Understanding Different Software License Types

If you’ve ever bought Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, or similar software for your school, you might know that there are many different license types you can buy. And because licenses for educational organizations can get a bit pricy, understanding which type of license is best for you can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Often, educational organizations will purchase the wrong type of license and then later realize that it only works for one user, or that it doesn’t actually come with the software installation. Other license types come with customer support, while others do not. Some of these considerations are especially important if you do not have IT staff or someone in your organization that understands software licenses and downloads well enough. By understanding the different software license types is also important to avoid purchasing the wrong one and wasting valuable time and money. Below is a list of common software license types and what they mean.

FULL – Full Retail Version

Full Retail Version ensures that everything you need in order to install, activate, and use the software is included in the box: serial numbers and activation keys and all. Most people buy the Full Retail Version for organizations. Full Retail Version allows you to buy software for multiple users, and often comes with customer support. This is similar to an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) license, so choose carefully when considering the two.

Software LicensesUPG – Upgrade Version

An Upgrade license is for users who already have the exact same software on your computer (or similar software that’s eligible). An Upgrade Package will then install the latest version of that software. Upgrade versions are especially helpful when a new version of a software is released, and is often much cheaper than the full version.

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer

OEM software is very similar to the Full Retail Version of a software with some key differences. OEM is a full license, but it cannot act as an upgrade, and it is always good for only one user license. OEM does not always come in retail packaging, it is never transferable (so you can’t use it on a different computer, even if your computer breaks or your buy a new one), and manufacturers do not offer free support with the software. Organizations should steer clear of OEM licenses, as they’re best for individuals.

CDO – CD Only

CD Only is also similar to Full and OEM, but with a few more differences. The activation product codes are included. However, it does not come in retail packaging, and it cannot be used as an upgrade. CD Only also does not come with technical support, however you can register the product online and print help files.

LIC – License Only

License Only means that you’re only buying the right to install and use a piece of software on a computer (one per license), but you’re not buying any discs, programs, or media. License Only is simply a form of legal permission from the software company. License Only means that you have to purchase or download the software in addition to buying the license.

OLP – Open License

Open License is an electronic license that is registered to only one specific user (per license) and sent via email within 3-5 days. Like License Only, discs and media is not included, as it is legal permission from the software company.

RFRB – Refurbished

Factory Refurbished products have been returned to an authorized factory service center and restored to meet manufacturer quality standards. These products are guaranteed to work like new. Refurbished products are a great way to save money when buying software for a commercial organization, and they often come with customer support.

PKC – Product Key Card

Product Key Card packaging includes a product installation code that must be used to activate the software, along with instructions to download the software from the manufacturer’s website. It does not include any discs.

DL – Download

Download license is purely electronic, and both the software and license information is either downloaded from the manufacturer’s website or emailed to you. No discs are included. Sometimes the installation code isn’t mailed for 1-2 business days, so factor that in when buying.

Many of these license types are great for different sized schools, while others are only good for users (namely, the license types that restrict to single use only). Understanding the different license types will come in handy when you purchase software packages like Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite, and more. Many of these license types allow you to purchase multiple users for educational organizations, and also offer specific packages and deals for teacher use.


About the Author

Trina Johnson and is the current owner of Royal Discount and VioSoftware.com. These are 2 of 3 companies that she started since 1997. Trina a CU graduate and Colorado native with a focus on international affairs and Spanish. As a company, they strive to provide excellent customer service, a knowledgeable staff, and exceptional pricing; they call this “The Royal Treatment”.  Trina loves spending time with her husband and 3 beautiful children, cooking any chance she gets, and vacationing in Mexico with the family.