If you don't rethink your Microsoft licensing strategy in the next three weeks, you could end up seriously out of pocket.
After 31 July, Microsoft's new Volume Licensing programme will be fully implemented. Purchasing licences, or licences and Software Assurance together, will be the way customers obtain rights to future versions of Microsoft products.
After that date, unless they have bought into a software maintenance programme, customers will have to buy new full licences to upgrade software.
The software giant's customers are reported to be very angry at the changes, which some have calculated will double the cost of the software they use, although Microsoft claims that the changes will have no effect on half of its customers and 30 per cent will in fact be better off.
Research company Gartner begs to differ and has warned that companies which don't evaluate their options and take appropriate action before the deadline could pay up to 45 per cent more to repurchase their licences the next time they wish to upgrade.
Gartner analyst Alvin Park said: "31 July marks the deadline for Microsoft customers to acquire upgrade protection on their existing licenses. After that date, Select version 5, Upgrade Advantage and Software Assurance on licences acquired prior to 1 August 2002 will no longer be available.
"Enterprises that don't evaluate their options and take appropriate action before 31 July could pay up to 45 per cent more to repurchase their licences the next time they wish to upgrade.
"After 31 July, enterprises can purchase new licences with or without Software Assurance, but they can never upgrade the pre-existing licences, only replace them."
Park recommends several courses of action including entering into a new Open version 6 or Select version 5 volume purchasing agreement with Microsoft to maximise the upgrade protection period; looking out for special Microsoft promotions and incentives on the Windows Server operating system throughout July; and considering purchasing Upgrade Advantage on non-current version products before the 31 July deadline.
Thomas Mendel, research director at analyst company Giga, recommends that companies which hold Select Agreements with Microsoft should buy Upgrade Advantage to protect their licences.
"Upgrade Advantage is key to every client I've spoken to for the last nine months. If customers have Select Agreements they must go for Upgrade Advantage before 31 July. There is no time to waste," he said.
"If you don't buy by 31 July, at some time in the future you will have to repurchase your licences."
Microsoft offers the following advice: "If you intend to upgrade any Microsoft desktop software you are currently licensed to run to any new version during the next three and a half years, or licensed server software in the next four years, you could save by purchasing Upgrade Advantage or Software Assurance now. Then you can implement any new products that are released on your schedule.
"The decision to purchase Upgrade Advantage or Software Assurance depends on what software licences you currently own, and your specific business needs for the future.
"Like many customers, you may find that the most cost-effective way to obtain rights to future versions of software is to purchase Upgrade Advantage or Software Assurance for eligible licences now."
The company also has a range of tools and advice to help find your current status and determine your options leading up to 31 July which can be found here.
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