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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

It's pretty common to hear people recommend using a "test server" for testing everything from backup/restore to software patches.

Some Microsoft server products are fairly expensive. Are people really buying additional licenses for testing purposes? I can see buying extra hardware, but the cost of duplicate software could get pretty outrageous.

I've looked in to MSDN and Technet but licenses obtained via these subscriptions don't seem to be appropriate for "IT" testing, only development testing and evaluation. I suppose one could always use trial products, but what a hassle...and perhaps that's even a violation of the trial agreement.

So I'm not trying to start an ethical debate or anything. I'm wondering what the most cost effective approach would be. Is there an alternative to buying full retail licenses? (Specifically, products like Windows Server, Exchange Server, SQL Server, and Sharepoint.)

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marked as duplicate by Skyhawk, Mark Henderson Nov 14 '11 at 2:33

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Technet is used for exactly what you want. It's entirely appropriate for IT testing. The MSDN sub is used for development. –  GregD Nov 9 '09 at 17:14
    
Great question, I've been wondering this myself! –  Nic Nov 9 '09 at 17:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Licences obtained through Technet (or MSDN) are the most common way of doing this. These licences are aimed at use for just that. They cannot be used in live production environments, but are there for testing, training and development. Whether you consider testing, as testing an application, or testing an infrastructure setup.

I believe Technet subscription does not allow you to use your licences for development and test of applications, where as MSDN does.

If you cannot afford a Technet or MSDN subscription, most Microsoft server software is available for a limited time based trial, often more than enough to test, or train for a specific purpose. Microsoft even provide pre-setup virtual machines for this sort of thing, for products like Exchange and OCS.

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Thank you. When I read up on technet licensing, it seemed to imply that the software was to be used for "evaluation" purposes. Can I use a technet acquired license to run a duplicate instance of a production server for the sole purpose of testing things like service packs? I wouldn't use it for staging, exactly, but for creating and testing maintenance procedures which I would then apply to production. –  Boden Nov 9 '09 at 17:41
    
You may have issues if you are using production data, i'm not sure. Your best bet is to contact MS, they are usually pretty good at getting back to you on these things. If you had a Technet or MSDN subscription you could use the online concierge to chat to someone at MS about it, but that kinda leads to a chicken and egg situation! –  Sam Nov 9 '09 at 17:47
    
Thanks Sam. It sounds like Technet is what I'm looking for. I'll contact Microsoft about specifics. –  Boden Nov 9 '09 at 17:50
    
TechNet is for evaluation, MSDN is for development OR testing. I think MSDN is what you want. Production data should be OK (but IANAL etc) so long as real-live users ain't accessing it for line-of-business work. –  Darth Satan Nov 9 '09 at 18:02
    
mh: The "testing" part of MSDN is for development testing. At least that's how the license agreement reads. This document seems to support this: msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/dd362338.aspx . –  Boden Nov 9 '09 at 19:04

One other great program they have is the Action Pack. $300 a year for most of the mainstream software they produce. Check it out here. You need to be a registered member, but that is free.

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I'm mulling over purchasing Action Pack rather than just an upgrade for windows Vista Ultimate. It would give me just about everything though it would be on a yearly subscription basis rather than a one off purchase. Advantage is if they release new toys you get access to them as well –  Shial Nov 9 '09 at 17:40
    
Thanks. However I'm reading here that the Action Pack is not for "businesses whose primary focus is not IT-related." Our business is not IT-related. Thus I'm assuming that Technet is the way to go? –  Boden Nov 9 '09 at 17:44
    
+1 for Action Pack. From the eligibility requirements: "The Microsoft Action Pack Subscription is designed for all businesses whose primary function is to (i) sell, service, and support or (ii) to build solutions on the Microsoft platform or provide solutions based on Microsoft products and technologies to independent, third-party customers." –  Nic Nov 9 '09 at 17:53

As a student, I have access to various versions of Windows Server through both Dreamspark and MSDNAA. Obviously I can't use these licenses at work, so I install them at home into virtual machines and test different configurations that way. It's good for learning how to use server roles that you might not have had experience with before, like RRAS or Hyper-V.

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