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Licensing RDS User CALs vs. Device CALs

Licensing RDS User CALs vs. Device CALs: Which to Choose

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is a powerful tool for enabling remote access to applications and desktops. However, understanding the licensing options can be perplexing. In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between RDS User CALs (Client Access Licenses) and RDS Device CALs to help you make the right choice for your business.


Table of Contents:

User CALs vs. Device CALs: The Basics

User CALs (Client Access Licenses):

  • Licensed User: With a User CAL, a specific user is licensed to access RDS from any device. This means they can use multiple devices (e.g., work PC, home laptop, tablet) to connect.

  • Flexible Access: Users have the freedom to log in from any device, which is ideal for businesses with remote or mobile employees.

Device CALs (Client Access Licenses):

  • Licensed Device: A Device CAL licenses a specific device to access RDS. Any user can log in from this device, but it’s tied to a single piece of hardware.

  • Cost-Efficiency: Device CALs can be a cost-effective choice if several users share the same device.

Factors to Consider

Choosing between User CALs and Device CALs depends on your specific business needs. Consider the following factors:

  1. User Mobility: If your employees need to access RDS from various devices, User CALs are more suitable. They are user-centric and not tied to a specific device.

  2. Shared Devices: For environments where multiple users share the same device (e.g., shift workstations), Device CALs can be cost-efficient, as you only need licenses for the devices.

  3. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): If your organization embraces BYOD policies, User CALs accommodate the flexibility required for employees to use their personal devices.

  4. Administrative Ease: Device CALs may be simpler to manage in environments with shared devices, as you don’t need to track individual users.

  5. Scalability: User CALs are more scalable for growing businesses as they don’t require new licenses when a device is replaced or added.

Ensure that you comply with Microsoft’s licensing agreements and consult with your software vendor or licensing specialist to avoid legal issues.

Making Your Decision

In conclusion, the choice between RDS User CALs and Device CALs should align with your organization’s structure, employee mobility, and device-sharing practices. It’s essential to evaluate your specific needs to make an informed and cost-effective decision when it comes to RDS licensing. Consult with your IT and legal departments, or an experienced licensing specialist, to ensure compliance and the best fit for your business.


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