Vincent Smyth, General Manager EMEA, Flexera Software, looks at software licensing for SMEs.
Software licencing is a minefield. The lack of standardisation in the industry means that businesses have to grapple with a wide variety of complexities as a result of software publishers either constantly changing their licence regulations, or integrating new licencing models due to the likes of virtualisation technology, which is revolutionising the way all sizes of organisations manage their IT estate. This complex and severe approach to licencing is also likely to be more pronounced in the current economic climate as software publishers strive to protect their revenues via their licencing agreements.
The fact remains that for businesses, software costs are unavoidable. Studies show that 30% or more of IT budgets are consumed by software licence and maintenance. With this in mind, licence optimisation should be a proactive and ongoing activity, not just a reactive and event-based one. Going past simple software asset management, licence optimisation enables businesses to understand not just what software it has installed, but ties together information on what is actually being used, and how that usage ties back to the licence entitlements enumerated in the software license agreement. When software assets are managed and optimised in this way, most organisations enjoy reduced licence consumption and more efficient utilisation of software assets. It provides the fastest return on a software
asset management investment.
These and a few other simple guidelines will prepare an organisation for potential audits and establish a foundation for true license optimisation.
1. Define software asset management policies
It’s critical for IT organisations to define and implement software asset and licence management policies and procedures to be followed throughout the business. ISO and ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) standards prescribe Software Asset Management (SAM) best practices to aid in this process. This means that there must be specific policies on every aspect of SAM, with an aim to reduce IT costs and limit the business and legal risk related to the ownership of software, while maximizing IT
responsiveness and end user productivity.
An example of this, is the need for processes to be put place to prevent shareware and freeware installations such as Adobe Acrobat, which can inadvertently lead to licencing liabilities, as well as to validate software installation and upgrades. In addition, educating employees on what they “may” or “may not” install will prevent rogue installations, which often jeopardise enterprises’ compliance status.
Using tools that automate licencing procedures is a good way of ensuring adherence to compliance regulation. They will help businesses understand their licencing position by matching installed versus purchased software. This will also help ascertain over-buying or under-buying and often enable re-purposing of licences – reassigning licenses from users who are not actually using the software, to those who need it but don’t have it, resulting in cost savings.
Finally, to make sure these SAM policies are indeed effective, undertaking periodic internal audits is highly recommended. This will not only ensure that the enterprise is always “audit-ready”, but also reinforce the importance to adhering to IT policy to employees.
2. Focus on the major software publishers
The highest value applications and the largest software publishers such as Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft, Autodesk and Symantec, pose the utmost risk of audits. These publishers represent the largest potential unbudgeted expense if businesses find themselves out of compliance, post a vendor audit.
However, at the same time, by concentrating on these large publishers, businesses will be able to optimise the use of owned licences, avoid paying for unused licences, and even place themselves in a strong negotiating position with these vendors. They will be able to re-allocate licences to other locations and departments; re-harvest licences or reclaim unused licences for use on other computers; as well as gather data of software usage prior to contract renewal to use as leverage. All these measures could potentially
result in significant cost savings.
3. Carefully monitor virtual IT environments
Virtualisation is the biggest IT trend today and is the key enabler to the Cloud, but software licencing is often forgotten or under-managed in virtualised environments. The risk of licence non-compliance is greatly increased in virtual environments for two main reasons - it’s easy to create new virtual machines running copies of operating systems and software applications; and software publishers have adopted licencing rules for
virtual environments that add significant complexity to the already complicated task of managing software licences.
4. Understand software publisher licence rules and usage rights
Usage rights of software can significantly impact an organisation’s licence position. Simply put, usage rights define what can be done with a piece of software and at what levels or numbers. Businesses should take full advantage of usage rights, including their rights to upgrade or rights of second usage where existing licences allows use of a software application on more than one machine per user, which avoids over-spending on licences and maintenance. Equally, it is crucial that licence usage restrictions are applied to stay within compliance.
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