Member Article

The Licence Compliance Minefield

Software Licence Compliance can be hard to get your head around and can quickly spiral out of control. Put simply, if you buy a software package such as Microsoft Office, and then transfer it to other computers in the workplace without checking the terms of the licence first, you can quickly become non-compliant with the licence agreement terms of that particular software product. There are many business and legal consequences that can arise from this, including financial penalties and even criminal convictions. You may not even realise that you have committed a criminal offence, but ignorance will not be taken into account as it is the responsibility of the business and IT users to understand and comply with the licencing laws. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) takes a dim view of businesses that do not comply with software licencing laws. In December 2011 a grandstand seating company became the latest to be caught out using unlicensed software and forced to settle and shell out for the correct licences with the BSA to the tune of £11,000.

In addition, according to a recent article written by David Norfolk, Practice Leader at leading analyst organisation Bloor Research, the fear of non-compliance in the software licensing industry is driving companies to overspend unnecessarily.

If you do not keep on top of managing your software, it is easy to be mislead by your discovery tool and, to some extent, by software vendors, into thinking that you need to buy more licences than you are actually using due to tiny discrepancies between product versions and vendor names. There are so many different variations of licences for each software vendor that it is a real challenge trying to reconcile licences with actual software deployed. Most discovery tools aren’t set up to recognise that products with similar names could in fact, be the same thing. Any slight discrepancy will highlight the need for more licences, when in fact – there could be enough licences for the right products – but just with a minor spelling difference!

It can take considerable time (and therefore money) to go through all licences and software to see where the discrepancies are. Businesses just don’t have the time or the resource to spend on marrying these up, so it’s very easy to panic buy and end up with duplications or software licences that you don’t need. Fear, uncertainty and doubt around software compliance is costing businesses far more than necessary, in their quest for licence compliance.

Getting your software estate in order needn’t cause anxiety and panic buying. Here are a few tips for you to follow:

•Fix the raw discovery data– some audit discovery tools present incomplete data with publisher, product and version fields either incorrect or missing - ensure that your tool is able to find all the required information

• Indentify commercially licensable products – it’s important but not necessarily complicated to clearly identify commercial versus non commercial products – why spend time and valuable resource looking for purchase information or licence entitlement for something that doesn’t require it?

•Remove duplicate install counts – many discovery tools will report multiple installs of the same products on a machine by machine basis due to the software vendors having inconsistent or multiple names for themselves and their products – so even the slightest difference can throw discovery tools off - ensure that your tool is able to recognise these differences and you could save tens of thousands of pounds.

•Do your research –make sure that you are aware of the terms of your licences and the consequences you face if you do not meet them, and if you’re still unsure, ask the experts! There are many trained consultants out there who can help you to get your estate in order, understand what you have and what you need, and how to manage this going forwards.

Software Asset Management is a fundamental part of good governance and involves a lot more than licence compliance, although eliminating shelfware and duplicate licences could save your company untold sums of money.

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This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Andy Fisher .

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