What About the Little Guy? Upcoming Changes to Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreement

Microsoft’s Enterprise AgreementThere has been a lot of chatter the last few weeks about some upcoming changes to Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreement. Microsoft and its large account resellers have been encouraging business customers to rethink their purchasing strategies, to look at some of the newer licensing options, and to make plans for the future. But where does the little guy fit into all this? If you’re a small or medium business, do you need to take any action? Unfortunately, no one is looking out for the little guy in this discussion. But that’s about to change …

Here are the facts on the big announcement: On Feb. 1, Microsoft publicly announced what it had been privately telling its large account resellers. Starting July 1, 2016, the minimum seat count requirement for an Enterprise Agreement (EA) will be increased from 250 to 500. In other words, if you are a business with 250 to 500 users or devices and you have an EA (or want to start an EA), then you will need to find another program. Microsoft recommends moving to a Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) or turning to a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) for help.

But what about the little guy with less than 250 users? Several of the recent posts surrounding this discussion (for example, see here, here, here, and here) just cover the facts of the announcement or are aimed at businesses who are already enrolled in an EA. So they don’t address what (if anything) the smaller business should do.

Well, I have some good news for the little guy: nothing changes for you. From where you sit, this is just a thunderstorm passing in the distance. You have the same options today as you did yesterday as you will tomorrow (for at least the foreseeable future). Here is a brief guide to Microsoft licensing to help you see where you stand:

  • Small & Medium Business (under 250 users):
    • Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Licenses– your cheapest option, but also the most restrictive. This is the best option for buying a license of Windows, but that’s about it. See my post here for more info.
    • Full Packaged Product (FPP) – your most expensive option, so don’t even think about it. See my post here for more info.
    • Open License (a.k.a., Open Business License) – the plain vanilla volume licensing program. This is your best option if you don’t want SA, since SA is optional in this program. Requires only a five-license minimum. See here for more info.
    • Open Value – your best option if you want to get SA. This program provides spread payments over three years and requires only a five-license minimum. See here and here for more info.
    • Open Value Subscription – as the name implies, this is a cousin of the Open Value program, but here you are not buying perpetual licenses … you are only buying subscription licenses. See here for more details.
    • Office 365 – this set of products stands in a class by itself. It’s not a “licensing program” per se, but is an up and coming solution that many businesses are turning to for certain products. See here and here for more details.
  • Large Business (250 to 500 users):
    • OEM & Office 365 – just like the small and medium business, a large business will most likely purchase Windows licenses through an OEM channel and, in some cases, may turn to an Office 365 bundle for communication and productivity solutions.
    • Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) – as stated above, this is where Microsoft is encouraging larger clients to go. If you have less than 500 users, then this will be your best option once the new rule takes effect on July 1. See here and here for more info.
    • Cloud Service Provider (CSP) – as stated above, this is for companies that want to outsource solutions to the cloud. See here for more info.
  • Extra Large Business (over 500 users):
    • OEM & Office 365 – similar to a business with less than 500 users, OEM licenses of Windows and certain bundles of Office 365 will make sense to an “extra large” business.
    • Enterprise Agreement (EA) – this is Microsoft’s flagship offering when it comes to licensing. See here for more info.

So if you are a small or medium business, don’t worry. Your Microsoft licensing options are no more confusing today than they were last week. I know … that’s a small comfort. But our team at Mirazon has got your back.

If you have any questions about Microsoft licensing, give us a call at 502-240-0404 or email us. We’ll help set the record straight.