Microsoft Enterprise Agreement vs CSP: A Strategic Licensing Guide

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Aaron Klein


Navigating the complexities of Microsoft licensing is a crucial task for modern businesses. This guide offers a comprehensive comparison between Microsoft’s EA or Enterprise Agreement vs CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) aimed at helping IT professionals and business leaders navigate these options. We explore the structure, benefits, and limitations of both EA and CSP, providing crucial insights for making an informed decision that aligns with your organization’s needs.

It is important to remember that the choice between EA and CSP is more than just a financial consideration; it’s about finding a licensing model that fits your organization’s evolving requirements. EA offers a stable, long-term solution for large enterprises, while CSP brings flexibility that is particularly suitable for dynamic and growing businesses that don’t want to commit to three- or five-year licenses. As the work environment continues to shift, understanding these Microsoft licensing frameworks becomes vital in optimizing your technology investments and ensuring your organization’s readiness for future challenges.

Understanding Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA)

Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) is a volume licensing package that is beneficial for larger organizations with over 500 users or devices. Its three or five-year term provides a holistic approach to accessing a wide array of Microsoft products and services. This structured agreement is tailored to support stable budgeting and cost efficiency.

Key features of the Microsoft EA include:

Challenges with Microsoft Enterprise Agreement: Over-Licensing

When you commit to a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA), you’re opting for stability with a fixed number of licenses over a three, or five-year period. This can be reassuring at first, ensuring that you have the Dynamics 365 and M365 software you need as your organization grows. However, you might face the challenge of over-committing to licensing if your organization’s size decreases or doesn’t grow as expected.

Your EA includes a mandatory annual true-up, which allows you to reassess and adjust your license count. While this process seems to offer a solution, it’s geared toward adding licenses rather than reducing them (it’s not possible to reduce the licenses). This can leave you in a tough spot, paying for licenses that never were used or are no longer being used and thus inflating your IT budget unnecessarily.

To avoid such a scenario, it’s crucial to stay on top of your organization’s changing needs and to review your licensing strategy regularly. If you find navigating these waters challenging, consider reaching out to a Microsoft Solution Partner, like Avantiico, for a Licensing Review.

A Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management Solutions license review normally takes 1-2 weeks to complete, and it will help you get a better understanding of how to be licensed correctly so you don’t overcommit on your next true-up or EA renewal.

Exploring Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Options

In contrast, the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program is an adaptable and scalable licensing solution that’s designed to keep pace with the unique rhythm of your business’s growth and change. The CSP program stands out for its agility, catering to organizations that need a flexible approach to software licensing. Here’s what you can expect with CSP:

Direct CSP vs. Indirect CSP Providers

In the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, businesses can choose between Direct and Indirect CSPs. Direct CSPs like Avantiico provide a streamlined, all-in-one service by managing every aspect of the customer relationship directly with Microsoft. This means you get tailored solutions and comprehensive support. On the other hand, Indirect CSPs work with intermediaries, offering a more hands-off approach but with robust backing in operational areas. While Direct CSPs offer a cohesive and integrated experience, Indirect CSPs might suit those looking for mediated services through a distributor.

Microsoft Enterprise Agreement vs CSP diagram

Cost-Effectiveness Tailored to Your Usage

With CSP, you’re in a position to significantly reduce costs by paying only for the licenses you actually use. This pay-as-you-go model means your spending on Microsoft products directly reflects your actual usage, which is ideal for managing budgets more efficiently and preventing unnecessary spending.

Personalized Support

When you partner with a Direct CSP provider like Avantiico, you benefit from dedicated support to resolve any issues swiftly and value-added services that enhance your overall experience with Microsoft products. This direct support ensures that any questions or challenges you have are addressed within agreed Service level agreements (SLAs), allowing you to focus on running your business effectively.

With Microsoft Direct CSP, you’re not just choosing a licensing model; you’re embracing a partnership that adapts to and supports the evolving needs of your Dynamics 365 business applications. It’s a strategic move that positions you to leverage Microsoft’s powerful suite of tools in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. With Avantiico as your Direct CSP partner, you gain the assurance of having expert guidance every step of the way, ensuring that your Microsoft licensing strategy is both agile and aligned with your business objectives.

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Why Direct CSP Is Gaining Popularity

The Direct Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program’s increasing popularity among businesses is attributed to its alignment with the modern-day demands of flexibility, cost management, and direct support. Here’s why choosing CSP could be a strategic move for your organization:

By choosing CSP Direct, you are not only optimizing your Microsoft licensing but also positioning your business for growth and adaptability. This strategy offers a clear path to staying agile in a rapidly evolving digital marketplace.

Microsoft Enterprise Agreement vs Direct CSP: Which Is Right for You?

Choosing the right Microsoft licensing option—EA or Direct CSP—boils down to your business’s size, its IT needs predictability, and your willingness to commit long-term. If your enterprise is large with stable IT demands, an EA offers predictability. However, if your business is on a growth trajectory or you’re seeking operational flexibility, the Direct CSP option is your ally, allowing you to scale your license usage as needed and only pay for what you use, thus optimizing costs.

For a deeper dive, a Dynamics 365 Licensing Review can be invaluable. It scrutinizes your actual usage against your licensed entitlements, potentially revealing opportunities for cost savings. This evaluation, offered by Avantiico’s Managed Services team, not only provides a clear, actionable pathway toward a tailored and cost-effective licensing strategy but also aids in license audit risk mitigation. Whether you’re comparing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement vs CSP for your annual Microsoft, true-up, or simply looking for insight into your current licensing structure, starting with a licensing review can be a significant benefit for your business.

The Financial Implication of Microsoft Enterprise Agreement vs Direct CSP

Discerning the right licensing model is a strategic decision that directly impacts an organization’s financial health. The Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) is often the go-to for its predictable financial planning over a three-year term, benefiting large organizations with static IT needs. It facilitates stable budgeting and offers volume discounts that can be economically advantageous.

In contrast, the agility of the Direct Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program adapts to the fluctuating demands of modern business. This model’s scalability allows companies to fine-tune their license volumes in tandem with operational requirements, leading to potentially significant cost savings. The Direct CSP’s pay-as-you-go nature is especially suited for businesses with variable user needs and those undergoing rapid changes, providing a financially flexible solution.

Avantiico's Dynamics 365 Licensing Review Service

Avantiico’s Dynamics 365 Licensing Review service is a crucial tool for organizations navigating the complexities of Microsoft licensing. The service offers a comprehensive analysis of your current licensing setup, assessing whether an EA or CSP model would best serve your organizational needs. This strategic evaluation aims to maximize cost savings and ensure compliance.

The review involves a detailed look into license entitlements, security role assignments, and license count optimization. Avantiico’s experts provide a thorough report with actionable recommendations, guiding you toward the most strategic licensing arrangement—whether that’s maintaining an EA, transitioning to CSP, or finding a hybrid solution that fits your unique business model.


Choosing between Microsoft’s EA and CSP models is more than a financial decision—it’s a strategic move toward operational excellence. While EA offers a sense of long-term security for larger, more stable environments, CSP provides the flexibility and responsiveness crucial for businesses facing rapid change or growth.

With Avantiico’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 License Types Review, you receive expert insights that can help inform your choice between EA and CSP. This service not only suggests potential pathways to reduce costs and enhance compliance but also aligns your licensing strategy with your organization’s long-term vision.

Work with Avantiico, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partner, to make sure that your licensing strategy aligns with your requirements and business needs. 

Unlock the Full Potential of Your Microsoft Licensing Strategy

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