Windows Server Datacenter: the alternatives for charities

From April 1st 2018, Microsoft is making changes to its software donation programme. Some software packages are no longer available as donated products, but instead will be sold as ‘discounted’ software through authorised Microsoft resellers. The price of discounted products will be bumped up considerably from their previous donated versions.

One of these products is Windows Server Datacenter. If you’re thinking of renewing your Windows Server Datacenter license, your charity may need to consider a more cost-effective alternative. There are a number of choices for charities who need a solution for large-scale data management – we take a look through the options.


Windows Server Datacenter

A step up from both Windows Server Essentials and Windows Server Standard, Windows Server Datacenter Edition is designed for organisations with large workloads and heavily virtualised server environments. It provides on-premise compute and storage with unlimited Hyper-V containers.

However, the big limitation with Datacenter Edition is the cost, which may be prohibitive for some charities.

Before April 1st 2018, a license used to be available for just £44 on the Charity Digital Exchange platform for eligible charities. Following the changes, Microsoft is instead selling the product for around £350 per two core licenses via its discount scheme (core licenses come in packs of two). Customers must buy a minimum of 8 core licenses for each physical processor and a minimum of 16 core licenses for each server, adding up to a minimum purchase of £2,800. Previously on the Charity Digital Exchange platform, the minimum priced set-up would have cost just £352.

For a more detailed explanation of Microsoft server licensing, click here.



Struggling to justify the Windows Server Datacenter price hike? It may be cheaper and more efficient to move your data to the cloud. Organisations are increasingly dumping their on-premise servers to take advantage of scalable, reliable cloud datacentres. These often save money because they eliminate the cost and hassle for organisations of investing in and maintaining their own physical infrastructure.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been the market leader in IaaS for the last few years, offering compute, storage, database, management and networking tools. It’s a highly customisable service – there over 70 add-on services available for anything from business analytics to VR application delivery.

The big draw around AWS is that its pricing runs on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing for much more flexibility than owning a server. You pay for computing capacity by the hour, and there are a number of different cost options available – for more details about the different ways to pay for AWS, click here.

Eligible charities can get credits towards AWS as part of the Amazon Web Services Credits Programme for Nonprofits. Through this programme, you can get one grant of $2,000 (around £1,400) credits per fiscal year, which can be used towards usage fees for AWS services – for more information, click here.

In addition to the AWS Credits Program for Nonprofits, AWS offers the AWS Free Tier for all new customers for 12 months. The AWS Free Tier is an offer that is separate from the AWS Credits Programme, and allows new customers to use certain AWS services for free up to certain usage limits.


Microsoft Azure

Microsoft’s own IaaS offering could also be more cost-effective alternative to on-premise, offering integrated services for compute, storage, networking and analytics from the cloud. It integrates well into other Microsoft offerings such as Office 365 and Sharepoint, so may be a good choice if your organisation already uses these services.

In order to get Azure, your organisation has to first be registered as a ‘tenant’ on Office 365. Some of the basic Office 365 plans are free for eligible non-profit organisations, whereas others are paid plans starting from £2.30 per user per month – compare price plans here.

Once registered with Azure for Nonprofits charities get $5,000 (around £3,540) credits a year towards Azure services.

You can choose from several flexible pricing options, depending on your needs. Microsoft provides an Azure pricing calculator.

It also claims to be the most cost-effective cloud if you are migrating some or all of your workloads from Windows Server or SQL Server with a service called Azure Hybrid Benefit.

Charity Digital is the Microsoft validation partner for charities in the UK – for more information on getting your charity verified for Office 365 and Azure, see our page here.