What Are The Different Types Of Client Access Licenses (CALs) And Which Do Your Customers Need?

Last week we kicked of a new blog series all about Client Access Licenses (CALs). In the first CAL series blog, “Introduction to HPE OEM Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CALs)” we covered what CALs are (and what they are not), why CALs are needed, and when resellers should talk to their customers about their CAL needs. 

Today, we will dive deeper into CALs and look at the different types of CALs, and how to determine which type best fits your customers’ needs.


First, a *quick* CAL review (if you want to learn more, check out last week’s CAL blog). When a customer purchases a Microsoft Windows Server license to accompany their new HPE Gen 10 Server, it gives them the right to install  Microsoft Windows Server, the server operating system (OS), onto the server. However, it does NOT provide the legal right to allow users or devices to connect to that server. For this, every user (or device) needs a Client Access License. Customers must purchase a CAL for EVERY user or device that accesses the Windows Server OS.

But wait, a CAL is needed for every user OR device? How do you determine whether they are licensing users or devices, and how do they know which kind of CALs they need? Great question! Let’s take a step back and start from the beginning.

There are three kinds of CALs: User CALs, Device CALs and Remote Desktop Service (RDS) CALs.

User CALs: Businesses purchase a User CAL for every user who accesses the server to use services such as file storage or printing, regardless of the number of devices they use for that access. Purchasing a User CAL may make more sense if the company's employees need to have roaming access to the corporate network by using multiple devices, or if there are simply more devices than users in the organization.

Device CALs: Businesses purchase a Device CAL for every device that accesses the server, regardless of the number of users who use that device to access the server. Device CALs may make more economical and administrative sense if the company has workers who share devices, such as shift workers.

RDS CALs: Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CALs (formerly called Terminal Services CALs) must be purchased to use Windows Server OS and the Remote Desktop Service components. RDS CALs are required for companies with users who need to access programs or the full desktop remotely. NOTE: Use of Remote Desktop Services requires both a Windows Server User or Device CAL AND an RDS User or Device CAL for each user or device.

Types of CALs.png

Now that you know the types of CALs, you may be wondering how to determine which kind of CALs your customers may require. By asking your customers some very simple questions, you can easily decide which types of CALs would best fit their needs (and how many of each CAL type they require).

You can use the simple decision chart below to figure out your customers’ specific CAL needs:

CAL Decision Tree.jpg

CALs are available in packs of 1, 5, 10, or 50 so you can help your customers choose the best pack size for their specific needs. Remember, it is not only important to as your customers about their CAL needs every time you make an HPE Server + Microsoft Windows Server sale, it is also good to check back with past customers to see if their CAL needs have changed. Making sure they are in CAL compliance can help protect them in the long run.

Have questions about CALs, HPE OEM Microsoft products/solutions, Windows Server 2016, or HPE Servers? Join the Coffee Coaching community to keep up with the latest HPE OEM Microsoft news and interact with HPE and Microsoft experts.


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Willa manages the HPE | Microsoft Coffee Coaching program. Follow along to learn more about the latest HPE OEM Microsoft product releases and how the HPE Microsoft partnership can benefit partners and customers.