SharePoint 2010 Licensing for Education – My Current Understanding

15 June, 2010

SharePoint 2010 Licensing for Education – My Current Understanding

SharePoint licensing has always been a bit of a black art, but the release of SharePoint 2010 seems to have complicated it even more. This is my attempt at understanding it and may well be completely wrong! If nothing else it should help your understanding when talking to your Microsoft Education Partner who you buy your licenses from.

Dave Coleman posted a great blog on it at, however on further investigation it has since come to light, and verified by Microsoft that he is missing a component which will in all likelihood double the price.

Basics of Licensing

Forgetting the educational differences to start with, the different types of license which may or may not be required to run SharePoint are:

  1. Server License per server running SharePoint
  2. Device CAL to allow a specific computer in your intranet to connect to the SharePoint server
  3. A User CAL to allow a specific user in your intranet to connect to the SharePoint server
  4. A student device CAL for student users
  5. A student user CAL for student users
  6. A device CAL to allow access to SharePoint from a specific computer/device
  7. Office 2010 licenses to use Office Web Applications
  8. External Connector License is required if you have an external users (i.e. not part of your organisation) logging into SharePoint. It covers an unlimited number of external users.
  9. SQL Server licensing. Every authenticated user must also have a valid license for SQL Server.

The server licenses break down into Standard or Enterprise and then again into intranet or internet options.

  • The Enterprise version has more features than the standard one.
  • If you want to host an internet site with anonymous users you need the internet option.

That the basics of SharePoint licensing. Now to consider the educational licensing:

You obviously need a server license per server. I’ll come back to internet or intranet later.

Each SQL Server which is used by SharePoint will need licensing in the normal way. Every user which access SharePoint is will need a license for SQL as well. If you’re using the same SQL server as for other applications, you may well already be covered, otherwise a per-processor license is usually cheaper than individual SQL Server CALs.

Then for each staff member who will be using SharePoint you need a full user CAL (£11.95). So far nothing complicated.

For students it’s where it gets different. For SharePoint 2007, you needed a student user CAL per student. Now if you refer to the licensing for SharePoint Server 2010 at it states

Student Only CALs (Academic Open License and Academic Select) 
Student Only CALs are restricted to license student owned PCs or institution owned PCs dedicated to an individual student and are NOT for use in labs or classrooms.

So you will still need a student User CAL(£0.85) per student to cover them accessing SharePoint from home. However in addition to this you will need a full Device CAL (£11.95) for every classroom PC which is not dedicated to an individual student. This is where it could get really expensive. Microsoft estimates that there’s approximately 1 PC per 3.5 students in the UK, so using Dave’s figures of 1000 students, that’s about 285 machines which will cost £3,405.75, which is slightly more than the other licenses put together. Of course if you one of the fortunate schools who has issued on laptop per student you only need student CALS, and if you are on the Schools Agreement the core CAL should cover SharePoint access.

What if you want to use SharePoint to communicate with parents, feeder schools and prospective students? Ray Fleming has blogged on this at Licensing parents for SharePoint – what’s free and what isn’t. Basically for every student which is licensed for SharePoint, then their parents/legal guardians are also licensed for no extra cost. In addition if ALL of your students are licensed then you get a no cost External Connector license for

  • Prospective students
  • Alumni – student & staff
  • Students & staff of collaborating academic institutions or government institutions

You can find out more details about these no cost licenses from Ray’s blog post and download the Parent/Guardian CAL Grant Letter and External Connector Grant Letter. In particular this should mean that you can host sites for your feeder schools with no additional license costs. 

What about using SharePoint for my internet sites?

In my reading of the grant letters, they give you:

  • CALs for parents
  • The above groups of your community rights to log in to SharePoint

My reading of an External Connector License is that it only applies to authenticated/logged in users. So in a strict reading you would be licensed for parents (and your licensed students and staff of course) to access an internet site. You would not be licensed for anyone else to anonymously access an internet facing site as those groups above are only licensed to log on.

Arguably, the intent of Microsoft is to allow all those groups above access to your SharePoint, and you could argue that would include anonymous and logged in access. I don’t have an answer as to whether you are truly licensed for this or not, and neither is anyone I have spoken to, including Microsoft employees! If it doesn’t license you then you will need an internet edition of SharePoint, but if it does, then for the majority of schools their target audience for any anonymous internet web site is going to exactly be those groups above.


The release of SharePoint 2010 has only seemed to muddy the waters even more over SharePoint licensing. I have been told that Microsoft is looking at this area of Educational licensing for SharePoint and feedback is valuable so I would suggest emailing Ray via his blog and letting him know your thoughts.

Sorry about that Ray, but I hope you get lots of feedback!

Richard Willis

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