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Microsoft adds disaster aid to volume licensing

The new cold-server backup coverage boosts benefits of the company's Software Assurance program, which has been criticized for offering too little to justify its cost.

Microsoft said Wednesday that some volume licensing customers will soon be able to store their software at no charge on an additional server used solely in the event of a disaster.

The software maker said that starting June 1, businesses in its Software Assurance program will be able to make a duplicate copy for each server software product they license.

There are two major caveats, however. The software must be stored on a "cold" server, that is, one turned off until a disaster occurs. Also, the rights to store the extra copy are good only as long as a Software Assurance agreement is in place.

Microsoft has been working to add benefits to the Software Assurance program amid criticisms that the primary benefit--free upgrades--is not justifying the cost. Microsoft has already added additional training, support and other perks to improve the program.

The issues around Software Assurance have intensified as Microsoft has delayed several key products, including Yukon (the next version of SQL Server), Whidbey (the next version of Visual Studio) and Longhorn (the next version of Windows).

The addition of the disaster recovery rights also comes as investors are keeping a close eye on Microsoft's renewal rates for its volume-licensing programs. The company has seen its balance of unearned revenue--money taken in for licensing but not yet earned--decline in recent quarters.

Microsoft also said Wednesday that it has added two online services--MapPoint Web Services and Microsoft Office Live Meeting--to its July lineup of products available under volume licensing.