Office 365 Group-Based Licensing

By Gary Jensen on

Office 365 Group-Based Licensing.

Microsoft’s solution to licensing users in bulk

Ever since Office 365 has been available; licensing users has been somewhat difficult because there has been no simple way to license users in bulk. The ability to apply licences to multiple users at the same time has been available in the console for a while but this does not resolve all bulk enablement requirements where hundreds or thousands of users are involved. Typically, Office 365 administrators have been using PowerShell scripts or third party tools to help them manage licensing.

Finally, though, Microsoft has come up with a major step forward – Group-based licensing.

This function of Azure Active Directory enables Office 365 licences or individual services to be applied to members of a related security group.

In the screenshot below, the Azure AD Licences module is showing that there are two security groups – Licence-E3-PLANNER-TEAMS and Licence-E3-EXCH-SKPE – that have had licences linked.


Adding Users

The Licence-E3-PLANNER-TEAMS group has been applied with Planner and Teams services only.

Adding users into these groups automatically applies the licences to the users, which can be seen in the Office 365 Admin Console.

If a user is added to multiple groups, they will receive the sum of the licences that are linked to those groups. Test User3 is a member of both groups and has been granted Planner, Teams, Exchange and Skype service



Other features of group-based licencing include:

  • Licences assigned by groups can only be modified through group membership
  • Even if some services are assigned by group, other services can still be assigned in the portal or through PowerShell
  • It does not count licences so it may fail if not enough licences are available for the number of users to be assigned. However, once licences are made available, the groups can be re-processed to apply the licences.

Group-based licensing won’t necessarily suit everyone but it does provide an alternative method for those organisations that would like a bit more flexibility and particularly those that already widely use security groups for access control. With group licensing functionality, organisations can manage user licences through AD ‘Users and Computers’, through scripts, through attribute-based dynamic deployment (if AD Premium licences are available) and through metadirectory products such as Microsoft Identity Manager, as well as through the Office 365 portal.

Group-based licencing is in preview at the moment and requires an AD Premium licence during this period. When it is out of preview it will be available for organisations with E3 and above licences (subject to confirmation by Microsoft).

Read more about group-based licensing here:

If you would like to know more about this capability or to find out how it could help your organisation, please fill in the attached form and we will get a specialist to contact you.

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