With its numerous licenses and excessive agreements, no one could ever confuse Microsoft software with freeware. As such, maintaining licenses for Microsoft products is a necessary evil in a Windows 2000 network. As a network administrator, you need to know how many software licenses you need for your users, how many licenses you’ve purchased, how many licenses are in use, and, possibly, how many more licenses you’ll need. Unless you’ve got a photographic memory, you need help keeping track of all of the licenses in your organizations.

Windows 2000 addresses these issues with an enterprise-wide, centralized licensing application. Using the Licensing application, you can track your current licenses for a server, a domain, or for the entire forest from a single application. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how the Licensing utility works.

What is a license?
Before you can manage your licenses, you need to understand how Microsoft licensing rules work. In some ways, Microsoft’s licensing structure resembles long distance purchasing plans in that there are lots of differing options and terms, some of which can be contradictory and confusing.

A license gives you the right to access a specific resource or product on the network. In a Windows 2000 domain, you need a license to connect to a network share, print to a networked printer, and access BackOffice products such as SQL Server or Exchange. Other licenses grant you rights to Terminal Services resources. Yet another set of licenses grants you access to Web resources. Finally, each application you run on your network has its own license.

Generally, you need one license for each person accessing a resource. These licenses can be Per Server licenses or Per Seat licenses. A Per Server license allows you to access the licensed software on that specific server only. If you install a second file and print server, you will need to purchase additional Client Access licenses (CALs) for the new server.

A Per Seat license is assigned to a specific server and allows anyone using that server to access any server running the licensed software. If you install a second file and print server, you do not need to purchase additional user licenses to access shares on that server. Some applications such as Microsoft Exchange 2000 only support Per Seat licensing.

The rule of thumb is to use Per Server licenses if you have a single server hosting the application or resource. If you have more than one server running the application or hosting the resource, you should convert your licenses to Per Seat. Each application has different licensing requirements, so it’s always a good idea to check with Microsoft or your local reseller for the correct number and type of licenses you require.

You can change your license mode for Windows 2000 client access at any time from Per Server to Per Seat, but it is a one-time change only. Once you change to Per Seat mode, you cannot change back to Per Server without violating your license agreement. Therefore, you should ensure that you need Per Seat licensing before committing to the change. To change the license mode, click Start | Settings | Control Panel | Licensing. Change the license to Per Seat and click OK. Accept the license agreement and click OK.

How licensing works
In a Windows 2000 Active Directory domain, licensing information is stored on a Site License server. By default, the first domain controller installed in the site is the license server for that site. Its job is to keep track of all licenses for that site, including both Windows 2000 Server and BackOffice licenses. All Windows 2000 servers in the site automatically replicate their license information to the Site License server. The license server does not have to be a domain controller—you can change the license server to be any server, but for performance reasons, I recommend that it reside on a server within the site.

You can configure how often servers replicate their licensing information to the Site License server. You can specify a start time each day for replication, or you can specify a replication interval such as every two hours. If you have a high number of servers in a site, configure replication so that the servers replicate at staggered intervals. For example, have one server replicate at 1:00 PM and another server replicate at 2:00 PM. This prevents network bandwidth from becoming saturated during license replication. Replicating once a day is sufficient for most businesses.

Using licensing
You can start the Licensing utility by clicking Start | Settings | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Licensing. When you do, you’ll see the Licensing MMC start, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
The Licensing utility helps you manage Windows 2000 licenses.

As you can see, the Licensing screen contains four tabs that display licensing information. The Purchase History tab displays the date new licenses were added or removed, the product being licensed, the quantity of licenses being added or removed, and who added or removed the licenses. The Products View tab summarizes the licensing on a product-by-product basis broken down into Per Seat and Per Server. The Clients Per Seat tab lists the licenses in use by user name. Finally, the Server Browser tab allows you to view license information by browsing the domain.

Checking license usage
Over time you might notice that you have run out of licenses for a certain product. This is usually due to corporate growth as new users are added and begin to access applications. A quick way of checking the license usage is to use the Products View tab. This tab gives you the big picture of total licenses purchased and how many have been allocated. If you want to know which user is using a license, click the Clients (Per Seat) tab. The Clients tab also tells you if the client is accessing a resource without a valid license.

Before buying new licenses, do a license audit to ensure that the user who is unlicensed does actually require access to the resource. Sometimes users have access to an application they do not need. In that case, their use takes a license away from a valid user. To revoke a license from a user and return it to the license pool, double click the license type to revoke on the Products View tab. Highlight the user license to revoke and click Revoke. Click Yes to revoke their license. This does not permanently revoke the license for that user. The next time the person accesses the resource a license will be assigned if one is available.

Remember that licensing is dynamic: As a user connects to the resource, a license is allocated to that user; when the user disconnects from the resource, the license is released and is then available for another user.

Adding a new license
If you add new users to the domain or install new application software that users need access to, you need to add licenses. Before you add the licenses in Licensing you need to select the server to store the licenses. From the Server Browser tab, expand the domain and server where the license will be added. Double-click Windows Server. The Choose Licensing Mode dialog box will display. Click the Add Licenses button.

Select the product to be licensed from the list and select the number of licenses you are adding, as shown in Figure B. Use the comment field to enter additional comments that will help you, such as the purchase order (PO) number for the licenses or the reason the additional licenses were purchased. Click OK to close the New Client Access License screen. Windows 2000 will display a license confirmation screen. Click OK to close this as well.

Figure B
You can add new client licenses as needed.

Removing a license
As your network grows, you may redistribute resources and applications. For example, you may move the Exchange server software from one server to another server or move it to another site entirely. In this case, you would also move the Exchange CALs to the other server. This is a two-step process: First, you must remove the licenses from the old server. Then you must add them to the new server.

To remove licenses, double click the license type being removed from the Products View tab. Click the Purchase History tab and click the Delete button. Select the number of licenses to remove and click Remove. Click Yes to confirm.

License, registration, and proof of insurance, please
As a network administrator, ensuring that your organization has the correct type and number of licenses is critical to the day-to-day operations of the company. Too few licenses prevents users from accessing resources, while too many licenses is a waste of money. Maintaining licenses is quick and easy using Licensing. Once you have your license information in order, you can be sure that you’re not accidentally pirating software.