Thanks to James Park, I was tipped off to a possible hidden cost in Windows 2000, especially for those companies that want to employ the new operating system as a Web server that authenticates network users. It seems that Microsoft has carried over the Internet Connector License (ICL) from SQL Server to Windows 2000, giving administrators yet another way to pony up licensing fees to Microsoft. But don't be put off by the license; it's not really another way to rip you off. In fact, it will probably save you money if you really do need it.

Unlike the horror stories you might have read elsewhere, the Internet Connector License is simply a legal way to allow an unlimited number of users to authenticate against a Windows 2000 Web server. In Windows NT 4.0, administrators would need to purchase Client Access Licenses (CALs) for each user or server that was authenticated against the Web server. Authenticated users are users that use Windows 2000 or Active Directory authentication services to logon to the system. Anonymous users, that is, actual Web site users, are not authenticated and do not, therefore, require CALs.

And that's where the confusion sets in. A Windows 2000 ICL costs about $2000, causing some people to believe that an additional $2000 fee was required of anyone using Microsoft's "free" Web server in Windows 2000. But that's not the case: Normal Web site users don't require CALs or an ICL at all. Only users that need to logon to the local network through the Web server need to have licenses. So the ICL is actually a money saver, if you've got enough users authenticating against the Web server. Otherwise, you can pay for CALs as usual. But if you're just offering a public Web site where no users are ever authenticating against Windows 2000 or Active Directory on the network, no additional licenses--or fees--are required