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Licensing Changes for Extranets with SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online

In the past, licensing for Extranets proved to be quite confusing.  Many people including myself weren’t always sure what to recommend.  I found this useful information in the slide deck for SPC181 and I thought it was worth sharing since I know not everyone got to attend SPC.  Ultimately in SharePoint 2010, you had two choices:

  • Purchase a SharePoint Server license plus one CAL for every user (whether internal or external)
  • Purchase a SharePoint for Internet Sites license (FIS)

In SharePoint 2013, this has radically changed.  The FIS license is now gone and you just use a regular SharePoint Server license for Internet (or Extranet sites).  This simplifies things quite a bit.  For extranets, you still need a CAL for each internal user.  The good news is that Client Access Licenses (CALs) are not longer required for external users.  If you have an extranet on SharePoint today this might mean you can save some money.  Now what does external user mean?  Let me quote it exactly so that there is no confusion.

External users means users that are not either your or your affiliates’ employees, or your or your affiliates’ onsite contractors or onsite agents.

My interpretation of this now is that this basically refers to people outside of your company (but not your contractors).  This would be people like vendors and partners.  I guess technically, according to the statement, a contractor who never comes on-site is considered external.  This statement is a bit fuzzy, but I think the gray area is not as big as it was before.

For those running your extranets in the cloud, we also got quite a bit of good news here as well for Office 365 / SharePoint Online.  In the first release of SPO, external users were kind of in a gray area.  Basically, it stated that Microsoft will give you 50 external users for free but they reserve the right to charge you for any additional users you have in the future.  This has now been solidified.  If you are on a SharePoint Online P plan, you get 500 external users free.  For the E plans (or SharePoint Online Plan 1 and 2), you get up to 10,000 external users.  That should last most of you for a while which I think makes SharePoint Online a very viable Extranet solution. 

I think these are some pretty exciting changes for Extranets for both on-premises and with Office 365.  What do you think?

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More Stories By Corey Roth

Corey Roth, a SharePoint Server MVP, is an independent consultant specializing in Cloud technologies such as Azure and Office 365. He also specializes in mobile development. Corey serves as the product manager for two cloud-first mobile app platforms: BrewZap and HappenZap.

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