SharePoint Licensing: Top 5 Questions We Receive

SharePoint LicensingMost conversations I have with customers include a handful of questions around SharePoint licensing.

It can be a complicated matter for sure, and that’s why we cover a lot of the issues in detail on our blog (like the licensing changes from SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013), but now with so many companies in the process of upgrading and considering the move from On-Premises SharePoint to a cloud-based version, you need to make sure your licensing is correct so there’s no surprise charge/penalty come audit time!

So I wanted to put the top five SharePoint Licensing Q&A out there for your reading pleasure.

If I don’t cover your question, just send me an email ([email protected]) or put it in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer it for you.

First things first, this blog is no substitute for speaking with your licensing rep/re-seller, but it will hopefully give you some knowledge before you do so you don’t have to start from scratch. Remember, every situation is a bit unique which is why everyone has a licensing person and if you don’t, you need to get one so you stay in compliance. If you need help finding one, let me know and I’d be happy to recommend a company for you.


1. Can I bring my licensing and use it in your environment?

Well that depends on a couple of factors… First, what type of environment are you going to have with the provider? Secondly, what type of licensing do you have?

Let’s discuss the environments first. Most of our environments are dedicated virtual machines (VMs) on shared physical boxes. We like this method as our typical customers start with “X” amount of resources such as RAM and storage and can upgrade easily as their needs change. We can add resources with little to no interruption of service by using dedicated VMs which helps us scale with our customers and is still secure and meets all of your security requirements. That being said, we also have customers that require their own dedicated hardware for various reasons, which is fine as well.

For those customers on our VMs, they would need to have Software Assurance as part of their license agreement with Microsoft. Software Assurance adds the provision of License Mobility where you can take your licensing and port it over to a hosted solution. Now, we should note that this does not allow you to use the license in multiple locations, meaning you can’t keep your on-premises farm and a hosted farm with one set of licenses. This just allows for customers that want to move to a cloud solution to not have to buy SPLA licensing again from their provider, which we will talk about later. Another note about License Mobility is that not all Microsoft software has this as an option, so you can’t just move all of your software over. Make sure you speak to your license re-seller before you make a purchase if you plan on moving the environment to the cloud.

Now, for customers that have their own dedicated hardware, things are a bit more flexible. If you have fully dedicated hardware, you can move your software without the restriction of Software Assurance. There is certainly a trade-off here since the software will be cheaper by not having to purchase the Software Assurance piece, but the hardware and maintenance is typically more. This also means that if something happens to the farm (such as a hardware issues), it can take longer to bring the environment back up if the hardware needs to be replaced with the same specifications. In the virtual world, you can simply move to another physical host that has availability. So all of those factors need to be taken into account when you are working with your vendors.

2. If I don’t have my own licensing, can I purchase it through you?

This one is simple and the answer is yes! We are able to provide SPLA Licensing. SPLA stands for Service Provider License Agreement. It basically means that we can “lease” (for lack of a better word), the necessary licenses to you. So, instead of the larger upfront capital costs of having your own agreement, we are able to provide licensing with a smaller monthly charge. Now, of course, over time the total cost of ownership would be higher using SPLA licensing, but if you don’t have your own agreement or you have a project that will last for only a year, it probably makes sense to explore the SPLA route.

3. Can I bring some of my licensing and still get some of my licensing through you guys?

Yes, this is also possible (with some stipulations). You can have a mix of volume licensing and SPLA, but the mix cannot be within the same product. So, what do I mean by that? You can bring your SharePoint licensing and still have us provide SQL licensing, but you cannot bring your SharePoint server license and have us provide the CALs via SPLA. You would need to bring everything SharePoint over or nothing SharePoint over. Hopefully that makes sense, but as I mentioned above, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need clarification.

4. What’s the difference with SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 licensing?

Well, Microsoft made quite a few changes to the licensing with the 2013 release, but I’ll try to stick to the main changes.

Let’s start with Search: In SharePoint 2010, you had Enterprise search, but you could take things to the next level with FAST search. Without going into more detail, just consider FAST as the Ferrari of search (or read our blog about FAST Search for SharePoint). The problem with FAST in 2010 was that it also had some very expensive licensing, putting the tool out of reach for many companies. Well, with SharePoint 2013 that is no longer an issue! Microsoft now includes FAST as the default search tool in SharePoint Server 2013 which is a great benefit for those using search extensively within their organization.

And if that doesn’t apply to your situation and you’re wondering if there are any other license benefits with SharePoint 2013 (which I won’t technically count as a separate question for those of you counting at home) yes, there are. If you used SharePoint as a public facing site or as an extranet in SharePoint 2010, you likely licensed that with what was called the FIS license (For Internet Sites) as it allowed for an unlimited number of external users and anonymous access sites. Well in 2013’s version, Microsoft removed this requirement so you can license any external users with just the SharePoint Server license. Granted, they raised the price of the server license, but nowhere near what the price of the FIS was, so that is great news for people that utilize FIS in SharePoint 2010.

5. What if I want to get my project started now, but I’m still working on the Microsoft or licensing re-seller agreement?

No problem at all!  You can certainly start out with purchasing the licensing from us under SPLA and once you’ve finalized your agreement, we can accept your licensing. Of course, this again assumes your licensing has Software Assurance!  We would just need to work with you on the timing as we have to report licensing monthly and would need to know before the beginning of the month to get all of the paperwork in place to show you are now providing your own licensing.

Ok folks, if you have made it this far, hopefully you’ve learned something along the way, but if you want more detail, I’m always happy to hop on a call and discuss SharePoint Licensing with you so don’t hesitate to reach out!

2014-12-03T10:46:53+00:00 December 3rd, 2014|


  1. […] SHAREPOINT LICENSING: TOP 5 QUESTIONS WE RECEIVE (Fpweb) Most conversations I have with customers include a handful of questions around SharePoint licensing. It can be a complicated matter for sure, and that’s why we cover a lot of the issues in detail on our blog (like the licensing changes from SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013), but now with so many companies in the process of upgrading and considering the move from On-Premises SharePoint to a cloud-based version, you need to make sure your licensing is correct so there’s no surprise charge/penalty come audit time! […]

  2. Raj October 15, 2015 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    If I go with SPLA with you does licenseing work for this scenario

    -not everyone uses enterprise license. some are standard and some are enterprise. some may even be foundation.

  3. Ramesh December 14, 2015 at 12:08 am - Reply


    Request your help on how would the licensing be under SPLA for one of my customers:

    They Want the following:

    1 x SharePoint 2013 Frontend Server – 4vCPUs, 16GB RAM
    1 x SharePoint 2013 Application Server – 4vCPUs, 16GB RAM
    1 x SharePoint 2013 Index Server – 8vCPU , 32GB RAM
    2 x SQL Server – 8vCPU, GB RAM

    The Physical Blade on which the SharePoint VMs would be deployed are Dual (2 Physical) Processors.

    How would the SharePoint Licensing play out for the above?

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