Big changes to TFS Licensing and VSO pricing!

Over the last couple of years, I’ve introduced many customers to Visual Studio Online (TFS in the cloud).  The two main reasons they want Visual Studio Online is that they love the portfolio management and Kanban features that are being frequently updated and they love that it is easy to give external vendors/contractors access without having to issue VPN access to their internal networks.  There are many other reasons to love VSO but frequent updates, agile portfolio management and easier access for vendors tops the list for me.

On the flipside, one barrier to entry has been the cost for some customers.  VSO Basic costs $20/user per month (or more) for teams of more than 5 users.  This can make VSO an expensive proposition for teams that may also be using TFS internally.

Microsoft is about to change all that.  Coming this September, there will changes to Visual Studio Online pricing, updates to the TFS Client Access License (TFS CAL), and a new way to obtain a TFS CAL.  A CAL gives a client legal right to access TFS.  (note: There are several ways to get a CAL for TFS; through direct purchase, as part of an Enterprise Agreement, via a Server License, and others.)  Let’s take a look at exactly what’s changed.

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Visual Studio Online includes a TFS Client Access License (CAL).  You get a TFS CAL for each VS Online Basic, Professional or Advanced license.  The TFS CAL is for the named user on the VSO subscription.
  • VSO Online Basic Users will have new tiered pricing. The new pricing will dramatically reduce the cost of VSO for basic users.  The new pricing structure looks like:
    • 0-5 users: Free
    • 6-10 users: $6/user per month
    • 11-100 users: $8/user per month
    • 101-1000 users: $4/user per month
    • 1001+ users: $2/user per month

For example, if you have 25 users, with the current model you’d pay $400 a month (the first 5 users are free, and for the remaining 20 users you’d pay $20/user per month).  With the new model you’d pay $150 a month (the first 5 users are free, the next 5 users you’d pay $30 per month, and remaining 15 users you’d pay $120 per month).

That’s a dramatic difference in monthly cost.  $400 vs. $150 for 25 VSO Basic users.

This also means that you could ‘rent’ a TFS license for a limited time instead of paying for full TFS CAL by subscribing to VSO.

Note that the pricing for VS Online Professional and VS Online Advanced licenses are not changing at this time but Microsoft does have plans to make some changes to them in the future.

  • VSO Advanced users have rights to use Test Professional. If are licensed for VSO Advanced, you are licensed to use Test Professional!

In addition, there’s been some changes to the TFS CAL, making the Agile Project management features in TFS 2015 available to a wider audience (for a lower cost!).  Now, anyone with a TFS CAL (which means anyone with a VSO Basic subscription) has access to:

  • Agile planning – All the backlog management and sprint planning functionality in TFS 2015 web access can be used by any user with a TFS CAL.
  • Chart authoring – Create charts and pin/share them is available to users with a TFS CAL.
  • Test Hub (Web-based User Acceptance Testing) – If you have a TFS CAL you can execute test cases using the web based test tool.

Finally, there are some other features related to TFS that are being made accessible to more users with the release of Visual Studio 2015.

  • Storyboarding – This Power Point based storyboarding tool is now available for free for everyone. (It’s included in VS 2015 Community!).
  • CodeLens – It’s now available to VS Professional or above.
  • Code review – Now available in VS Community, VS Pro, VS Pro with MSDN and VS Enterprise with MSDN.
  • My work – Now available in VS Pro and above!

With the dramatic price change, and broader feature availability, you should take the time to look at Visual Studio Online and how it could enhance your operations!

About the Author:


  1. Elena January 13, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Is VSO and Team Services are essentially the same thing?
    I’m planning to buy VS Pro for my IT training business: can I have it installed / hosted locally and still use VSO?
    Azure subscription is very costly for high traffic volume comparing to local hosting.
    Is Azure subscription required for VSO?

  2. Ahad Rony June 25, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Can anyone plz share me the Pricing of TFS in Cloud SaaS, Paas & IaaS Mode according updated pricing policy of Microsoft?

Leave A Comment