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Navigate Office 365 licensing issues with VDI

Office 365 can come with some tricky licensing situations, especially for VDI admins. Explore this rundown of licensing issues and some potential solutions.

Many virtual desktop administrators run Microsoft Office 365 with Citrix, but it can present some licensing challenges.

Microsoft has had great success with Office 365, with nearly 200 million subscribers worldwide. Many large organizations have already been running Office 365 for many years, and others are starting to migrate from on-premises Exchange and SharePoint to Microsoft's cloud. 

Citrix has invested heavily into functionality to optimize the end-user experience of running Office 365 apps within a Citrix environment. But, first, organizations need to ensure they have the proper licenses to deliver Office 365 and Office 365 ProPlus as part of a Citrix environment. 

Office 365 licensing issues for VDI

When IT pros assign an Office 365 license to an end user, that user can run Office applications on five different devices by default. This creates an issue in a terminal server environment: End users go back and forth between different servers and can quickly meet that device limit.

Microsoft has had great success with Office 365, with nearly 200 million subscribers worldwide.

To fix this, Microsoft introduced a feature called Shared Computer Activation (SCA), which allows IT to run Office 365 ProPlus within a terminal server environment. With SCA, IT can create a token in Office, which then roams between the different servers and allows the end user to use Office.

To use this feature, however, organizations need to have an Office 365 SKU license that includes Office ProPlus, such as Office 365 E3 or Office 365 ProPlus. Microsoft recently allowed the rights to use SCA within the Microsoft 365 Business SKU, as well.

There are differences between Microsoft 365 and Office 365 E3. Microsoft 365 Business has a maximum limit of 300 users. It includes all of the features of Office 365 E3, but also includes Intune for the same price. Office 365, however, does not have a user limit. 

Larger organizations will most likely choose Office 365 E3 or Microsoft 365 E3, which also includes Windows 10 and the Security package. Smaller organizations with fewer than 300 users can use the new Microsoft 365 Business SKU. Moving forward, Microsoft will most likely focus more on delivering new services within the Microsoft 365 SKUs to ensure a full ecosystem of functionality from Office 365, Windows 10 and Security. 

Keep track of licensing changes

In November 2018, Microsoft announced it would not support Office 365 on Windows Server 2019. This would force many organizations to use Windows 10 and provide Office 365 from Citrix to their end users. Fortunately, Microsoft reversed the decision and now provides support for Office 365 as part of Windows Server 2019.

Microsoft also acquired FSLogix in November 2018, which was a company that solved roaming profile issues with Office 365 application data and settings in virtualized environments. As part of the acquisition, Microsoft announced FSLogix would be available for free to all customers that had the following licenses in place:

  • Microsoft 365 E3/E5/A3/A5/Student Use Benefits/F1/Business
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3/A5
  • Windows 10 VDA per user
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access License (CAL) and Subscriber Access License (SAL)

Office 365 licensing with Citrix

Microsoft announced it will retire Skype for Business Online in 2021. Many organizations use Citrix with Skype for business with Citrix's HDX optimization pack, which was only available for certain Citrix SKUs

Citrix announced it will create a similar optimization pack for Microsoft Teams for virtualized environments. Fortunately, Citrix removed the limitation for the upcoming release, so it will be available for all SKUs.

Dig Deeper on Citrix virtual desktops

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Which licensing challenges do you face with running Office 365 in a virtual desktop environment?
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Question:  Are you referring to VDI solutions running in a pool configuration or Terminal Services model?  If you are running VDI in a persistent (individual VM per user) configuration, are you facing the same issue within Windows 10 based VDI solutions? 
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