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I Made A Scary Microsoft “Boo Boo”

Having supported Microsoft licensing for over 25 years, I have built up quite the library of war stories on customers that have made some scary Microsoft licensing “Boo Boo’s” with “Boo Boo” being the friendliest way to put it.   I can generally spot the “boo boo” early in a discussion and feel my stomach start to turn when I realize the customer may have made one scary mistake.  Let’s be honest here and just know that I have made my own fair share of scary Microsoft “Boo Boo’s”.  It simply come’s with the territory and is part of learning these highly complex licensing programs.

I’m actually writing this blog to help those that are new to Microsoft licensing with no intentions of shaming anyone on their Microsoft “Boo Boo”.  Hopefully by pointing out some of the top pitfalls that customers can easily trip over we’ll be able to help others avoid these “boo boo’s”.

Let me jump right into one of the scariest which involves Microsoft Volume licensing.  The real world example is typically where a customer has been shipping Volume licenses for a few months and they mention they want to buy some to stock up or hold inventory.  The problem is Volume licenses are tied to the end-user or final owner of the license and it’s not a physical product that you can order extra copies to keep on hand and sell when needed.  It’s an actual Microsoft Agreement with licenses being placed in the end-user’s company name.  We had a customer that had been shipping SQL Volume licenses all over the world to over 250 different end user customers however they had bought all the licenses in their own name!  That means all of these end user customers have SQL Server running but the license doesn’t belong to them and if they get audited they’ll discover sadly that even though they paid money for the licenses, they aren’t in their name and are out of compliance in a very bad way.  You can’t buy 10 SQL Volume licenses in your name and then resell them to 10 different customers.  Don’t fall into that mistake as it can be very difficult to recover and restore the licenses to the proper owners.  Volume licensing is strictly for when you know who you are selling to and can order the licenses in your end-user customer’s name.

My next favorite is the statement I hear often where the customer says they have a site license and they don’t pay for any Windows or Office licenses.  They’ll tell me they don’t need to buy any Windows licenses because they have a site license and get unlimited licenses.  I let them know that there is no such thing as an unlimited site license from Microsoft.  Typically this is an easy miss-understanding of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement or it involves Windows Server Datacenter edition.  What most people don’t understand is if you are large enough to have an Enterprise Agreement, it does give you the right to load more licenses during the year.  However, come true-up time you’ll be paying for the licenses and it isn’t by any means an unlimited Windows free for all.  Also Windows Datacenter provides for unlimited Server VM’s on the server that has the Datacenter license assigned to it.  So sometimes people get confused and don’t realize that they do need to pay for the Datacenter license and for every processor the VM’s are running upon. So don’t ever fall for the “Site License w/unlimited Windows licenses” as it simply is not true.

Coming in next is the “Microsoft gave me a defective key” statement…..  this one is a minor “boo boo” that I hear quite often when a customer has entered an OEM key into their O/S install and for some reason it just doesn’t accept the key or it gives an error that it isn’t valid.  99% of the time this is simply a result of the customer miss-reading the key code and typing an “8” instead of a “B”.  Microsoft makes the characters difficult to read on purpose.  Not to make your life difficult but to make pirates who are scanning or capturing keys a little more time consuming.  If you ever think you have a bad key let me know and I can test it for you.

“The Windows Embedded Standard 7 eval won’t accept my production key and I still have time left on the eval”.   This one is still a regular occurrence because most people miss the small warning text during an install of WES7 where it proclaims that if you do not enter a key or if you enter an eval key then you will get an eval edition and it will require a clean install in order to make a production non eval image.  We’ve had customers that are down to their deadline ready to go into production only to find that they have to start over and perform a full clean install in order to create a production non expiring image.  The reason for this is because WES7 uses a by-pass activation method and has removed the SLUI command from the product.  Even if you use the SLMGR command to add a new key it will still not convert to a non eval image.  So if you are working with WES7 please get with me and get your production key early in the process and don’t spend time using evals.

Did you say “Cow”?  No I said “CAL”.  Client Access License would be probably one of the top questions we get asked about and if you want to get into a complex area where just about everybody has probably made a “Boo Boo” or two it would certainly be on CAL’s.  Just about every single Microsoft server product typically requires a license for the client to access it.  One of the top mistakes involves virtualized desktops – aka VDA licenses.  Customers typically always forget the connection broker requirement which means you need a method of getting from the physical computer to the virtual desktop running on the server.  Most of the time folks are using Vmware for the host and VDA subscription for the Windows VM’s however there is that all important third requirement which is the connection broker.  You can use Microsoft RDS CAL’s or you can use another 3rd party like Vmware View but don’t forget it because if you have 50 to 100 users that could turn into an expensive “Boo Boo”.

Let’s wrap things up with the last common “Boo Boo” which involves SQL CAL’s.  I’ve run into many a customer that claims they only want to buy one SQL CAL because only one user or machine accesses the SQL Database.  We had a very large customer that had designed a system where 200 workstation devices collected data and these workstations weren’t even running a Windows O/S so they just assumed that because they weren’t Windows workstations and didn’t have Windows user Accounts that they didn’t need Windows Server CAL’s or SQL CAL’s.  The workstations passed all the data back to a system that collected it all and then passed it onward to the SQL database.  They weren’t too happy to find out that this is called Multiplexing and that all those 200 systems required SQL Device CAL’s and Windows Server Device CAL’s as they all used the services of the database server.

Hopefully these overviews of common and scary mistakes will help you in preparation for your Microsoft complex solutions but if you still need help please send my team an email to and we’ll make sure you don’t make a scary “Boo Boo”.