Skype for Business Licensing: The Issues

skype for business licensing

Update: Good news! The pricing for Skype for Business Server 2015 is the same as it was for Lync Server 2013. There was no price increase for the server license or the CALs when the new version was released. However, remember that the price of many User CALs (including Skype for Business) will be going up on August 1. See here for more information.

As my illustrious comrade Daryl pointed out last week, Skype for Business is here! Lync 2013 is old news. It has evolved into Skype for Business 2015. Daryl covered the technical issues last week. In this post we’ll focus on the Skype for Business licensing issues.

To begin, let’s draw a line between the online version and the on-premises version of the product. A glance at Microsoft’s version comparison chart will show you that there are two ways to purchase a license of Skype for Business. You can buy subscription licenses to Skype for Business Online for either $2.00 or $5.50 per user per month, or you can purchase permanent licenses to Skype for Business Server 2015. In this post, we will focus on the on-premises solution.

Although you may get the impression from the media hype that Microsoft has whipped up something completely new, all that has happened is that we have moved from one version of the product to the next. Just as we went from SQL Server 2012 to SQL Server 2014 last year, we have now passed from Lync Server 2013 to Lync Server 2015. However, this version upgrade comes with a twist. … Three and a half years ago, Microsoft acquired Skype, so the new version of Lync integrates Skype features and connects Lync users with the Skype community. Instead of calling this “Lync Server 2015,” Microsoft opted to rebrand the product as “Skype for Business Server 2015.” (Our poor engineers are going to have to get all their Lync certifications updated to Skype4B certs. Sorry, dudes.)

So, this really is just a new version of an existing product. That said, if you had your Lync licenses covered with Software Assurance (SA), then you’re good to go! The FAQ page on the Skype for Business website confirms: “Current Lync Server customers with Software Assurance will have rights to deploy Skype for Business.” I have argued on this blog before that SA is more than just version upgrades, but today the “free” version upgrades of SA get the limelight. If you own licensing for Lync Sever 2013 and you don’t have them covered with SA, then you will need to purchase new licenses of Skype for Business Server 2015 before you can upgrade.

For more information about the benefits of buying software assurance, check out my post, Should I Buy Software Assurance with My Microsoft Licenses?

Whenever there is a version upgrade of a Microsoft product, one of the first questions I ask is: Are there any changes to the licensing model? Sometimes the changes can be drastic (like when we moved from SQL 2010 to SQL 2012… yikes!) but most of the time the changes are minimal or non-existent. Fortunately, this situation falls in the “most of the time” category. In a recent Reddit AMA session, someone asked the Skype for Business team if there would be any licensing changes for the on-premises version of the product. Someone from the team answered, “Nope. Licensing remains the same.” The current Product Use Rights document confirms this. Here’s a summary of what it says:

  • If you have an on-premises deployment of Skype for Business Server 2015, then you will need a server license for the front end server and Standard CALs for all your users or endpoint devices.
  • You can also purchase optional Enterprise CALs to add conferencing and desktop sharing, and/or purchase Plus CALs to add in voice telephony and call management.
  • Finally, if you want your users to have a desktop application so they can use all the bells and whistles, you will need a client license of “Skype for Business 2015.” The client license is also included in the Office 2013 Professional Plus suite.

The next natural question is: Will there be any price changes for the new version of the product? Unfortunately, we don’t have that answer yet. Although the new version of the client application has been pushed out already to existing users, Skype for Business isn’t available for purchase until May 1. A call to my distributor confirmed that Microsoft is being quiet about what the new licensing will cost, so check back with me next week.

If you have questions about your Microsoft licenses or Software Assurance, we can help. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-240-0404.