Microsoft will allow servers used for disaster recovery to carry copies of its Windows server software at no extra cost, as part of the its Software Assurance licensing programme.
A key condition is that the server must be used only for disaster recovery. Microsoft defines such servers as "cold servers", meaning ones turned off until a disaster arises.
The cold server provision will be applicable for the remaining term of any two- or three-year Software Assurance contract and is not perpetual.
Microsoft partner group manager Steve Haddock said the offering is "about adding value".
He said the key to successful uptake of the offer will be education of users by Microsoft's channel partners and hoped that it would have at least 30% uptake in the first year.
He believed the offer will aid small to medium-sized customers the most, because they often cannot afford a back-up solution.
Disaster recovery will become more important for SMEs in the next few years, he added.
Last year Microsoft offered several extras to Software Assurance in the fields of training, support and home use rights.
When it was introduced in 2001, Software Assurance met with mixed reactions from Microsoft users, with some complaining the 25% to 29% annual cost was higher than for other subscription-upgrade schemes offered by other suppliers.
Software Assurance works on the basis that customers pay an annual fee, approximately 29% of their annual licensing fee for desktop software and 25% for server apps, in exchange for free upgrades to the latest version of Microsoft software.
David Watson writes for Computerworld