Should I use retail or volume licenses?
4 min

Should I use retail or volume licenses?

4 min

Software licenses are a legal contract that sets rules for the distribution and usage of software. In most cases, software licenses grant end users the right to make one or more copies of the software without breaching copyrights. The two most commonly used license types are retail and volume licenses. The main difference between them lies in the number of devices you can use the license on. In this article, we cover retail and volume licenses in detail and give tips on how you can choose the right one for you.

Retail Licenses

The main users of retail licenses are individuals and small businesses. Retail licenses must be installed using different activation keys for every device you plan to use them on. This also means that every license is purchased individually. Because of this, the price of retail licenses is higher compared to the price of OEM licenses, for example. Nevertheless, retail licenses can be uninstalled and reinstalled from one computer to another because the license is linked to the person rather than the device.

There are different types of retail licenses available. These software licensing models are tailored to customer needs and desires, providing more choices when looking for the most suitable license. Read more about the difference between Retail, Volume and OEM licenses here.

Volume Licenses

Volume Licenses provide one license key to authorize the software on multiple devices. OLP (Open License Program) license refers to buying software licenses with an open license - a volume license. Open licenses often offer discounts based on the number of purchased  licenses. They also have a minimum purchase requirement of five licenses. For this reason, volume licenses are mostly used by businesses from all sizes. Customers pay for the number of devices the software will be used on. The main advantages of volume licenses are time-efficient installation, and simultaneous usage on multiple devices. Additionally, the installation cost per user is low due to the single activation key.

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Which licensing model fits you best?

Perpetual licensing is the traditional software licensing model. The user buys software once and keeps it for life. One benefit of this license is that clients do not experience any price adjustments like in a subscription model, for instance due to the one-time purchase. Once customers have purchased a perpetual license they can host the software on their own servers. Such licenses are usually preferred by big corporations or users who prefer a single purchase. In the long run, perpetual licenses are more budget friendly than subscriptions.

Subscription-based licensing has grown to become one of the most popular software license options in today's consumer market. Businesses like Spotify, Adobe, Netflix, and others have successfully adopted this software licensing model. Due to clients' prior experience and comfort with such a system, customer satisfaction is especially high with subscription-based licensing models. Additionally, you can usually choose in advance how often (monthly, annually, etc.) you would like to be charged. With subscriptions you usually can benefit from frequent updates and 24/7 tech support. Should these two aspects be important for you, then a subscription-based software would fit your needs.

Cloud-based licensing is the process of managing and using the software licenses in the cloud. A cloud-based software application is licensed to a user under the software as a service delivery model. Users do not need to install and maintain the program locally because the application is hosted online. The software provider is in charge of the security, functionality, and maintenance of the program because it operates on their servers. Cloud-based licensing is an affordable solution to always have real-time access to software. The same program may be accessed by tens of thousands of people, which is why cloud-based software is mostly preferred by bigger businesses.

How to choose the right license?

Choosing the right software license is an important decision that can have significant impacts for your budget and business processes. When considering a retail or volume license, there are several factors to further take into account in order to ensure that you choose the license that best meets your needs.Some of the aspects we advise our clients to consider are:

Number of licenses needed: If you only need a few licenses for a small organization, or personal use, then a retail license would be the best option. However, if you need a bigger number of licenses, volume licenses would be more cost-effective. A rule of thumb: less than 5 users - Retail; more than 5 users - Volume.

Installation: Depending on the number of licenses you need, the installation process might be a factor when deciding which license type fits your needs. If you have more than 20 computers you want to install Office on, for example, it is way easier to purchase a Volume Office license. You will receive one activation key with 20 activations and from then on it is a matter of minutes before you fully install the software.

Cost: As mentioned above, retail licenses can be more than volume licenses. Additionally, if you have a tight budget, you can consider purchasing the volume/retail licenses you need as pre-owned instead of new. Read more about used licenses here.


In conclusion, retail and volume licenses fit different needs. Therefore, it is important to know the differences between the two types when making a choice which one to purchase. By understanding the different software license types, you can make an informed decision that best meets your software needs and provides the greatest value for your money.

Still unsure about which type of license is best for you and your company? Softtrader has a team of Microsoft licensing experts who can help you to find the best solution that suits your and your company's needs. With reference to, you can save up to 70% license acquisition costs. Contact us here.

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