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Exchange Servers run in many organizations, but licensing Exchange Servers is a big problem. Most organizations think that they are licensed and done when they buy and enter a product key in Exchange Server. Unfortunately, this is not true. There are more licenses that you need to buy. In this article, we will explain which Exchange Server licenses you need.

Windows Server licenses

This is the Windows Server product key that you enter to activate Windows Server.

Exchange Server licensing activation

Windows Server Client Access Licenses (CALs)

Windows Server CALs are not installed or tracked anywhere except via the documentation that came with your purchase.

There are three Windows Server CALs types:

  1. User CAL
  2. Device CAL
  3. External Connector

Read more about Microsoft Client Access Licenses and Management Licenses.

Note: You can mix and match the CALs types in the organization.

Exchange Server licenses

This is the Exchange Server product key that you enter  to activate Exchange Server.

Exchange Server licensing activated

There are two Exchange Server licenses:

  • Standard: Designed for the mailbox needs of small to midsize organizations. Also appropriate for non-mailbox roles in a larger Exchange deployment. This edition supports 1 to 5 mailbox databases.
  • Enterprise: Designed for larger organizations that may require a greater number of mailbox databases. This edition supports 1 to 100 mailbox databases.

Exchange Server Client Acess Licenses (CALs)

Exchange Server CALs are pieces of paper you hold on to when you get audited, and you can’t install that. Just be sure to install the Exchange Server license key.

With this license type, a CAL is required for each user or device that accesses the server software. There are two types of CALs for Exchange Server, both of which work with either edition of the server:

  • Standard: Designed to help users be more productive from virtually any platform, browser, or mobile device, with features in Exchange Server 2019 that help your users be productive no matter where they are—while helping protect your organization’s data.  To enable Standard CAL features for a user, the user must be licensed with the Standard CAL.
  • Enterprise: Designed to allow organizations to reduce the cost and complexity of meeting compliance requirements with new integrated archiving functionality and information protection capabilities. The Enterprise CAL is sold as an add-on to the Standard CAL—to enable Enterprise CAL features, the user must be licensed with one Standard CAL plus one Enterprise CAL.

Exchange Server Standard CALs are sufficient for standard use of Exchange Server such as email, calendar, contacts, and more. However, additional Exchange Server Enterprise CALs are required if you want to use Enterprise functionality.

The following table provides a detailed feature breakdown for each CAL.

Feature Standard CAL Standard + Enterprise CAL
Email, calendar, contacts, and tasks
Outlook on the web (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Edge support)
Apps for Outlook and Outlook on the web
Site mailboxes
Role-based access control (RBAC) capabilities
Journaling Per database Per user/distribution list
Journal decryption
Retention policies Default and custom Default and custom
In-Place Archive
Multi-mailbox search
In-Place Hold
Information protection and control (IPC): transport protection rules, Outlook protection rules, Information Rights Management (IRM) search

User CALs vs. Device CALs

Both the Standard CALs and Enterprise CALs come in two types:

  • User CALs: These are the cheapest and easiest when your employees work with multiple devices (PC, laptop, tablet, telephone).
  • Device CALs: These are most cost-effective and convenient when several of your employees (part-time, for example) work from the same device.

Note: You can mix and match user CALs and device CALs in the organization.

Exchange Server licensing example

Here are a couple of examples that show which Exchange Server licenses you need:

Example 1. You have 2 Exchange Servers with 1000 users.

  • 2x Windows Server licenses
  • 1000x Windows Server CALs (user or device)
  • 2x Exchange Server licenses
  • 1000x Exchange Server CALs (user or device)

Example 2. You want to install 1 Exchange Server with 500 users.

  • 1x Windows Server
  • 500x Windows Server CALs (user or device)
  • 1x Exchange Server license
  • 500x Exchange Server CALs (user or device)

Get Exchange Server Client Access Licenses (CALs) count

If you already have an Exchange Server organization, you can count the Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Exchange Server 2013/2016/2019.

1. Run Exchange Management Shell.

2. Run the Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicense cmdlet.

Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicense | ft -AutoSize

In our example, the console output looks like this.

[PS] C:\>Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicense | ft -AutoSize

ProductName          LicenseName                             UnitLabel TabulationMethod
-----------          -----------                             --------- ----------------
Exchange Server 2016 Exchange Server 2016 Standard Edition   Server    Net
Exchange Server 2016 Exchange Server 2016 Enterprise Edition Server    Net
Exchange Server 2016 Exchange Server 2016 Standard CAL       CAL       Net
Exchange Server 2016 Exchange Server 2016 Enterprise CAL     CAL       Net

3. Get a list of the users/devices with that license name CAL.

Copy the Standard CAL license name and fill it in the below command to list the users/devices.

Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicenseUser –LicenseName "Exchange Server 2016 Standard CAL"

Copy the Enterprise CAL license name and fill it in the below command to list the users/devices.

Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicenseUser –LicenseName "Exchange Server 2016 Enterprise CAL"

4. Count the Exchange Server Client Access Licenses (CALs).

Access the PowerShell count operator in the command by wrapping the object in parentheses “()” and adding a period “.” followed by Count.

For the Standard CAL.

(Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicenseUser –LicenseName "Exchange Server 2016 Standard CAL").Count

For the Enterprise CAL.

(Get-ExchangeServerAccessLicenseUser –LicenseName "Exchange Server 2016 Enterprise CAL").Count

That’s it!

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