Non-compliance in licensing – it’s so easy!

As an IT professional, how bad do you think the non-compliance situation is in your organization? In very many organizations today, the top brass still hasn’t got the message on the potential cost savings from a strong SAM program, or on the risk reduction, or simply on the organization’s legal obligations to its suppliers as well as to its customers.

Software licenses: the last asset to get managed

I can’t think of any other commonly used commercial resource that is treated this way. If your organization had a few thousand square feet or meters of unused office space, would it try to do something about it?  You bet.  At least they might turn down the aircon. But thousands of copies of unused software will be maintained year on year. And would they act if they found a branch office that was stealing electricity by bypassing the meter, rather than paying for it? But software is allowed to spread virally without license fees being paid. It is allowed to spread because there is a lack of commitment to properly managing the software resource, and a lack of finance for the tools to do it with.

Investing time and effort in deploying and making full use of SAM tools like Vector’s can certainly make it easier to manage the organization’s software assets, and often generates a massive initial return from the first real revelations of the true situation on both software deployment and software usage.  But as well as taking steps to manage the mahyem, it makes sense to search out and respond to the various ways in which software licensing goes pear shaped in the first place. 

So how does license compliance go screwy?

So how does software license compliance get out of whack?  Every layer of the organization from senior management to the individual user can get a chance to mess things up. Decisions to cancel software maintenance that are not properly communicated can lead to updates innocently being applied beyond entitlement, creating non-compliance even without a single extra copy being installed. System administrators can deploy the wrong variant of a product or a bundle, potentially causing massive licensing breaches. Users can try to be helpful to colleagues by ‘loaning’ them copies of applications; (we noticed on several occasions that users do not appreciate that WinZip is not a free product, and indeed we had to evolve new rules in our Software Identification Manager to distinguish registered and non-registered copies). There are some applications, such as Google Earth, for which licenses must be purchased depending on the environment in which it is being used, and users are rarely aware of this. Would you expect any user to actually read the Google Earth license agreement when they download it?

A strong SAM program addresses all these organization and people-related vulnerabilities, as well as managing the license assets themselves. This is about organization, responsibilities and communication – all supported by accurate and current data. We’ll look at some specifics in later posts here.