Deploying Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus – Important Licensing Information Before You Start

Several of my clients are starting their implementation of Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus and I’m seeing a key misperception that could lead to expensive license compliance issues down the road.

Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus is licensed per user (Yeah! Something many of us have wanted for years) but Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 (or 2013, 2010, 2007, etc) is licensed per device. 

The change to “per user” licensing is one of the key reasons many organizations have licensed the Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, but by using the incorrect installation bits a company can quickly become out of compliance.

These are two different products – they may contain the same feature set but just like you cannot install Microsoft Office Standard when what you own is Microsoft Office Professional, you also cannot install Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 when what you own is Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus!

In order to maintain compliance (and benefit from the “per user” licensing) you need to make sure that any deployments of Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus are done with the Office 365 bits, not the volume (or otherwise provided) licensing bits for Microsoft Office Professional Plus.  While years ago there was a short-term exemption to this requirement that exemption has since expired and if you install with Microsoft Office Professional Plus bits then you are installing a device based license.

This information used to be spelled out in the Microsoft licensing briefs but in my latest search I could no longer find reference to it, however; the thing to remember about Microsoft licensing is that they only tell you what you can do – not what you cannot do so the absence of this clarification does not mean they’ve changed the requirement. This Microsoft TechNet article on “Getting started guide for deploying Office 365 ProPlus” provides some guidance to consider.

While I have not seen Microsoft actively auditing on this yet, you should expect that in the not too distant future it will probably become a compliance item so if you are planning your rollout now, it will pay to do it under the correct installation media.  Also,  your Microsoft Account team is presently financially interested in your Office 365 usage, something that cannot be measured if you are using the Microsoft Office Professional Plus bits.

Example of impact: A user has 3 dedicated devices with Microsoft Office installed (workstation, home, laptop).

  • If all of these are installed using the Office 365 ProPlus bits then the company only needs to license the user for some form of Office 365 ProPlus. 
  • However; if each of these is installed with the Microsoft Office Professional Plus bits then each install would have to have it’s own license requiring the procurement of 2-3 licenses (2 if the laptop could be covered under Portable Use Rights but that is dependent upon how the license for the workstation was acquired).
So, in summary – do not use your Microsoft volume licensing MSI’s for Office Professional Plus to deploy you Office 365 ProPlus.  It could end up costing your organization unnecessarily!
As a side note, for those organizations getting ready to deploy Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus 2016 please be aware that there is currently an issue with volume licensed versions of Microsoft Visio 2016 or Microsoft Project 2016 installed on the same computer (as well as 2013 versions of Visio Pro for Office 365 or Project Pro 365). For more details please refer to this Microsoft TechNet article (scroll down to the topic “Visio and Project versions that can be installed on the same computer with Office 365 ProPlus”).

Update January 27, 2016 – I have been informed by Microsoft that there is a resolution planned in February 2016 for the above point about volume licensed versions of Visio 2016 and Project 2016. It is planned to come in the form of a “Click to Run Compatible Bits” (C2R-P) for the volume licensed Visio and Project. Keep your eyes open for these updated bits.

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