Microsoft HUP: A great holiday gift for your users

If your organization has Microsoft Software Assurance, now would be a great time to remind employees about the Home User Program

With the holidays approaching faster than a bayou bug on a Louisiana swamp truck, many of your users are undoubtedly thinking about buying a new computer -- if they haven't bought one already. You and your organization may hold the key to a great holiday present that goes by the unlikely name "Microsoft Home User Program."

I took a quick survey of my nongeek friends in the corporate world and was astounded to find that many of them didn't know they qualified for a $9.95 copy of Microsoft Office 2010. Not a corporate copy, mind you, but a fully endowed use-at-home copy of Office Professional Plus, compliments of their company's Software Assurance license with Microsoft. While news of the deal didn't drive any of them into a buying frenzy, the fact that they could snag a full, unfettered copy of Office 2010 Pro Plus for a pittance made several of them go back and look at holiday pricing on new PCs. It sure beats the daylights out of spending $100 for a stunted version of Office.

Details of various Software Assurance contracts vary, but all of them have a feature called Home User Program, or HUP. If your company sets things up properly -- and it only takes a little bit of effort -- every employee who's covered for Office under the SA agreement can buy a key for Office 2010 Pro Plus for $9.95 (price varies outside the United States). The key is good for one PC, and it doesn't have to be a work PC -- any PC used in the home is fine.

All your user needs is a work email address, which is verified in advance by your company's SA administrator, and a program code that's available online to your SA administrator. There's a full animated description of the process on Microsoft's HUP site, and additional information for bulk orders, if you want to hand out DVDs to your users, on the Digital Marketing Portal. Microsoft even has flyers, bulk email templates, and reams of online information to make it easier to get the word out to your employees.

If it's so cheap and easy, you might ask, why don't more users know about it?

Part of the reason is a common misconception among SA administrators that the company is somehow "on the hook" to look after HUP licenses. That isn't so. Microsoft's official position:

As the Volume Licensing customer you are not responsible for your individual employee's compliance with the Home Use Program end user license terms. Those terms are between Microsoft and the individual employee. We do require that you limit Home Use Program access to employees and tell them when they should discontinue use of the Home Use Program software, for example if your Software Assurance coverage ends or the employee leaves employment.

That's the extent of your company's obligations. Note that your company isn't obligated to provide support; Microsoft does that. Your corporate key isn't shared; it isn't even part of the transaction. You don't need to have users sign any sort of agreement with your company; Microsoft is licensing the software directly to the employee. Once enlisted, your company's only obligations are to tell the user that their home license has expired if the company's SA coverage ends or if the employee leaves the company. That's it.

If your company isn't yet offering HUP -- or isn't telling employees about it -- take off your Scrooge cap, lighten up, and get with the ho-ho-ho. Microsoft Office might not qualify as holiday cheer, but saving a hundred bucks ain't half bad.

This article, "Microsoft HUP: A great holiday gift for your users," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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