How to identify the need of Microsoft RDS User CAL based on actual usage

Discussion created by mikael.ahlgren Employee on Mar 29, 2019
Latest reply on Apr 1, 2019 by mikael.ahlgren

Microsoft RDS CAL (Remote Desktop Services Client Access Licenses) are used to license the rights to access a remote desktop environment. There are different metrics available for Microsoft RDS CALs and numerous ways calculating compliance needs. If not managed correctly there are potential risks in terms of cost and compliance.


This guide focuses on identifying the Microsoft RDS CAL requirement based on actual usage for user metric, as the metric is a common way to license Microsoft RDS CAL. Please consult with your licensing specialist before implementing this method in your environment, as it might not be applicable to your agreement and licensing terms.


The method in this guide is divided into three steps:


  1. Identify all users who have accessed an application remotely
  2. Decide and filter relevant timeframe of TS-usage
  3. Establish a relevant license count by removing duplicates, admin accounts, etc.


1.      Identify users

Snow License Manager displays applications which have been run remotely with a TS- prefix, which offers a good indication of the need for RDS CALs. The first thing we need to determine is the number of users who have run one or more TS applications.


Use the Applications per user report and filter the application tab to reflect only applications with the TS- prefix as this provide a list of all users that have run an application remotely.



If you cannot find any applications with the TS-prefix you might need to enable the setting TS_VIEWS_ACTIVE in Snow Management and Configuration Center. If this setting is changed, you may also need to wait for the Data Update Job (DUJ) to run for this to take effect.



2.      Filter TS-usage timeframe

The next action is to filter an appropriate usage timeframe. A good starting point is the data for your next Microsoft annual order or true-up date, and also your metering-history settings for Snow License Manager. The metering-history settings are configured in Snow Management and Configuration Center.


A guideline is somewhere between 3-6 months of history to keep the data relevant.

After you have applied the filter, export the report to Excel.


The Excel now displays a list of all users that have accessed a TS application within the defined timeframe.



3.      Establish license count

Remove all Excel report data that should not be included in the final CAL count. There could be users who do not require a license or are perhaps covered by another user account. If inadmissible data is included, it will create false positives in the final licensing count. Examples could be:

  • Admin accounts
  • Multiple user accounts
  • Inactive users, for example persons who have left the company
  • Users covered by other metrics such as RDS Device CAL or RDS External Connector license

The report will most likely include rows with duplicate users as it displays all applications per user; a user may also have used multiple applications. These duplicates should also be removed to reflect unique user count.




After the data is adjusted and filtered, we have a very good indication of the number of required Microsoft Remote Desktop Services User CALs, based on usage.


The indicated RDS CAL count can be used to create a custom compare value metric for Microsoft RDS CAL in Snow License Manager. This is to reflect the current compliance position on the application level. More information about how to create a custom compare values can be found in the Snow License Manager Web User Guide that is in the Help section of Snow License Manager.


A similar exercise could also be performed on device basis instead of a user basis by running the report Applications per device.