Windows licences for hosted solutions


Offering hosting services using Microsoft Windows servers is not a simple matter of licensing. The usual licenses (boxed or OEM) prohibit the operation of hosted services. Therefore, it is necessary to conclude with Microsoft the so-called. SPLA contract. The article provides more detailed information and a description of the process.

Typically, Microsoft products are purchased by buying a new computer or server and getting an OEM license for the Windows operating system. This means that you may use the product only on this computer and only for your own purposes. You may not transfer the product to another PC, as the license will expire with the termination of the PC. You must also not use the Windows Server you acquire in this way to run hosted solutions (place your customers’ applications on the server). This also applies to the boxed version as well as multilicenses, where the license is transferable between multiple PCs, but the ban on hosted solutions also applies.

It should also be made clear that the licensing of a product does not make the product your property. You only get to use it to the extent that is specified in the license agreement. For OEM and boxed versions, this is called an EULA (End User License Agreement).

So if you want to use Windows servers to run web hosting services, to run email servers or virtual servers, but also to offer leased physical servers, you have to look at it completely differently. The operator must enter into a so-called SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) with Microsoft. A service provider with such a license agreement then provides the software to its customers without them having to own the necessary licenses themselves.

The question is whether the hosting providers know about these things and whether they all have an honest SPLA, otherwise they are violating copyright law.

Hosted services based on Windows Server are of course more expensive than similar services running e.g. on Linux, because you simply have to add the cost of licensing. For web hosting this is usually not reflected in the end prices, but for virtual and dedicated servers it is.

Using the SPLA

Once a service provider has an SPLA in place, they can download the latest versions of products and obtain licenses from Microsoft. The important thing is that the provider does not purchase licenses for individual products as usual, but reports back on a monthly basis how many of which products were actually used in the previous calendar month and this is then invoiced to the provider. The provider always has the latest versions of all products available and can upgrade them at will. You pay a monthly fee for the software you actually use. Prices are fixed worldwide, there are no quantity or other discounts.

Another important difference is that Microsoft does not offer technical support for end users in the case of SPLA licenses. The service provider must take care of the support. Also, the provider must expect occasional visits from Microsoft auditors to verify that what you report in your monthly reports is accurate.

Closure of the SPLA

Concluding a contract is generally simple, it is just more difficult at the beginning to find your way around and find answers to many questions and uncertainties. Previously, it was necessary to communicate directly with Microsoft’s European headquarters in Ireland, but nowadays there are also so-called SPLA resellers in the Czech Republic, which are Czech companies that help and arrange everything related to the SPLA and to whom monthly reports are then sent and to whom payments are subsequently made.

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