Office 365 RDS world changes again

In the long running story that is Office via Office 365 on a Remote Desktop Server (RDS) things have once again changed from October 1, 2014.

If you have not reviewed my last post on this topic then you will find it here:

in essence what that blog post said was that from September 1 2014 ANY Office 365 plan that included Office Pro Plus was licensed for RDS no matter where it was obtained for. It also detailed how you could now install directly on RDS from the click to run install using the Office Deployment kit.

However, 1 October 2014 brought new SMB plans and the retirement of M and P plans so things have changed again and here’s the summary to bring you up to date.

1. If you have purchased E (Enterprise plans) that include Office Pro Plus via any means you remain licensed to use these on RDS.

2. If you have an existing M or P plan that include Office Pro Plus you remain licensed to use these on RDS UNTIL either October 1 2015 or whenever you elect to upgrade these plans to the new SMB offerings.

3. If you purchase the new SMB Plans after October 1 2014 or migrate to these plans from any existing plan you are NOT licensed to use these for RDS. This is because the version of Office via the SMB plans is no longer Office Pro Plus (i.e it doesn’t includes things like Access any more for example).

The positive with the new SMB plans however is that you can now mix and match with E SKUs. That means that if you do need RDS capability to can purchase and add onto your existing SMB plan an E SKU that includes Office Pro Plus (say the Enterprise stand alone version of Office Pro Plus).

This may mean you have users that are licensed twice for Office, once with their SMB plans and once via the Enterprise SKU that permits RDS capability.

Now the question is if you have say 10 users but only 5 at any time require RDS capability how many additional E SKUs that allow RDS rights for Office would you need to purchase? The answer is that if all 10 need RDS access at any point in time you would need 10 addition Office Pro Plus E SKUs because each license in Office 365 is assigned to an individual user. Thus, for all users to have the rights for RDS they would each need an E Office Pro Plus license assigned to them.

I had this confirmed by Jeremy Chapman from Microsoft where he told me:

Each user accessing the Office 365 ProPlus install via Shared Computer Activation on the RDS box would need an Office 365 ProPlus license. The users unable to sign in would only get viewing rights with a red info bar stating that Office is not activated.

So in summary:

1. The new Office 365 SMB plans are not licensed for RDS

2. While you remain on an older P or M plan you are licensed for RDS no matter where you purchased that license from.

3. You can now mix and match new SMB plans with E plans so you can add a qualifying E SKU that allows RDS to an existing SMB plan if required, however every user that requires RDS needs a suitable E SKU.

It is therefore very important to understand the restrictions of the new SMB plans when it comes to things like RDS. It is likewise very important to match the clients needs to the right Office 365 plan. As I have always recommended, you should always consider the E plans above and beyond the SMB plans because of their flexibility. I understand that SMB plans have a pricing incentive but given their limitations and lack of features I still firmly believe the E plans represent much better value for any business, especially those with an RDS environment.

A rule of thumb that I would suggest you adopt is that if you need/want to use your own server in conjunction with Office 365 (whether on premise or hosted) then you should only consider E plans.

This to me makes things much clearer around Office 365 and RDS as well providing the flexibility if RDS is required. I am sure there will be folks out there who may not appreciate this but to me things are much clearer on this story than they used to be.

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