There are a number of different licensing options with QlikView. Most people are aware of Document and Full User CALs, in this post however we look at the pros and cons of Session CALs.

QlikView Licensing 101

Many people first experience of QlikView is through the free personal Desktop version. This can be given extra functionality by purchasing a Desktop licence. When multiple users have Desktop licences they can exchange and collaborate on documents, but management and distribution is cumbersome at best.

To get apps out to more users, via a web portal, a Server licence is required. These come in two main flavours: Small Business and Enterprise, with the later allowing more users and a few extra features. There is also an Extranet Server, for distribution beyond employees of the licenced organisation. The Server licence is purely for the hosting services, and User CALs are required to give users access to apps – more on these in a moment.

If you need to scale up into multiple machines (or large numbers of users) then Enterprise Server is required and additional licences are needed for load sharing, and a Publisher licence allows distribution to multiple locations (along with a number of other features).

QlikView Licence DetailsThe two common user CALs available are; Full User, which allows one user access to unlimited apps via the server and the ability to ‘lease’ a licence to their QlikView Desktop to create apps, and Document CALs; which allows one user access to one QlikView app via the web portal only. With a Full User CAL costing approximately four times a Document CAL if a user only needs to consume three or fewer apps they should be given a number of Document CALs, if they require more apps then the Full CAL makes more sense.

This is where most organisations leave it, buying more user CALs as usage increases. There is a point though where Session CALs become a cost effective alternative.

What Are QlikView Session CALs?

Whilst both Full User and Document CALs are assigned to a user and remain with that user until they are cleared down; QlikView Session CALs are only attached to a user whilst they are in use.  When a user comes to a document that they don’t have a licence for, and there is a Session CAL available, the Session CAL is allocated to them. This licence is held by that user for the duration of their session and is freed up after fifteen minutes of inactivity.

Another difference between Document CALs and Session CALs is that even when Document CALs are set to auto allocate they have to be associated with a document (as the name suggests). You can have many free Document CALs available on one document but if a user without a licence tried to open a different document, which has no free CALs, they will be denied access. Session CALs conversely are tied to the server, so this situation does not arise, if a Session CAL is available it can be used to access any document.

A quick side note on a common misuse of licences; these should never be used for security. Whilst technically a user can be denied access to a document by not having a licence, security should be left to Active Directory or Section Access (or both). A user you are keeping out of an app by not giving them a Document CAL may at a future point get this access by virtue of being given a Full CAL, for instance.

Session CALs come into their own when you have a very high number of users that use the system sporadically and in short bursts. Companies with users in many different timezones could certainly benefit. You simply need to have enough Session CALs available for the highest number of non Full CAL users that may use QlikView in any given fifteen minute period. If a user is locked out due to no CAL being available they can simply try again a bit later and may then be able to get in. By giving your high usage individuals Full CALs the number of Session CALs required is reduced.

System logs track how many licences are being used concurrently, so you can tell when you may need to add another Session CAL into the licence mix or move some users onto Full CALs.

Session CALs allow your system to flex to the usage with a minimal amount of administration time spent. Brilliant!

The Downside To Session CALs

If that all sounds too good to be true then it is probably because I have yet to mention the flip side.

Firstly, Session CALs can only be used on Enterprise Server. This is quite a price hike from SBE, so if you can work within twenty five Full CALs and a hundred Document CALs then that may work out best for you.

Session CALs themselves are also relatively expensive. About the same as ten Full CALs. If your usage patterns are as I described above (lots of users, using many apps in short bursts) then this may not be an issue as you could have many more than ten users using one CAL throughout each day.

By their nature Session CALs are not ring-fenced for certain users or applications. This means you have less control over how they are used. What this means is that it is possible that even with the best planning someone could be presented with a message advising them that there are not enough licences available. You need to weigh up whether that is a scenario you can tolerate happening. What often happens is that the execs get Full CALs, even if they are not big users of the system, just so they never have to see this message. For one of our Session CAL using clients we have set up an alert (using QlikView) to notify when the last Session CAL is taken, users can then be asked to close their session if they have finished using it.

Getting The Right Mix

It is possible to blend Named CALs, Document CALs, Session CALs and Usage CALs all on the same server. Assigning Document CALs to some documents is one way of ensuring that the documents that are most critical are less likely to be inaccessible by users. Another way of having a backup when all Session CALs have been consumed is the Usage CAL. These are the least expensive licences, you can get about fourteen of these for the cost of a Full CAL, and they allow one user access to one document for one hour every 28 days. If a user is in a document for longer than an hour then two CALs will be consumed and the CALs will not be available again for the next 28 days. Usage CALs are therefore a relatively low cost buffer for when all other CALs have been consumed, but given the limited time each CAL gives and the length of time they take to renew they are not suited for every day use..


In short, the biggest downside to Session CALs is the cost. Conversely though, this is also their biggest advantage. In environments with particular usage patterns they can offer a significant saving over Document and Full User CALs.

To work out if they are the right approach for your business you need to look at your server logs and usage patterns and weigh up the alternative licence mixes. As you may not get this right first time it is good to know that Qlik do offer the opportunity to swap one kind of licence for another.

If you are unsure, speak to someone who can advise you of the best licence mix. As Qlik Partners in the UK we will be happy to discuss licencing and advise on the best value licence mix with those looking to move to QlikView or Qlik Sense (or existing Qlik users) in the UK.