Help Me Choose: Client Access Licenses (CAL)

Client Access Licensing Requirements

Windows Server® 2016 and Windows Server® 2012, Datacenter and Standard require Client Access Licenses (CALs) for each device or user accessing the server to use services such as file storage or printing. Starting with Windows Server® 2016, the Windows Server® 2016 Client Access Licenses for User, Device and Remote Desktop Services are valid for both versions of the operating system.

With the purchase of Windows Server® operating system the user is granted a server license that permits the installation of the operating system on one computer. A server license by itself doesn't provide the right to allow others to connect to that computer. Every user or device that accesses or uses the Windows Server® software requires appropriate Windows Server® Client Access License (Windows Server® CAL)

Device-based or User-based Windows Client Access Licenses

There are two types of Windows Server® Client Access Licenses: device-based or user-based, also known as Windows Device CALs and Windows User CALs. This means you can choose to acquire a Windows CAL for every device (used by any user) accessing your servers, or you can choose to acquire a Windows User CAL for every named user accessing your servers (from any device). The option to choose between the two types of Windows CALs offers the flexibility to use the licensing that best suits the needs of your organization and provides the most value. Here are some considerations:

  • Windows User CALs. With the proliferation of “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) there’s a growing trend of more devices per employee (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and it is easier to track users who can add devices at no additional cost. In this scenario choosing User CALs may be more beneficial and cost effective.
  • Windows Device CALs might make most economic and administrative sense for an organization with multiple users for one device, such as shift workers.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Windows Server® Client Access Licenses

Windows Server® RDS Client Access License is required for users who need to access programs or the full desktop remotely. Both a Windows Server® CAL (User or Device) and an RDS CAL are required for remote desktop access. RDS CALs contain a product key for activation.