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User CALs vs. Device CALs: Windows Server Licensing

When it comes to licensing Windows Server for your organization, one of the key decisions you’ll face is choosing between User CALs (Client Access Licenses) and Device CALs. These CALs are essential for granting users or devices the right to access and use the server. Understanding the differences between them will help you make an informed choice.

Table of Contents:

User CALs (Client Access Licenses):

User CALs are licenses assigned to individual users, allowing them to access the Windows Server from any device. With User CALs, one user can use multiple devices such as a work computer, home laptop, or mobile device to access the server. This flexibility is ideal for businesses where employees frequently use multiple devices to connect to the server.

Device CALs (Client Access Licenses):

Device CALs, on the other hand, are licenses associated with specific devices. With Device CALs, any user can access the Windows Server from a particular device, but that same user would require a separate CAL to access the server from a different device. This is a good option for businesses where several users share the same workstation, such as in shift work environments.


1. Flexibility:

  • User CALs: Ideal for organizations where users need to access the server from various devices.
  • Device CALs: Suited for situations where multiple users share the same device to access the server.

2. Licensing Costs:

  • User CALs: Can be more cost-effective in scenarios where a single user utilizes multiple devices.
  • Device CALs: More cost-effective when multiple users share a single device.

3. Management:

  • User CALs: Easier to manage as you license individual users, irrespective of the device they use.
  • Device CALs: Can be more complex to manage, especially in large organizations with many shared devices.

4. Scalability:

  • User CALs: Easier to scale as you add more users, even if they use multiple devices.
  • Device CALs: May require additional CALs when users access the server from multiple devices.

In summary, the choice between User CALs and Device CALs depends on the specific needs and circumstances of your organization. Consider how your users interact with the Windows Server and whether they frequently use multiple devices or share workstations.

For flexibility and scalability, User CALs are often the preferred choice. However, for organizations where users primarily share devices, Device CALs may be more cost-effective. Whichever option you choose, ensure that your licensing is in compliance with Microsoft’s licensing terms to avoid any legal or operational issues.


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