Why you probably don’t want to buy Microsoft SBS 2008 Premium CALs

I’ve been trying to figure out licensing for Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2008. It’s somewhat perplexing. There are two editions, Standard and Premium, but you can apparently use Standard CALs with the Premium SBS. The Premium edition offers two extra features over the Standard:

1. A second server license for Windows Server 2008.

2. SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition.

So what’s the difference between Standard and Premium CALs? First of all, price. A pack of 5 standard CALs is $385 full retail, while 5 Premium CALs is $945 – that’s 245% more, real money.

But what else? You would have thought that a Premium CAL would be needed to access Premium SBS, but this is not the case. The Pricing page says:

Microsoft offers several flexible licensing options to allow for complete scalability of your cost in relation to your usage, including various CAL quantities to suit your specific needs as well as the ability to purchase SBS 2008 CAL Suite for Premium Users or Devices for only those users or devices accessing the “premium” features.

OK, so what are the “premium” features? Does this mean anyone accessing the second server? Apparently not. The Licensing FAQ says:

The Windows Small Business Server 2008 CAL Suite for Premium Users or Devices should be purchased for only those users or devices accessing the SQL Server 2008 Standard for Small Business shipped as part of Windows Small Business Server 2008 Premium server software.

Now we are getting there. It seems that the “premium features” boil down to just one feature: SQL Server 2008 Standard.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that SBS 2008 can be used by a maximum of 75 users; and that Microsoft offers a free version of SQL Server 2008 called Express which is limited to using a single processor, 1GB RAM and 4GB maximum database size.

It follows that small businesses only need Premium CALs if they are running a SQL Server 2008 application that is beyond the capabilities of Express, and even then only for those users who access that application.

SBS 2008 Premium Edition comes with 5 Premium CALs and costs $1899 full retail, vs $1089 full retail for the Standard Edition. Real-world prices are likely to be less.

My conclusion is that Premium Edition plus Standard CALs is good value if you can make use of the second server, whereas Premium Edition with Premium CALs (beyond the bundled 5) is poor value for the majority of small businesses, who simply do not need those SQL CALs.

Microsoft could make this much clearer by striking out all the references to “Premium features” in its publicity for SBS 2008, and replacing it with “SQL Server 2008 Standard” – unless it is hoping to sell Premium CALs to customers who do not need them.

One thought on “Why you probably don’t want to buy Microsoft SBS 2008 Premium CALs”

  1. Well, that was interesting. I’ve come to similar conclusions and decided to purchase the standard edition. It works just gine. There are no problems so far.
    greetings johm

Comments are closed.