Software Assurance explained

1. What is Software Assurance?

Basically, you can see Software Assurance as the maintenance fees you pay within the Enterprise Agreement. Any licenses you buy in the Enterprise Agreement will need to be bought with Software Assurance fees.  

Software Assurance (SA) is a complete program offering technologies, services and rights that help you efficiently manage, use and deploy your IT products. Microsoft offers SA as an easy way to manage licenses, with no need to count individual licenses. It also allows for easy renewal, requiring no new licenses.

If you want a license without Software Assurance, you have to sign up to a different type of Agreement like CSP, Open (depreciated), or MPSA. However, be mindful that certain products, such as platform or Enterprise, can only be ordered through an Enterprise Agreement.

Additionally, user rights differ immensely depending on if you have SA or not. SQL Server Enterprise and its unlimited virtualization benefit being a prime example of this.

Microsoft Software Assurance explained

Software Assurance is an offering by Microsoft that provides new version rights and other benefits for products as further described in the Product Terms

– taken from EA document

2. How does Software Assurance work?

  • Purchase Software Assurance:

    SA is purchased with qualifying Microsoft software licenses or within 90 days of acquiring new licenses. The cost of SA is typically a percentage of the license cost, but it varies depending on the specific licensing agreement.

  • Access to New Versions:

    Entitled to new versions of the software at no additional cost during the coverage period. If Microsoft releases a new version of the software during the coverage period, customers can upgrade to the new version without having to purchase additional licenses.

  • Technical Support:

    Microsoft technical support provides assistance with installation, configuration and other technical issues. Customers can also access online training resources, webcasts and other support materials.

  • Planning Services (depreciated):

    Take advantage of planning services, which provide assistance with deployment planning, architecture design and other aspects of software implementation.

  • Microsoft Workplace Discount Program:

    Participate in the Microsoft Home Use Program, which provides eligible employees with discounted copies of Microsoft software for use on their home computers.

  • License Mobility:

    License mobility rights allow customers to move their software licenses between servers and data centres, and even to third-party cloud service providers.

3. What are the benefits of Software Assurance?

With Software Assurance a client is able to access 24/7 technical support and planning services (though these have now become end of life).

Clients can also request end-user and technical training at no additional cost.

Microsoft offers two different types of support services within the Enterprise Agreement:

Premier/Unified Support Services

  • Annual support allocated annually throughout the term of your Enrollment
  • Buy additional support hours when you need them, no True-up
  • Hands-on assistance, escalation of important issues, evaluation of IT health of your organization and training.
  • Usually sold through a Microsoft Service Account Sales representative and is contracted outside of the EA, although it is possible to include it in your Enterprise Agreement.

To learn more, read our blog on Unified Support.

Digital Advisory Services

  • Option for companies going through changes who need help designing a vision for the future
  • Microsoft Digital Advisor and other services assigned to you per year of the contract term.
  • Three different service offers, namely Connect, Foundation and Portfolio.
  • No True-up concept, rather extra capacity is purchased through a Capacity Add-on option.

The most common Software Assurance benefit is the right to use the latest version of the product when it is released. It also allows users to access virtual Windows instances and to choose from Microsoft cloud services, on-premises software or a mix of both. In the past, licenses were not transferable and organizations needed to abandon their license investment when they upgraded to the latest version of Windows.

Upgrades are cost-efficient which can help reduce costs for software and services.

Microsoft Licensing Wordcloud

Software Assurance gives you access to unique use rights and technologies. You can find most of the Software Assurance Benefits here. Some of the notable mentions are:

  1. Right to use Step-ups (moving from a lower edition product to a higher edition – e.g., SQL Server Std to SQL Server Enterprise)
  2. Disaster Recovery Rights for Windows Server
  3. Ability to lower your Azure costs through the Azure Hybrid Benefit
  4. Fail over Rights for SQL Server
  5. Option to purchase From SA subscription licenses when you move from on-premises licenses to equivalent cloud subscriptions

These are only a few! So be sure to always check the specific Product Terms entries for the software product you are purchasing.

4. Software Assurance credit

Microsoft can choose to assign Software Assurance credits if Software Assurance coverage overlaps when renewing into an existing or new Enterprise Agreement. This is at Microsoft’s discretion. A Customer or Channel Price Sheet is required in order to effectuate this correctly.

You might need this when you for instance have a merger/acquisition or divestiture on your hands. Or if you are trying to consolidate multiple Enrollments with different end dates into one Enrollment.

Need support with your EA renewal?

This article covered different aspects of Software Assurance, an important item when talking about the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. The EA remains a complicated licensing model to understand and work with. LicenseQ can provide immediate support and go through the EA process with you. For more information, visit our Contract Negotiation page or contact our licensing experts at