Microsoft EA 101

Who It’s for and How It Works

Contributing Writer

Chances are you’ve probably heard of a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) before. It’s just a volume licensing deal for software, right? What’s the big deal? Well, a few years ago, a volume licensing program was just a better way to get bigger savings on big orders. Today, it’s a whole different ballgame.

With the rise of cloud, big data, and new ways of working, everyone’s looking for greater flexibility. As your technological landscape changes, you need to be able to download products, use them, pay for them, and bring them into the environment at your leisure – not on a transactional basis. Microsoft EA delivers that flexibility.

So how can an EA help you take advantage of this exciting, new cloud-first, mobile-first world? Microsoft has released some pretty interesting products in the last six months to help guide you through that. As part of the Enterprise enrollment, you get a cloud-optimized option with Office 365. You get the server cloud enrollment that’ll give you Azure and other products that are all catered towards the cloud. In the newest offering, the Enterprise Cloud Suite even offers Windows on a user base license as needed. There’s a tremendous amount of flexibility there. Oh, and don’t get the wrong idea – those “big savings” I mentioned earlier are still there. If you’re comparing EA to current select licenses, you could have anywhere between 15–45% savings. There’s still no better way to save on Microsoft.

Aside from best value and the flexibility to switch up your lineup as business needs change, why choose an EA from the Connection, family of companies? Ask anyone, and their first answer will probably be “manageability.” Now, when I say manageable, I mean you’re able to now track all of your purchases in a central location. When you think about all of the software titles across your entire organization, that’s a huge deal.

The experts at Connection can really help you out with your Microsoft license management. We offer concierge services to help you manage every stage of your EA. Think about having people there to give you continual care over the life of your agreement. We’re there to ensure your investment stays in line with your needs. Throughout the duration of your agreement, you have constant assistance. We help you manage your benefits. We help guide you through asset management. We have a licensing optimization program that shows you how to save and where you actually need to spend to achieve compliance. A well-planned licensing strategy presents a great opportunity for savings, and we can give you some smart ideas of areas where you can cut costs.

I’ve talked a lot about savings and reducing complexity, so you might be wondering just how big of an organization you need to be in order to take advantage of a Microsoft EA. There are a few ground rules to keep in mind. You must have at least 250 users or devices to get in. That’s the minimum; there’s no break in that rule. You also have to know that you’re buying perpetual licenses or subscription licenses via cloud. And you have to commit to Software Assurance, which is not necessarily maintenance as most people think – it’s actually a benefits package that provides all future updates and releases during the contract term.

So let’s say you meet all of those criteria, and an EA sounds right up your alley. How does it all work? Bear with me for a minute while we go through the nitty-gritty. It all starts with a three-year commitment – a contract signed between you and Microsoft that says you commit to standardizing your desktops in at least one of Microsoft’s major pools. This sets you up for annual ordering and annual payments. That’s where you can see some big savings. The initial costs of licensing are a lot lower than other models because you’re opting to subscribe to Microsoft products, rather than owning them. Once you commit to your licenses at the beginning of the contract, you pay for those licenses on an annual basis. In between those payments, you’re able to make “true-up” payments for anything that’s added into it. Once you make those true-up payments, you’re not committed to any other payment until you move into a new contract.

Still there? Great! Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? It’s really not that complicated once you’ve got all the relevant information in front of you. And that’s something our experts specialize in. We understand Microsoft EA inside and out – and if you tell us a little bit about your organization, we can give you advice that’s tailored to your unique environment and goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Microsoft EA, drop us a line, listen to my podcast, or check out our free assessment tool. It’s a great way to get started.