When you’re shopping for software there are a lot of terms about licenses that you will run into, such as Perpetual, Annual Subscription, Floating License, Render Only License. What do these terms mean? I’m going to break it down for you here. Sometimes these types of licenses can be combined, for example, you can get a floating volume subscription that is cross-platform.
This means that you have that license for the software and you can run it for as long as you can run the software. This license can be upgraded to the next major version for a price but you can also keep running the software as long as you like. Normally small point updates are included, just not major version updates. A perpetual license can be used on one computer, but possibly two, depending on the software developer.
- New License. Sometimes you’ll see sales that are for New Licenses Only. This means that you don’t already own a license for this product. In other words, the sale isn’t good on upgrades.
- Upgrade & Support plan. Technically not a license, many products have an option for Upgrade & Support for Perpetual Licenses. This allows users to keep their perpetual licenses current and also get support for the products at no additional cost. If the Upgrade & Support lapses, you’ll need to pay for an upgrade.
Annual Subscription License
With an annual subscription, users can use the software for one year. If there’s a major update during that time, you can download and use it during that year. If your subscription expires, you can no longer use the software, unless you renew the license.
The product is the same with a perpetual and a subscription. It’s just a difference in how it’s licensed.
- Cloud-based Licenses. These are usually subscription-based licenses used for software that lives in the cloud, such as DropBox.
Standard or Node-Locked License
Simply, this is one license that can run on one computer.
Floating licenses are sometimes called a network license. This license model allows multiple people to use one license by activating and deactivating it on computers. Normally, the software is installed on multiple computers but only a certain number of machines can use the license concurrently. A floating license is useful for a team, or even for yourself if you use multiple computers.
- Volume Subscription Licensing, Organizational Floating Licenses. This is for multiple licenses for your organization. For example, Maxon offers this for organizational accounts. Reprise License Manager (RLM) is an example of a volume licensing system. For more information, see the Maxon RLM License Overview.
- License Server. A License server is a system where an admin computer gives access to other computers to run the software over a network. The admin can activate and deactivate licenses.
Render-only licenses are used in render farms or networked rendering. This allows users to create their projects on the main computer and send rendering to multiple computers, without having to have a full license on each render node, or render computer. You will not be able to adjust the software and tweak the settings on computers running a render-only license.
- Learn more about Using your plugins and software on a Network Rendering Setup.
Cross-platform licenses are serial numbers that work whether you use the Mac or Windows version. The download will likely be different but the license is the same across platforms. When you are ordering and you don’t have to specify whether you use Mac or Windows, it’s most likely a cross-platform license.
Academic licenses are for students and faculty. They are generally the same software as the full version, however, they often can’t be upgraded.
- Site Licensing or Academic Campus License. Licenses for multiple computers, such as in a classroom. There are a handful of names but they all mean basically the same thing.
Dongles are not only fun to say, but they unlock your software. They are usually USB or other hardware-based, and they plug into a port on your computer so that you can use your software. Dongles are going out of style now that most software is downloadable, companies aren’t using them as much. Not only that, newer computers don’t even have USB and other ports anymore. It’s rare that you’ll come across a dongle for modern software.