Microsoft's Lync Licensing

by George Chetcuti [Published on 4 March 2011 / Last Updated on 4 March 2011]

Microsoft Lync is the latest edition (brand name) of MS Office Communications server products. As most of you may already know, Lync can be deployed locally within an organization (on-premise) or it can be purchased as a service from either Microsoft themselves or a third-party managed service provider (MSP). Briefly, to deploy Lync in your organization you need a license for each Lync Server 2010 instance and a Client Access License (CAL) for each user and device. Standalone and enterprise licensing models exist and this is similar to the other major products delivered by Microsoft. Conversely, if you go for a hosted solution then you would face a subscription licensing model which in my opinion is much simpler to handle!
The Server/CAL licensing model for on-premise implementations incorporates servers, clients and external connector components. Therefore, you need a license for each:

Server instance you will be running, whether Standard or Enterprise Servers

User accessing the servers, known as CALs and we find three types

Standard CAL – enables standard features for a user such as, IM and video & audio conferencing between internal computers
Enterprise CAL – enables enterprise features such as, extended conferencing features – External & Web
Plus CAL – enables plus features such as, VoIP features

To enable all features, a user must be licensed with all three CALs


External Connector, which is an external entity (travelling employee, business partner, etc.) connecting to your servers. There are three External Connectors which are Standard, Enterprise and Plus. External users' licenses can be purchased as CALs or ECs:

CAL – a license for each external user
EC – a license for each server (can have multiple instances) that will be accessed by an unlimited number of external users

Users' CALs (as explained in point 2

Microsoft Lync is the latest edition (brand name) of MS Office Communications server products. As most of you may already know, Lync can be deployed locally within an organization (on-premise) or it can be purchased as a service from either Microsoft themselves or a third-party managed service provider (MSP). Briefly, to deploy Lync in your organization you need a license for each Lync Server 2010 instance and a Client Access License (CAL) for each user and device. Standalone and enterprise licensing models exist and this is similar to the other major products delivered by Microsoft. Conversely, if you go for a hosted solution then you would face a subscription licensing model which in my opinion is much simpler to handle!

The Server/CAL licensing model for on-premise implementations incorporates servers, clients and external connector components. Therefore, you need a license for each:

  1. Server instance you will be running, whether Standard or Enterprise Servers
  2. User accessing the servers, known as CALs and we find three types
    1. Standard CAL – enables standard features for a user such as, IM and video & audio conferencing between internal computers
    2. Enterprise CAL – enables enterprise features such as, extended conferencing features – External & Web
    3. Plus CAL – enables plus features such as, VoIP features

    To enable all features, a user must be licensed with all three CALs

  3. External Connector, which is an external entity (travelling employee, business partner, etc.) connecting to your servers. There are three External Connectors which are Standard, Enterprise and Plus. External users' licenses can be purchased as CALs or ECs:
    1. CAL – a license for each external user
    2. EC – a license for each server (can have multiple instances) that will be accessed by an unlimited number of external users

Users' CALs (as explained in point 2) can be a User-based CAL (User CAL) or a Device-based CAL (Device CAL). A User CAL is bound to an authenticated user regardless from which device and number of devices he/she uses to access Lync while a Device CAL is bound with one device where many users can share such device to access Lync.

This is not the end of the licensing story! Do you have to pay for the Lync client software as well? Microsoft Lync 2000 client software can be purchased as a standalone application or as part of the Office Professional Plus 2010 suite. To hear Bill Gates vision about Microsoft's Lync go here.

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