Considered controversial by some business customers, Microsoft's Software Assurance program charges an annual premium of up to 29 percent of the value of the customer's Microsoft software purchases. In return, customers get the right to upgrade their software at no additional charge during the term of the agreement.
Companies that want to keep their software current can find Software Assurance a convenient way to upgrade without having to purchase expensive new software all at once. On the other hand, if Microsoft doesn't do a major upgrade every three or four years, the program could turn out to be too costly.
Here are some of the benefits of Software Assurance:
Windows 7 Enterprise is only available to Software Assurance customers, and while some of the features are targeted at large organizations, it brings key security features such as BitLocker, BitLocker To Go and AppLocker that offer benefits for organizations of any size. Learn more from Microsoft about Windows 7 Enterprise features.
Microsoft's Home Use Program offers copies of Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 Enterprise for $9.95 to the employees of SA-member companies for their employees to use at home. Other products are also available.
The Home Use Program supports telecommuting and other flexible work options. Once the benefit is activated, companies provide the program code to eligible employees and they can order directly from the Home Use Program website.
E-learning programs are also available through SA, potentially lowering training costs and increasing employee efficiency.
With Spread Payments, small businesses can spread their total licensing costs (licenses plus SA) into 3 equal annual payments with no additional fees or interest charges, providing a predictable way to license Microsoft software.
Software Assurance customers also have access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, a collection of IT-oriented tools and technologies available as a subscription.
Planning Is Key
Signing up for Open License is a no-brainer, provided you are willing to purchase five copies of Microsoft software at once to get started. The other programs require a bit of thought and probably a long discussion with a reseller, plus some number crunching, before a purchase decison is made.
Questions such as, "How many machines do we need to upgrade" and "Does our company like to stay current or do we delay software purchases as long as possible?" are the beginning.
Money also plays a role, with Microsoft offering financing and special offers to get customers into Software Assurance, which may not otherwise be the best choice for them.
Before making a decision, customers should price their needs using all three volume license programs, add in special offers and financing, and choose what's best for their specific circumstances.
Where To Buy
Customers interested in Microsoft's volume license programs should contact one of the company's SMB specialist resellers: PC Connection, CDW, PC Mall, Best Buy for Business, Tech Depot, or Staples.
Discounted Microsoft products are also available through local "small business specialist" organizations, who can also provide other services to customers, such as migration and support.
The Microsoft Small Business site offers more details and contact information.
Regardless of the vendor chosen, if your company isn't buying Microsoft products through one of the three SMB volume licensing programs, you are paying too much.