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Microsoft CALs and External Connector Licenses…Part I

First in a series explaining how to license access to Microsoft server software

At least once a month I run into a seasoned IT professional who will finally admit that they’ve never quite figured out how to license CALs (and at least once a quarter that someone asks “What is a CAL?”).

Don’t be embarrassed, ask the question – it can save you a lot of money to understand this topic.

A CAL is a Client Access License. In the world of Microsoft licensing, for every server you use the users/devices utilizing that server have to be licensed as well. This is not a physical piece of software installed on the user’s machine, it is instead a grant to access the server. This can add to the complexity of managing them because there is typically no request from an end-user to load the software, nor is there a software asset inventory showing a CAL installed somewhere. It is instead typically up to IT to develop a correlation between users or devices and servers.

For example; if you're running Microsoft Windows server, each user or device requires a CAL. If you then add SharePoint on that server, you also then need a CAL for that. If you're running SQL server to support SharePoint, you need a CAL or a processor license for SQL. The list goes on and on...if you're using the resources of the server chances are there is a corresponding access license requirement.

CALs come in three basic forms: user, device or external connector. The general rule of thumb is that you license the “least”. So, if your devices outnumber your users, buy User CALs…if your users outnumber your devices buy Device CALs (I’ll clarify this more below). If you have external users (vendors, clients, etc) that are authenticated by your server you either need to have a CAL for them or if they number significantly high or cannot be counted you would go with an External Connector license for that server.

External Connector licenses allow unlimited external access to a specific server. However; you cannot use an External Connector license to replace internal use CALs.

Example:

ABC Hospital has 100 corporate users who have computers, mobile devices and web access to their Exchange 2010; 900 hospital staff who share the hospitals 500 workstations and do not have web access to their Exchange 2010; 400 physician members who either use their own computers or the hospitals workstations; and an unlimited number of patients who can access their medical history online in a third party solution by being authenticated by 1 of the hospitals Windows 2008 R2 servers. Additionally, all employees use a SharePoint 2010 site to access company policies running on a Windows 2008 R2 quad processor server.

Required CAL licenses:

Windows Server 2008 CALs: 100 User CALs for corporate + 500 Device CALs for hospital staff + 400 User CALs for physicians + 1 External Connector license for patients.

Exchange Server 2010 CALs: 100 User CALs for corporate + 500 Device CALs for hospital staff + 400 User CALs for physicians (there is also an additive eCAL required for some Exchange functionality – more on that in a later posting)

SharePoint Server 2010 CALs: 100 User CALs for corporate + 500 Device CALs for hospital staff + 400 User CALs for physicians (there is also an additive eCAL required for some SharePoint functionality – more on that in a later posting)

SQL Server: SharePoint is supported by a SQL server. Therefore, SQL needs licensing as well. The hospital has two options for licensing this (1) 100 User CALs for corporate + 500 Device CALs for hospital staff + 400 User CALs for physicians; or (2) a 4 processor licenses for SQL server. This answer will come down to a financial decision based upon cost and future plans for the solution.

Look for a deeper dive in a future posting…

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