Understand and Plan Your Office 2010 Volume Activation Options

When you deploy Volume License editions of Office 2010, you have two primary methods available for activating the software on client systems. (Not to mention some variations on those methods.)

The Two Main Approaches are:

  • Key Management Service (KMS) This approach establishes a local activation service hosted in your own environment. To do this, you must configure a system on your network to serve as the KMS host by installing and activating a KMS host key. Client systems throughout your organization then connect to the local Office 2010 KMS host for activation.
  • Multiple Activation Key (MAK) In this approach, client computers activate Office 2010 online by using the Microsoft hosted activation servers or by telephone.

In many cases, businesses will want to use a mixed approach, using different strategies to target systems that fit different scenarios. For instance, a small branch office, remote workers, and desktops at the main headquarters may all benefit from different activation methods.

Here is a general overview to help you figure out what approach is right for your organization.

How Many Systems Are You Activating?

  • 1 to 5 systems: For a small group of systems, such as a few clients at a small branch office, consider a MAK independent activation. In this approach, each system is independtly activated directly with Microsoft.
  • 6 to 49 systems: For a slightly larger group of Office 2010 clients, you should consider a MAK proxy activation. In this scenario, clients are activated directly with Microsoft, but use a proxy server on your network. Meanwhile, you can use the Volume Activation Management Tool (available to download for free) to manage the the Office 2010 activation process.
  • 50 or more systems: For a large deployment, you should consider a KMS activation. As mentioned above, this relies on an activation service hosted in your own environment. Clients do not connect to Microsoft directly to activate Office 2010. (If you need guidance on setting up a KMS host, see Configure a KMS Host for Office 2010 Volume Activation.)

Do You Have Systems Not Connected To The Internet?
If you are using a MAK proxy activation or KMS activation approach and have some mobile clients that lack access to your network, you can have those systems use MAK independent activation, connecting directly to Microsoft to activate their installations of Office 2010.

Note that, if, by chance, you are using the KMS activation method and your KMS host has no Internet connection, there is an option available to activate your KMS host by telephone. Likewise, a KMS host can be activated and then moved to a disconnected network.

Are You Running VMs?
To activate Office 2010 on virtual machines, you should consider the KMS approach. A MAK approach will also work, but each time a computer is activated with this method, the number of activations is decremented. (This applies to both physical and virtual computers.)

Note that the KMS host can run on a virtual machine, as long as the VM’s operating system is one of the supported platforms for a KMS host—Windows Server 2003, a volume edition of Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2.

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