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A company I sometimes consult for is relatively small (40 employees), and they have a royal mess of Office licenses. OEM, Retail, Upgrades, O2K/XP/2K3/2K7, etc. They basically buy whatever retail license they can find cheapest online, and have someone track it all in a spreadsheet for compliance purposes. They also use a Microsoft Action pack license for getting another 10 copies of Office/Vista for free.

While it all seems to follow Microsoft's licensing rules, it also seems horribly inefficient. I've talked to them about Microsoft's Open license, but they don't see any advantage to it. What do other relatively small businesses do? Are Open licenses popular, or do most of them just buy retail like my client?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'd say the key benefit of Open Licenses is that they simplify management. If you have licenses, all you need to do for compliance is count how many copies of each version you have installed and check that you have the licenses for them all - no worrying about upgrades, OEM, etc.

You only need to buy 5 licenses at one time to get into the program, so it's not just for large companies. If you can't find a good local reseller, you can buy them through mail order companies like Insight or CDW.

It sounds like the company you're talking about doesn't upgrade when new versions come out, so they probably won't want to get Software Assurance. OTOH, you can't buy a new license for Office 2000 or 2003, so if they switch to licenses, it would be natural to look at upgrading everyone to the latest version. You are allowed to buy licenses for the current version and install an older version, so if they really don't want to train people on 2007 right now, they don't have to.

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A related benefit from Open Licensing as opposed to OEM means that you can create a network install and have Office installed through Group Policy. No worrying about finding the right CD and license key, you just install it from the network. – kaerast Apr 5 '10 at 17:44
Amen. +1. I recently upgraded to MS Volume Licensing, and I only have 17 people. Big plus from the system-management standpoint – Matt Simmons Apr 5 '10 at 18:12

I agree that Open License works well for even small organizeations. The five minimum is easy to reach. It can seem confusing but a good reseller can easily show the cost savings. That usually changes the perception that it is complex.

As to the action pack licesnes... They are for MS Partners. If they are a partner, why not buy from distribution? The Action Pack licenses may be an issue. Check the details at the MS site for the country in question.

Partner Action Pack North America

"Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider will continue to offer internal-use, full-version software, online technical support, and sales resources to help you meet your sales goals, stay competitive, and grow your business"

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Yeah, they did that, but the licenses through the Open program or direct from MS were over twice as expensive as buying retail licenses over the internet. Since they mostly buy older copies of software (i.e. Office 2k3, XP), the internet retail copies are rather inexpensive. – Beep beep Apr 5 '10 at 18:07
I would wonder if the inexpensive copies are legit. perhpas old stock? – Dave M Apr 5 '10 at 18:45
Definitely old stock. I checked them and called Microsoft on a few copies, all checked out. – Beep beep Apr 5 '10 at 19:16

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