Retirement of TechNet Subscription program
If you haven’t heard, Microsoft recently announced the end of the TechNet Subscription program. If you are a current subscriber you may have received an email with the following:
Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service and will discontinue sales on August 31, 2013.
If you’re not familiar with this program, the gist of it is that subscribers get access to normal, non-trial versions of most Microsoft software during the subscription period. It is great for setting up and maintaining a home lab for extended use, which has many benefits. The retirement of this program is a terrible loss.
Blogs and forums are filled with speculation about the announcement. One common suggestion is that fraud was a main driver of the decision. I don’t know if this is true, but I have seen example of people violating the terms of the program. Many times I have seen people compliment the program since it was cheaper than buying retail Windows OS licenses, which is not the purpose of the program at all. I’ve seen people giving away their extra license keys openly on forums. This is clearly a problem, but Microsoft addressed this by reducing the number of license keys for the most abused software in the program.
The announcement includes some links to the currently available alternatives, plus there are some other choices.
Trial software – This has always been an option for a home lab, but with time limits as short as 30 days, it can be of limited use. With trial software, you miss out on the ability to gain experience maintaining an environment on an ongoing basis like you would in a real world work environment.
Virtual labs – These are a great resource but barely can be considered an alternative to a home lab.
MSDN subscription – This is currently the only equivalent option that I know how. However, to get the software that TechNet offered, you will spend much more (an order of magnitude, at least). This is not reasonable for someone funding their own home lab.
Microsoft Action Pack – This is available to Microsoft partners and provides a decent amount of software.
DreamSpark – With this program, students can get access to some full-version software. It’s not particularly close to TechNet, but at least it is free.
None of these are particularly new, and none are as good as a TechNet subscription. Microsoft definitely needs to come up with something truly comparable. Perhaps they could do a “light” MSDN subscription that would cost more that TechNet, but low enough to be reasonable for smaller companies to buy for their IT staff. They really need to do something, though, since many people maintaining elaborate home labs will probably end up turning to less legitimate means.
Although it won’t be possible to buy a new subscription or a renewal after August 31, you can still buy one and activate it until September 31, potentially giving you the benefits of TechNet until September 2014. Hopefully by then Microsoft will offer a reasonable alternative. You can buy a new sub or a renewal directly through Microsoft, and occasionally Microsoft has offered great discounts, but currently the cheapest place to buy it seems to be e-commerce stores such as Amazon.
Microsoft TechNet Standard (new subscription, download-only)
Microsoft TechNet Standard (renewal, download-only)
Microsoft TechNet Pro (new subscription, download-only)
Microsoft TechNet Pro (renewal, download-only)
Microsoft TechNet Pro (new subscription, includes media kit)
Microsoft TechNet Pro (renewal, includes media kit)
I will probably buy a renewal before the deadline from Amazon as I have done in the past. Does anyone have any other suggestions or ideas?