# Wednesday, January 6, 2016

One of my clients recently moved to Visual Studio Team Services (formerly Visual Studio Online/VSO) and decided to share an account already in use by another part of the company. 

Their developers were mainly licensed with MSDN and so were able to hop straight on there and start working but the ScrumMasters, Product Owners and testers were not and they wanted to know how they should license those non-developer users.

I realised that a lot had changed since the last time I looked at the VSO licensing so it’s worth a quick blog in case others were bumping into the same issue

Free Users

When you create a Visual Studio Team Services account (myaccount.visualstudio.com) you get 5 free users.  This means that if you’re creating the account for some personal dev project, you could invite 4 friends to contribute and nobody needs any licenses for anything!  Go and grab Visual Studio Code or Visual Studio Community for free and get stuck in to coding/building.  Grab the Office Plug-in and your “Product Owner” can hook the backlog and other queries into Excel (you need an office license obviously!).

The free users are “Basic” users - we’ll talk more about this later.

My client had joined an existing account so when they navigated to:


all the free users had been assigned so we needed to add some other types.

MSDN Users

Anyone with an MSDN subscription (Enterprise\Professional\Test Professional\Platforms) has an included Client Access License (CAL) that can be used with on-premise Team Foundation Server and/or cloud hosted Visual Studio Team Services. 

You can be added to any number of VSTS accounts at the Basic level  so I can be on my personal account, the RippleRock account and client accounts)


Free Stakeholder licenses are great, as the name suggests they were added to allow anyone who has an interest or a say in the project to view project information without the need to buy them a license.  If they simply want to add some things to the bottom of the backlog for consideration by the Team/Product Owner, or view project progress, then great, hook up as many as makes sense and away they go.

However, many teams will think, “my ScrumMaster doesn’t need a license as they’re not writing code”, or “my PO doesn’t need a license as they only want to work with the backlog”, but that generally isn’t the case.

There is a good comparison of Stakeholders and Basic Users here:

Visual Studio Team Services Feature Matrix

In summary, Stakeholders:

  • Can view, create, edit and query (most) Work Items via the web client
  • Cannot access Work Item Queries from Excel
  • Have limited functionality on backlogs and boards (crucially the cannot re-order items which is pretty critical for PO/SM)
  • Have no access to version control/builds
  • Cannot be project administrators

Additional Users

Prior to VSO/VSTS, if you needed to license a non-MSDN user for TFS, you simply bought a Client Access License (CAL) for TFS. 

CALs were not very expensive but they could be bought with or without Software Assurance and one problem was that users often bought the license only (without SA) which meant it was tied to a specific version of TFS.  This meant that when the team wanted to upgrade to the latest version of TFS, it could become a more costly procedure as new CALs had to be purchased.

With VSTS, you can still buy a CAL but it is usually significantly cheaper and more flexible to add users through VSTS (which also allows them to access both on-premise and cloud hosted) and pay monthly for what you need.

You need to set up payment on your account and choose how many users you need.

Pay for users accessing your account

Pricing f0r additional users is pretty reasonable.  Remember, the first 5 users are free, so if you need 10 users it will cost about £20 per month (each user over 5 is approximately £4, or more accurately $6).  If you need 15 users then it’s about £48 per month in total.

First 5 users: FREE
Users 6 through 10: $6 each
Users 11 through 100: $8 each
Users 101 through 1000: $4 each
Users 1001 and above: $2 each

At the time of writing, if you have an Enterprise Agreement, then all additional users are only $4 per month which makes it about 23 Basic users for only 50 quid a month!

For more details and a handy calculator, see:

 Visual Studio Team Services Pricing

That covers Basic users but what about VSO Professional or VSO Advanced licenses?

In short, they’re gone!

Brian Harry covered this in his blog in September:

September pricing and licensing changes

Now, you simply provision a Basic user and then purchase add-ons for any additional functionality that they need.  At the time of writing this additional functionality is limited to Test Manager (that used to be included with the Advanced license) but the new marketplace will mean that much more will be available in the future.

Test Manager

While we’re at it, where’s Team Explorer 2015?

It’s gone too!  The main reason people installed Team Explorer was to get the incredibly useful Excel integration but there will be no Team Explorer for Visual Studio 2015.

You can install the free Visual Studio Express or Visual Studio Community to get your Team Explorer or you can continue to use Team Explorer for Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 which will happily connect to VSTS/TFS 2015.

If you simply want the Excel integration then you can grab the new TFS Office plug-in

More information: TFS Office Integration Installer

Download: Microsoft Team Foundation Server Office Integration 2015 Update 1


As always, the Visual Studio 2015 Licensing White Paper usually has any information you need and is also handy if you’re having trouble sleeping.




Wednesday, January 6, 2016 1:21:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]