Software License Management – how and why?

Software license management, or SLM, is part of software assessment management (SAM) and is a process whose main focus is reducing and controlling overall IT costs. Simply put, it’s a maintenance plan for managing all your software licenses.

The importance of software license management

I understand how you might overlook the whole software license management process, so in this article, I would like to discuss the importance of software licensing, as well as best practices for software license tracking.

Software license management, as any other management process, should be a year-round audit.

What’s it in for you?

Done on a regular basis, this process will reduce the cost and complexity that come with inventorying corporate software assets and license tracking. The issues arise when it comes to how one should deal with this, but the bottom line is that all employees need to be fully licensed at all times, and ensuring this should be part of your business strategy and regular maintenance.

Just to provide you with some numbers: Did you know that about 30 percent of enterprise software goes unused? That brings the cost of wasted software licenses to around $250 per computer. And that is just the cost of unused licenses. Unnecessary expenses also come in the form of hardware, software maintenance, and security audit costs.

Types of software licensing

All software has a license attached, whether the program is a simple freeware tool or an expensive enterprise suite.

Here are the most common licensing types:

  • Per device: it’s strictly meant to be used on a single machine.
  • Per user: it’s restricted to one specific user who has to log in or otherwise confirm his or her identity for the license to be valid.
  • Network: includes WAN and LAN; this licensing type, also called a concurrent license, covers all machines that are within a single specified network.
  • Subscription: can refer to both user and device licenses and is managed by a subscription that usually has an expiry date.
  • Cloud-based credits subscription: this is a sub-type of subscription hosted in the cloud.
  • General public license (GPL): covers so-called freeware and means the license and software come with no charge, and they can be used, shared, copied, and modified for free.
  • Client access license (CAL): refers to both device and user metrics and means that users can connect to a particular server and access software installed there.
  • Capacity-based license: usually tied to certain configuration metrics, such as for a CPU, and is based on the capacity of the CPU, hard drive, or other hardware configuration elements.
  • Font license: refers to specific fonts; some licenses may allow more types of use than others, and some are free.
  • Freeware: means it’s free to use, but the creator holds the copyright.

Potential licensing traps

Licensing is always complex, so you need to watch out for some common traps. Here is what you need to do and know:

  • Get up to speed on how your purchased software is licensed. For example, Microsoft Office used to be licensed per device, and now it’s licensed per user. Although, it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds.
  • Keep in mind that with licensing per device you might encounter problems using the devices in VMware environments, due to dynamic load balancing.
  • If a product has the Named User License, don’t be tempted to use the license signed in as him or her. For example, the guy in the office next door went on a business trip and left his laptop, and you just need to log in and quickly use Illustrator. Under no circumstances. Just don’t.
  • Be especially careful with virtual machines that are licensed per host.
  • Speaking of virtual machines, find out if you have any processor-based licensing in your environment. This might be tricky because on virtual machines, the hardware details are often hidden by the hypervisor.

License and virtualization problems

Don’t let virtualization become a licensing nightmare.

I’ve mentioned a few issues associated with virtualization and how it can mess up your licensing, so in such environments it’s best to have multiple license types ready.

Here’s what you need to look out for when dealing with virtual machines:

  • Hypervisor licenses
  • Management server licenses
  • Managed server licenses
  • Guest OS server licenses
  • Guest OS client access licenses
  • Application licenses
  • Application client access licenses

Virtualized environments are hard to stay up-to-date with: Anyone with the right privileges can set one up, and then there’s the complexity of installing an operating system on top of a virtual machine. In cases like that, the license refers to the host and not the virtual machine.

Software license management best practices; or, how not to get audited

The best advice anyone who has been audited can give you is: Always do an internal audit before the vendor comes.

Here’s why: Vendors nowadays are rigorous when it comes to software usage and licensing. They have one goal, which is to curb illegal software usage.

When you purchase software, you merely have the right to use it under the terms of the license agreement. You don’t own it. Disregard these terms and you’re deliberately exposing your company to substantial penalties—in the ballpark of $100,000 per noncompliant license. Software licensing violation fines are no joke.

Once you are under suspicion from one vendor, others are likely to follow, and in the best-case scenario, you’ll have stress-inducing audits for the next few months. So discuss the need for a regular audit with management. It’s not a question of if you have to do an audit, but when. And your answer should be something along the lines of “Right now!”

Here are some best practices to help you better manage your licenses:

  • Create and implement a software management policy.
  • Set clear guidelines on who is authorized to install, specifying what, why, when, and how.
  • Audit each and every type of software employees have on their workstations.
  • Use a third-party tool to avoid having to manually manage the software license inventory.
  • If you’re over-licensed, cancel unused licenses or assign them to other employees.
  • Stay informed on how the applications are being used (who is using which applications, for how long, when, and so on).
  • Uninstall redundant applications.
  • Keep an eye on applications installed on replacement workstations.
  • Perform regular patching and make sure you deploy the latest OS updates.

Strict software compliance audit

The backstory here is that unlicensed software usage tiptoes in the realm of copyright infringement, begging for vendors to barge in and start auditing your entire software inventory. That can be disastrous for a company and it’s why you should be diligent about your licensing situation, ensuring you are in compliance with company policy regarding software renewal and expiry dates.

Be honest: Do you really know how your company is using purchased software? Is every program you have installed at your company accounted for? Hate to break it to you, but you have no clue. For example, there will always be that one person—we’ll call him Keith—who insists on having seven licenses despite never using any of them.

Even if, by some miracle, you actually feel confident that you know what’s going on, much of the information you have is likely inaccurate, which could lead to inaccurate budgeting, to say the least. And I haven’t even gotten to the part where the penalties, fines, and prison come in.

…Ok, maybe I’ve overdone it a little with prison thing…

Software License Management with SysKit

I mentioned above that you might want to use a third-party tool in order to avoid manually tracking corporate software licenses, the obvious reason being that it’s a complicated process and you’ll want to hang yourself before you reach page three of your auditing log.

SysKit is an enterprise server management and administration tool that also tracks user activity and application usage while incorporating software license management.

Software license usage tracking

The tool has a lightweight install with built-in prerequisites. When it comes to keeping track of your licenses, SysKit offers a unified view of application and client licenses from a single console. You can also stay on top of Remote Desktop CALs and Citrix concurrent licenses across the entire server farm.

Centralize your licensing data with the following SysKit reports:

  • License compliance: number of available licenses per application along with information about consumed and remaining licenses
  • License details: number of application licenses consumed
  • Suite license compliance: available licenses per application suite
  • Suite license details: list of users consuming a suite license
  • Client license compliance: number of licenses used per device or per user
  • Client license details: list of users consuming a client license
  • Office license compliance: detects Microsoft Office products on your computers and offers information about Microsoft Office application usage
  • Office license details: list of users consuming a Microsoft Office application

Software License Management with SysKit - License Compliance

Other SysKit features include user activity and application monitoring to easily detect over- and under-licensing. Application usage data lets you plan future license purchases. You can even calculate the required number of Citrix licenses using Concurrent Usage reports, found under User Reports.

About SysKit

SysKit makes software license management easier and more transparent. We offer a 30-day free trial and a personalized demo, if you wish to learn more about specific SysKit features.

Download SysKit today, and you’ll never have to worry about whether you have too many or just not enough licenses.