10 Common Licensing Oversights

From the basics to the slightly more complex, May Turnbull looks at her top ten missed portions of a SAM programme in the current day fast-paced environment of IT.

Published on 11th February 2015

In my line of business, I seem to come across the same oversights in licensing again and again. So I thought it might be useful if I put these out there. Some of them may sound very basic, but you won’t believe how easily they can be overlooked in any fast-paced IT environment! So here goes, below are what I consider to be the top 10 licensing oversights of the current day:

1. When a vendor audits – it is too late

I have spoken to far too many people to date that sit back with the attitude that their Software Asset Management doesn’t need to be urgently addressed, that they would rather cross that bridge when and if a vendor audits them. From my experience that is far too late. When a vendor typically audits you, they take a snapshot in time of your deployment and although there might be some flexibility around resolutions – it is too late to rectify any mistakes or oversights. Waiting until the last minute could mean millions in unbudgeted expenses. Take the time now to audit yourselves or have someone do it for you. Uncover those server clusters that are incorrectly licensed, those unmanaged streamed applications, that incorrect media that was deployed…give yourself a chance to adjust things, or worst case, give yourself a chance to budget for the purchases required to bring yourselves in line!

2. Mergers and Acquisitions

Software in itself is often an oversight. It is after all an asset, and often more valuable than a lot of other better managed assets within your company. But because software isn’t as tangible as these other assets, it can easily be forgotten. Software licensing should be a major talking point when it comes to company acquisitions. Software is a very valuable asset that could bring a lot of value, but at the same time could be creating huge risk within your organization. Don’t just presume that with the purchase of a company that the software assets are automatically included, and even if they have been included in the terms of handover – this needs to be documented. Licenses will need to be innovated across to the new establishment and proof thereof retained. Consumption reports received from many software vendors do not include license novation, which means you could be better off on the licensing front than you think!

3. Outsourcing

Outsourcing responsibility for areas of your IT certainly might be the answer to some things, but never for license compliance. Regardless of what you might have been led to believe, you are always going to be responsible for licensing your software assets. You need to have a firm handle on how third-party decisions/services may be impacting your licensing risk. If a vendor approaches you for an audit, they are going to expect you to account for all software usage and verify that you have the necessary licenses to cover your deployment. Even when outsourcing SAM itself to a reputable partner, keep up-to-date and informed – compliance will always be your responsibility at the end of the day.

4. Mobile/Tablet Management

This has been a very prevalent subject recently and encompasses the whole BYOD subject. Especially when it comes to Microsoft, it certainly isn’t as easy as letting people bring their own devices into work, depending on how you have purchased your licenses for the company as a whole will depend on whether and how you need to license things like tablets. Even when you think no licenses are required, think as to whether that device accesses things like the Exchange server and whether they authenticate upon access. If so, that means you are very likely to require device CALs (Client Access Licenses) for those devices provided you haven’t already bought User CALs to cover them. This is an area where you can certainly be proactive.

5. DRS/VMotion/Guest Mobility

I think most people are familiar with the above terms. They are all used to describe the mobility of virtual servers within a server farm. This functionality is great to have in terms of load sharing etc., but be very wary of the licensing implications of switching this on. Many licenses are managed at the host level, which sometimes means that the host machine may have to be covered for all possible guests that might migrate to it at any given time. And there are certain products like Microsoft’s SQL Server that can leave organizations crippled after an audit where this hasn’t been licensed/managed correctly.

6. Application Streaming

Application streaming has been a very popular option for some time. However, it doesn’t come without its own risks. It is important when pushing applications out from a Terminal/Citrix Server, that you are aware that there are products that are managed by end device. So applications like Microsoft’s Visio and Project will be licensed for every device that accesses the software. And if you don’t have a suitable application in place managing this access and/or providing logs of access, it is very likely that the software manufacturer will want you to license every device that could possibly access the services.

7. Deploy the right Edition and Version

This is some rather basic advice. However, in today’s world where various media is often made available with the view that you are entrusted to manage it correctly – it is amazing how many people deploy the wrong Editions and Versions of software and end up paying out unnecessary money to remedy it during an audit. The media that is used is also very important, you cannot use Office Professional Plus media and only install the components of Office Standard and expect to be covered by your Office Standard license. If the Office Pro Plus media is used, you need to be licensed for this Edition, regardless of the components used! It is very easy to package something like this under a standard image and end up in hot water when questions are asked.

8. Re-harvest, re-harvest, re-harvest

Now I know you must have heard this 1000 times already.   But while you certainly make sure that you re-harvest any software from decommissioned machines, it is imperative that SAM be taken above simple reconciling deployment vs. entitlement. Almost all discovery tools out there do some sort of metering/usage monitoring, so do yourselves a huge favour and run a report to see which applications are sitting idle on a device. It is these re-harvests that are going to save you money in the long run.

9. Inter departmental communication

Developers are often blamed for spinning up virtual servers too ‘off-the-cuff’, procurement for ordering licenses without checking with the SAM Manager and HR for not notifying IT when staff leave. The answer here is communication. Communication is needed to ensure each department knows what is going on within the business, but also so they can know how decisions in other parts of the business are going to affect their job requirements. So make sure that you invite the appropriate heads of departments to meetings you feel they might benefit from and between you try and build some processes and hopefully communicate them successfully out to the rest of the business. Don’t think you can manage SAM alone.

10. Second Hand License Sales

Unlike some countries in the world…second hand licenses sales are legal in the UK and are a very real and viable way of generating funds for other important projects within your departments. So when reviewing your software assets, you find you have over-licensed accidentally and can’t see any way you might be able to re-harvest these in the future, certainly have the talk with some of the consultants out there to see if you can recoup some of the funds. More on this subject at a later stage….

Written by:

May Turnbull

SAM Manager

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