Microsoft Step-up License: Step Up and Get Your Money’s Worth!

By Cindy Barron-Taylor

Director of Client Services, Microsoft, NPI

October 23, 2018

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Reducing TCO is an ongoing challenge for Microsoft customers especially as the enterprise Microsoft estate expands. Enter the Microsoft Step-up License.

Many of Microsoft's customers either forget or are unaware that some of the vendor's products have mechanisms that are designed to help them "grow" into more advanced technologies as their business needs expand. One such mechanism is the Microsoft Step-up License for those customers that maintain Software Assurance on applicable products. Step-up SKUs allow you to take the investment you've already made in one edition of a product and "step into" a higher edition.

Here’s an example to better explain how this works and how the dollars saved are tangible:

Let’s say you are a Level A Enterprise Agreement customer and have active Software Assurance on Exchange Server Standard. You paid $300/year for 3 years for that License + Software Assurance (keeping the numbers nice and round to make the math easy). Upon renewing your Enterprise Enrollment, you decide that you need an Exchange Server Enterprise license versus Standard. Instead of having to purchase this higher edition of Exchange at the more expensive License + Software Assurance price (approx. $1900/year for 3 years when adding at signing), you can instead purchase the Step-up SKU for around $1600/year for 3 years when adding at signing.

What You Need to Know About the Microsoft Step-up License at Renewal Time

At the end of the aforementioned transaction, it’s the combination of the Exchange Server Standard License PLUS the Step-up SKU that changes the character of this license from Standard to Enterprise. In this example, it’s also important to note that you still only own ONE license, but the dollars you have invested to date are working for you towards that higher edition purchase to help avoid redundancy in licenses and overpaying. Upon your next renewal (once the 3 years of the license cost are paid), assuming you wish to keep this license, you would renew just the one item as “Exchange Server Enterprise SA,” also known as a Software Assurance-only SKU for your Exchange Server Enterprise license.

Some examples where Microsoft Step-up Licenses are available include the following:

  • Core CAL to Enterprise CAL (CAL= client access license)
  • Project Standard to Project Professional
  • Visio Standard to Visio Professional
  • Visual Studio Professional or Visual Studio Test Professional to Visual Studio Enterprise
  • Core Infrastructure Suite Standard to Core Infrastructure Suite Datacenter
  • Exchange Server Standard to Exchange Server Enterprise
  • SQL Parallel Data Warehouse Core to SQL Server Enterprise Core
  • System Center Standard Core to System Center Datacenter Core
  • Windows Server Standard Core to Windows Server Datacenter Core
  • Office Standard to Office Professional Plus

Keeping Microsoft spend (and value!) in check as your business requirements evolve is intense work. It’s important to have every tool at your disposal and apply them as necessary – whether it’s a Step-up SKU, intimate knowledge of Microsoft’s product terms, or knowing which license management pitfalls to look for. Be prepared!