Office 365 and Remote Desktop Services

This post is out of date. Please talk to your reseller or your distributor.

Great news for customers of Office 365.  When you get your free bundled Office 2013, you’ll be entitled to use it on Remote Desktop Services (aka Terminal Services).  In other words, if your company is into server-based computing, you’re going to save money.

You can find out the specifics in the Microsoft Product Usage Rights (PUR) document.  Under Office 365 ProPlus:

  1. Each user to whom you assign a User SL may activate the software for local or remote use on up to five concurrent OSEs.
  2. The Licensed User may also use the software activated by another user under a different User SL.
  3. Each user may also use one of the five activations on a network server with the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) role enabled.
  4. You may allow other users to remotely access the software solely to provide support services.

This appears to apply to:

  • Office 365 ProPlus User SL, or
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3-A4 User SL, or
  • Office Professional Plus A User SL, or
  • Office 365 Academic A3-A4 User SL, or
  • Core CAL Suite* with Office 365 Academic A3 (A4) User SL Add-on, or
  • Enterprise CAL Suite* with Office 365 Academic A3 (A4) User SL Add-on, or
  • Core CAL Suite* with Office Pro Plus* and Office 365 Academic A3 (A4) User SL Add-on, or
  • Enterprise CAL Suite* with Office Pro Plus* and Office 365 Academic A3 (A4) User SL Add-on, or
  • Office Pro Plus* with Office 365 Academic A3 (A4) User SL Add-on, or
  • Office Professional Plus G User SL, or
  • Office 365 Government G3 User SL, or
  • Office 365 Government G4 User SL, or
  • Office 365 Midsize Business User SL

*  Denotes “with current Software Assurance”

An important note, possibly related to online activation renewal:

Each user to whom you assign a User SL must connect each device upon which they have installed the software to the Internet at least once every 30 days. If a user does not comply with this requirement, the functionality of the software may be affected.

22 thoughts on “Office 365 and Remote Desktop Services”

  1. Hi Aidan ….. Is this a change to the agreement then as didn’t think this used to be possible? To your knowledge then can a service provider resell 365 and then use this same license to deliver Office in either RDS or a VDI desktop.


    1. It’s new and intended for internal consumption. Shared infrastructure service providers (session hosts) must use SPLA licensing. There is no SPLA licensing for VDI.

  2. Aidan, do you know if we need VL media to install Office and how will we obtain a product key to activate? Presumably it isn’t recommended to install the O365 version of Office with the subscription type licensing.


    I just got off the phone with Microsoft support and here is the final explanation of how the new product use rights work:

    1. In order to install Office Pro Plus 2013 on the terminal server you must have a volume licensing agreement.

    2. Each user who accesses the terminal server will be considered a valid Office user if they have an (E3 or Office Pro Plus) Office 365 License.

    Here is how this is going to work in the real world:

    1. You only need one volume license of Office Pro Plus in order to qualify for this product use right. This will enable you to download the product and get the product key to install it on an RDS Server. They key to this is that this one license has to be part of the 5 minimum licenses in order to start a volume licensing agreement.

    Scenario One:

    1. Your customer already has a VL agreement.

    All you have to do is add 1 license of Office Pro Plus. Contact your reseller and they will know how to do this( the cost will be prorated with the existing VL agreement). You will then just consider the terminal server a user and purchase the 1 volume license of Office Pro plus for it. All actual users will get the Office 365 E3 Plan and then be considered valid users of to use Office Pro Plus on the terminal server.

    Scenario Two:

    2. New Customer – no existing VL.

    In order to even install an RDS server on (2008 R2 or 2012) you must have RDS CALs and server CALs. I guarantee these are going to be over 5 licenses, so you have already met the requirements for volume licensing. Just add 1 License of Office Pro Plus to the same agreement and it will be eligible for the same rights above. The key is in this scenario to be aware of the extra volume license you need to add for Office Pro Plus before you start the entire VL agreement.

    I think everything will fall under these two scenarios. If it doesn’t it means your customers are not properly licensed in the first place.

    It isn’t everything we wanted to hear, but it this is a much better scenario than before. We can save a ton of money still by using Office 365 E3 instead of volume licensing all users for Office Pro Plus. All we need to do is add one license of Office Pro Plus VL and consider the Terminal server a user.

    1. Thanks Chris. I just talked to one of our licensing folks. As you’ve said, you need 1 VL copy of Office to take advantage of this Office 365 on RDS right. Any Office 365 plan that includes Office can be used, not just E plans. For example a customer on the M plan can do this too. And note: a customer buying an M plan on Open can start a volume license agreement with just 1 seat. That is an exception from the norm. That 1 person could then add Office to their Open agreement to take advantage of the benefit.

      1. I asked a contact in the partner channel at Microsoft regarding this and here’s their answer:

        “The short answer is yes you are licensed with the new Office 365 but you need to request Volume License media to deploy on the RDS server. The ‘Click2Run’ version that you would deploy to the desktop from the 365 portal is not supported on RDS systems hence the need for VL version.

        If the customer has a Volume License Service Center account then they can log in and get the media. if not then you need to raise an exception request and an account can be created.”

        So from this it seems we should be able to get the media without an additional purchase?

    2. Thanks for this information Aidan and Chris. I went to verify it with Microsoft. At first the rep wasnt aware but he did come back with agreeing after checking his resources. One interesting point though. From what I can tell Office 365 has no downgrade rights, so I wonder if one has to sell the 1 license of Office Pro Plus with software Assurance and if they have to keep the copy on the RDS current with the release of Office 365. Otherwise i see a possible non-compliance if MS updates to say Office 2014 and you only have office 2013 installed on the remote desktop server. What do you think?

  4. Great info. I guess you deploy using the MAK key provided by the VL. So I guess you would need a real license and not just the media to deploy Office on a RDS.

  5. Is it also allowed to downgrade Office on your Remote Desktop Services Server? Downgrading is not possible/allowed with O365 but is allowed in VL programs….

  6. Hello

    Thanks for those usefull informations. What I understand is that we can use an E2 or E3 (in fact any office 365 plan including office pro) plan if the RDS server has at least one volume license for Office Pro. Is that right ?

    Now I have another question. We have a datacenter in wich one we have a lot of virtual server for our customers. We usually sell SPLA licences for Office pro when using it on a RDS server. So if one of our customer buy E2 or E3 Office 365 plans for his users, do we only need to buy 1 SPLA licence Office Pro for their RDS server to allow users to use Office Pro on the RDS server ? Or we can’t use Office 365 office pro licence with shared infrastructure ?

    Sorry for my bad english.

    Thanks a lot

    1. Hi Tom,

      Question 1: yes, 1 VL license (and the downloaded media) qualifies your O365 rights on RDS.

      Question 2: I don’t know the answer to that one.

  7. Hi Aidan,

    great news… I’ve just talked to microsoft too (by mail and phone) and thieve seem to denied those licensing changes that you wrote…

    i’m about to install on my client servers RDS Office 2013 Pro Plus and it’s a furtune,
    has anyone tried those new licensing changes mentioned up on it’s own servers ???

    1. Read this and take it to the bank: Microsoft are the LAST people to talk to when it comes to Microsoft licensing. Strange, I know. But true 99.999% of the time.

      Contact your local cloud distributor. They exist. My employers hold that role locally, and the volume license model is correct.

  8. It is my understanding from conversations today and attempts to “install” that RDS does not allow a click to run version of any installation attempt. Therefore – unless there is a version of pro plus that comes with a MSI style installation to RDS, it will NOT work – i have NOT found a 365 pro plus available as an MSI – VL or otherwise – HAS ANYONE?

    I am going down the path of OP 2k13 because it is avail as an MSI install via the VL version.

    Does anyone have another answer?

    1. You have to buy 1 copy of VL Office Pro Plus. Note: I am told that the E3 plans comes with RDS CALs.

  9. You mention in your first comment that “shared infrastructure service providers” must use spla licensing regardless, that´s a pain…

    We are running our servers in a hosted virtuel environmenet together with six other Companies. All servers run on the same physical hardware, but virtually our servers are in separate domains. We share Exchange and sql server in a service domain however.
    I would consider this to be a shared infrastructure, but I am trying hard to find out how to apply for an exception a Microsoft because it is not an “open shared infrastructure”.
    Do you have any suggestions as to how to go about getting such en exception from Microsoft.

    1. david,

      We have the same situation as you described. Did you find out if it is possible to use office 365 in a shared environment?
      Peter van der Veen

  10. Hi Adan,

    Just to be 100% clear: does the new Office Small Business Premium plans classify for remote desktop deployments?


    1. The situation regarding RDS and O365 has completely changed since I wrote this post. Please contact your reseller or distributor.

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