Licensing Office on GCP

Google will enable you to bring your own licensing for Office to GCP sole tenant and remain license compliant.

License Model

User Subscription Licenses – Microsoft offers a cloud supported version of Office sold as a subscription with cloud services called Office 365 ProPlus. Office 365 ProPlus is licensed on a “per user” basis, to a single named user, referred to as a “licensed user”.

Per Device Licenses – For customers that continue to have an on-premises version of Office, Microsoft offers Office Professional Plus. Microsoft Office Professional Plus is licensed on a “per device” basis, referred to as a “licensed device”, normally a personal computer.

Running Office Remotely

User Subscription Licenses – You can bring your own Office 365 ProPlus licenses and run them on GCP sole-tenant[1] in Shared Computer Activation mode and remain license compliant.

Shared Computer Activation (SCA) is an activation mode that enables deployment of Office 365 ProPlus on a dedicated server.[2] Shared Computer Activation will enable the licensed user to access Office from any device. Unlike when Office 365 ProPlus is deployed on a local device, there is no published limit on the maximum number of devices that can access Office 365 ProPlus deployed via SCA.

Any SKU that contains Office 365 ProPlus is eligible for Shared Computer Activation, including Office 365 E3, Office 365 E5, Microsoft 365 E3, and Microsoft 365 E5. All equivalent Government and Edu SKUs are also included. Project Online Desktop Client and Visio Online Plan 2 are also included.

Office 365 ProPlus will require access to the internet to connect to the ‘Office Licensing Service’ to keep track of which users who are licensed.

Per Device Licenses – You can bring your own Office Professional Plus licenses and run them on a dedicated[3] server[4] and remain license compliant. Remote use of the Microsoft Office Professional Plus deployed on a GCP sole-tenant server is allowed for the licensed ‘primary user’,[5] of the licensed device, or for any other user, from another separately licensed device.

Microsoft defines the ‘primary user’ as a user who uses a licensed device more than 50% of the time in any 90 day period, so a per-device licensing model may not be suitable for some shift workers or workers in shared workspaces.

GCP will ensure isolation of the hardware and other resources to make sure it remains fully dedicated  to your use.[6] GCP will not support two customers to share the same set of resources, such as hardware or storage for the term of your subscription.

Right to Run Prior Versions

Microsoft ‘downgrade rights’ are available for Office Professional Plus and support downgrade to any prior version of the same product.[7] The use rights for the licensed version will still apply.

For example, you can purchase Office Professional Plus 2019 and downgrade to an earlier version of the product, such as Office Professional Plus 2016.

Office 365 ProPlus is a cloud supported version of Office and will be updated[8] with new features on a regular basis. Accordingly, downgrade rights are not available for Office 365 ProPlus.

Software Assurance

Software Assurance is not required to bring your own Office Professional Plus licenses to GCP sole-tenant. However, it may be beneficial to maintain active Software Assurance to enable access to ‘New Version Rights’ as new software versions are released, and other Software Assurance Benefits.[9]   

As Software Assurance is not required to access Office Professional Plus remotely when deployed on a dedicated sole-tenant, you will be able to leverage legacy licenses for prior software versions. The use rights for the originally licensed version will still apply.

GCP sole-tenant can be perfect for leveraging licenses where active Software Assurance has not been maintained, or licenses were purchased without Software Assurance.


[1] Wording on the Microsoft Website supports running Office 365 ProPlus via Shared Computer Activation on “Dedicated third-party hosted” – here.

[2] Please refer to the Online Services Terms, February 2019, page 25 of 44. The definition of “Network Server” as ‘dedicated’ to the customer’s use is on page 4 of 44.

[3] Please refer to section ‘Desktop Applications’- Item 5, of the Microsoft Product Terms, February 2019, page 9 of 112.

[4] Microsoft define a Server as a ‘physical hardware system’. Please refer to the Microsoft Product Terms, February 2019, page 72 of 112.

[5] Please refer to section ‘Desktop Applications’- Item 4, of the Microsoft Product Terms, February 2019, page 9 of 112.

[6] Please refer to Section 8. “Outsourcing Software Management” in the Microsoft Product Terms, February 2019, page 6 of 112.

[7] There is a useful Microsoft licensing brief on downgrade rights available here.

[8] Microsoft guidance on update channels for Office 365 ProPlus are available here.

[9] Microsoft confer ‘New Version Rights’ in the Microsoft Product Terms, February 2019, page 78 of 112.

Thanks All


This website is a way to give back to the licensing community and as an information resource for all customers that work with Microsoft software and licensing. I hope you find it of value.

Tony Mackelworth is Head of Microsoft Advisory Services at SoftwareONE

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Document Author: Tony Mackelworth, Head of Microsoft Advisory Services, SoftwareONE Inc.