This is article three of four in a series of blog posts describing the many benefits of Software Assurance

Following on our previous article about Software Assurance (SA), which described how SA can support customers considering migrating some or all of their applications to the cloud, we thought now would be a good time to highlight some of Microsoft’s more traditional SA benefits.

Software Assurance has been a part of Microsoft’s licensing offerings since 2001. While occasionally perceived as an “insurance policy” to deliver access to free software upgrades, SA has expanded greatly since its introduction and is now widely viewed as an essential ingredient for maximizing the value of Microsoft volume licensing purchases.

The SA program is dynamic in that Microsoft continues to update, improve and grow the portfolio of SA benefits. A variety of key SA benefits have been part of the program for several years, and in this article we’d like to provide a refresher on several of them.

  • New Product Versions: With New Product Versions, every Microsoft product license that is covered by Software Assurance can be upgraded to the most recent version. This can be a cost-effective choice for customers who frequently upgrade, and could also help simplify procurement since customers don’t have to purchase a new license in order to upgrade products covered by SA. In addition, taking advantage of the New Product Version benefit can further budget predictability since upgrades may be deployed at any time, without incurring additional licensing costs.
  • Training Vouchers: Training Vouchers provide access to instructor-led technical training for IT Professionals.  Classes are given in person, by a Microsoft Certified Partner for Learning Solutions. This catalog provides a listing of the courses available (select “SA” under program type).  You’ll find classes offered with topics covering an array of Microsoft products and delivered in various languages and in multiple locations.  These classroom courses can be used to help IT staff keep current with technology, or prepare to deploy, manage and support new software.
  • E-Learning: E-Learning helps employees gain skills to be more productive with their current software, or get ready for new software versions with online training developed by Microsoft experts.  This catalog provides a listing of the courses available for E-Learning (select Audience “End User” and Program Type “SA”). Because they are meant to support the products you purchase, your E-Learning courses match the type of products you have with Software Assurance - meaning if you have Office Enterprise 2010, your E-Learning benefits include courses on Office 2010 products (or applications).
  • Home Use Program:  The Home Use Program (HUP) provides licensed employees access to a low-cost copy of Microsoft® Office Professional Plus 2010 and other applications to install and use on a home computer during the term of a customer’s Software Assurance coverage.  Home use of Microsoft Office can help employees build skills and improve their productivity by providing  a way for them to become familiar with Microsoft Office that they use at work and using the same software at home.  Customers often pair the E-Learning benefit with the Home Use Program to get even more momentum behind end-user training.
  • Windows 7 Enterprise: The Windows 7 Enterprise operating system is provided exclusively to SA customers and brings unique features not available in Windows 7 Professional. These features include DirectAccess to give mobile users access to corporate networks via their DirectAccess-enabled portable computer without the need to connect to a virtual private network (VPN),  AppLocker® to better restrict and manage unauthorized software use on company devices, and BitLocker™ and BitLocker To Go to help protect sensitive data on PCs and removable drives. 
  • Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP): MDOP offers innovative technologies including application virtualization, asset management, data protection and policy control and device diagnostic and recovery tools. Customers can capture greater IT efficiencies and savings when using MDOP, which is available exclusively to Software Assurance customers as an add-on subscription. 
  • 24 x 7 Problem Resolution Support: This benefit provides phone support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a direct connection to Microsoft anytime a support need occurs can help customers lower support costs and allows IT to focus on higher-value projects by reducing time spent troubleshooting and resolving issues. The number of phone incidents available to you depends on your SA investment.

As you can see, Software Assurance offers a broad range of benefits to serve multiple areas of your business through the lifecycle of your software investments. We hope that you take full advantage of them.  In the next article we’ll talk about how SA benefits such as Spread Payments can help you get the most out of your SA investment.

For more information on Software Assurance please visit the Microsoft Software Assurance website where you’ll find handy reference tools such as this interactive SA Benefits chart.

If you have a question, join the conversation at www.twitter.com/MSFT_VL or leave a comment in the comments section below.