties, IP ownership, confidentiality, audit rights, and limitations to liability, clauses that could have legal repercussions in case of contract breach or exceeding the contract`s limitations in terms of software usage.

The Affiliate Enrollment form usually includes the specific term and effective dates, software assurance election form, contact information, media order form etc. During the enrollment the customer also decides about an affiliate’s possibility of enrolling in the agreement.

For new clients the Select Plus agreement has been retired starting with the 1st July 2015 and replaced with the Microsoft Product and Service Agreement. Existing clients with ongoing Select Plus Programs are not able to make new software purchases but only software assurance transactions for existing licenses, all license purchases are being moved to the new MPSA and managed through the Microsoft Volume Licensing Center.

The software assurance with this program is optional and there is no possibility of acquiring Online Services with it.

Microsoft products and services agreement

This is a relatively new program designed for large organisations, with over 250 users or devices that is to replace the Select Plus agreement. In contrast to the Select Plus Program, the MPSA offers its clients the possibility to purchase Online Services, software and Software Assurance with only one single perpetual agreement signed. The clauses of the agreement represent a combination of clauses from MBSA, Select Plus and Online Services agreements. The software assurance for this program is optional. Payment for transactions can be done Upfront or Annually. The products acquired through this program can be Online Services or on–Premise. The management of online services, software and software assurance purchases, the download of installation kits and new software orders can be done through the Microsoft Volume Licensing Center platform.

The discount level for the MPSA is the same as the one for Select Plus program.

Committed Volume Licensing Programs are also split into two main categories:

1. Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs for Small Organisation

Open Value Company

Wide This program is designed for small companies for which the payment is made at the moment the license transaction is done. The company that chooses this program must enter it with all of its PCs. The procedure is that the company must declare all of them. If the company has previously purchased OEM licenses, but these are no older than 90 days at the program start, then for these licenses they only need to buy the Software Assurance.

The term of the agreement is 3 years and it can be renewed at the end of this period for another 3 years. The discount applied in the beginning is going to be applied throughout the entire program term. Software assurance is included in this program and the client can purchase both Online Services as well as On-Premise licenses.

The discount levels granted vary based on the numbers of licensed devices, better said on organisation-wide deployment, e.g.: platform discount from 5-250 PCs or level C discount (the initial purchase must be of 500 points summed up in one of the following categories: Applications, Windows Desktop and Servers).

For every license acquired within the program, the organisation can hold a number of unlimited installation kits. One free kit will be delivered on the initial acquisition.

Open Value Subscription - This program is also designed for small organisations that want to enter a program with all of their devices.

For this program the contractual period is 3 years with the possibility of renewing at the end. The payment can be made upfront or with spread payments. By the end of the period the client has the possibility to buy-out at 170% of the annual subscription fee; if there has been an increase in device numbers, the prior year tax should also be paid. This means that the licenses acquired under this program can be converted into FPP products and become perpetual.

Open Value Subscription

Open Value Subscription offers the possibility to benefit from platform discounts of 5% as well as up-to-date discounts of up to 50% in the first year. These apply when the customer enters the program with OEMs (preinstalled on a computer system) that include the latest version of the OS. Eligible devices to enter the program are all the clients’ devices except computers having the utility to prevent the use of an OVS platform: servers, devices with embedded OS or devices that run process specific applications. It is the only program that comes with a pricelist that the customer can use during the entire contractual period.

The program can be stopped at any time. After the initial expiration date it can be renewed or opted out of. Software assurance is included and the products acquired through this program can be Online Services or on–premises.

2. Microsoft Volume Licensing Programs for Large Organisation

Enterprise Agreement

Companies eligible for entering this program are large accounts, with over 250 devices or users (either one or the other, never both). Starting with the 1st of July 2016, the minimum user/device quantity for an Enterprise Agreement changed from 250 to 500. The products acquired can be Online Services or installed licenses on the company’s devices.

For the existing customers with fewer than 500 users/ devices that will not meet the count for the new minimum for their renewal, Microsoft indicates that they can extend their current enrollments for 36 months. The contractual period is of 3 years but it can be extended with 1 year or 3 years after the expiration date.

The program offers its client the possibility to create multiple acquisition accounts for academic, commercial and government organisations that can co-exist under the same contract number. Subsidiaries can also buy licenses. The payment can be done monthly, quarterly, semi- annually with spread payments, deferred payments (6 months from the program start) or up-front, with the possibility of increasing the initial declared devices.

The customer has the possibility to build a direct relationship with Microsoft and with its advisers. The structure of the program is similar to the structure of Select Plus program.

The agreement has three components:

  1. the Microsoft Business and Services Agreement (MBSA);
  2. the agreement itself; and
  3. the enterprise enrollments.

The customer can choose an enrollment under which he can license the Microsoft solution best suited for his needs. There are 3 enterprise agreement enrollments:

Enterprise Enrollments: includes online or on-premises services, user/device or hybrid licensing option, the possibility to move from on-premises licenses to equivalent of online services during the program. Enterprise products may be ordered as separate products and in groups also known as Enterprise Platform.

Enterprise Cloud Suite is the per user option to license with the Enterprise Agreement.

Server and Cloud Enrollment: requires Microsoft customers to commit to at least one of four SCE components: core infrastructure, application platform, developer platform and Windows Azure. In addition, the customer is required to sign an Enterprise agreement and to have 100% coverage for subscriptions and software assurance.

The program has a minimum order requirement of 20 licenses for MSDN Platforms and Visual Studio Enterprise in any combination.

Subscription Enrollment: suited for organizations that are mostly interested in online licensing rather than on-premise licensing. The most important benefit of this type of program is that the customer can leverage the subscription counts on an annual basis during the entire 3 year program contractual period.

Software assurance is included in the Enterprise Agreement and customers can enjoy the whole range of software assurance benefits.

The discounts are based on the number of devices that enter the program and can range from 15% to 45%. The discount model is similar to the Select Plus program discount level e.g.: for Level A of Price Level, the annual point minimums per pool are between 250 and 2.399 points.

The management of the products and services acquired is done through the VLSC site.

Next to all of the agreements that were mentioned you will also find additional terms and conditions for the software products purchased -with the exception of the Microsoft Online Subscription and Cloud Solution Provider programs- in the Product Terms that can be found on the Microsoft website. Information on how to deploy and use Online Services can be found in the Online Services Terms (OST) for all programs. 


Microsoft offers different volume licensing programs. Whilst the choice might seem difficult at first, you will find that there is only a limited set of criteria that you need to take into consideration. With these criteria in mind, choosing the right program will become a lot easier because the main focus is to simplify application deployment and help you decrease software acquisition related cost. 


Meet the Microsoft licensing experts

Are you in need for support to select the Volume Licensing Program that suits your needs? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Meet the Microsoft licensing experts

Are you in need for support to select the Volume Licensing Program that suits your needs? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.


SoftwareOne blog editorial team

Blog Editorial Team

We analyse the latest IT trends and industry-relevant innovations to keep you up-to-date with the latest technology.