If you are a developer and are on your own, or working for a company that does not have an MSDN subscription and you are looking at using a bunch of Microsoft tools, you can wind up spending a ton of money. Or maybe you want to set up your own test network to learn about all the latest Microsoft Software and how to plan, build, and administer a network. That’s a lot of software to buy.
However, there are many solutions to lower the cost of what you might normally pay:
- MSDN subscriptions – These are bundles of software. They can be expensive, but that is because they offer a lot of software. It is much cheaper than buying all the software separately. Retail prices range from $699/year to $11,899/year for the different subscriptions (Compare MSDN Subscriptions). Through retailers you can get about 10% off. Note that MSDN Subscriptions are only intended for use in a developing, testing or demonstration environment. You can’t use them in production. This is called Not for Distribution (NFD). If you want a spreadsheet that shows the MSDN products that come with various levels of MSDN subscriptions you can download it from here: http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9766896
- Microsoft TechNet – While MSDN is focused on software development, TechNet is more for system administrators, hence is does not include Visual Studio. Here is a good comparsion of the too. Click here to download the full list of products for the two TechNet subscriptions. Retail cost is $349/year or $199/year (does not include enterprise software). Through retailers you can get about 10% off. Software is NFD. NOTE: TechNet is being retired 8/31/2013.
- Microsoft Partner Network – Become a Microsoft partner and you can purchase a subscription to Microsoft Action Pack Development and Design (see the software included). This gives you lot’s of software for only $429/year. It’s easy and free to become a Microsoft partner. There is another partner subscription called Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider, which costs less ($329/year), but does not include Visual Studio Professional or Expression Studio Professional. Note the software is NFD. For more info, check out Microsoft Action Pack Subscription Offers Benefits, Engagement. If you are a partner with a silver competency you receive 5 Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Premium with MSDN subscriptions and gold competency gets you 10 subscriptions
- Microsoft DreamSpark – DreamSpark provides professional-level developer and design tools to students and educators around the world at no charge. Any accredited school around the world is eligible. Each user has to be verified as a student before he or she can begin downloading the Microsoft software tools available on the site. Some of the software available includes Visual Studio 2010 Professional, Windows server 2008 R2 Standard, and SQL Server 2008 R2 Developer. Check the home page for all the products. See Microsoft DreamSpark Program
- Express versions – These are free, lightweight versions of SQL Server Express and Visual Studio Express. The idea of Express editions, according to Microsoft, is to provide streamlined, easy-to-use and easy-to-learn IDEs for users other than professional software developers, such as hobbyists and students. Check out the limitations and Visual Studio Editions
- Trial versions – There are trial versions of just about any product: SQL Server, SharePoint, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Office. A trial can at least prevent you from buying a product without having ever have used it before and then finding out after your purchased it that it was not what you needed. For a full list see TechNet Evaluation Center
- Microsoft BizSpark – This is a global program that helps software startups succeed by giving them access to Microsoft software development tools, among other benefits. The requirements are you must be actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service, privately held, in business for fewer than 3 years, and bringing in less than US $1 million in annual revenue. For that you receive FREE access to Not-For-Distribution (NFD) software versions equivalent to those included in the Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN subscription
- Microsoft MVP – If you are fortunate enough to become a Microsoft MVP, you get for free the top MSDN subscription (Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN)
- Academic – There are steep discounts for kids in school. There are sites like the Academic Superstore, which give discounts of up to 85% to students or teachers. My daughter goes to the University of Houston, and the bookstore there sells Microsoft Office Professional 2010, which lists for $500, for $14
- TechNet Virtual Labs – Free online testing environments, designed to be completed in 90 minutes or less, without the need to install evaluation bits locally.