How to master the art of software licensing

Coming to terms with software licensing takes time and resources. But failing to ensure software is properly licensed can lead to penalties and excessive software costs, finds Stephen Pritchard in our latest Business of IT special feature.

Microsoft licensing matters because of the company's enormous installed base, although licences for other packaged software are scarcely less complicated; there are several vendors that insist on selling licence packs in blocks of five to SMEs, and have different rules governing employees' use on a home PC or a laptop.

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"Businesses do need to work out how many licences they have but for an SMB, this should not beyond the wit of the director; 'Oh, we have 20 employees, and all except for Joe the Tea Boy needs a licence. Let's see, that's, oh, how many licences? 2? 132? Where's my calculator....'," claimed Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst firm Quocirca.

"For the SMB, in the longer term, the best way to get away from the vast majority of this is to move to a subscription model for software in the cloud," he added. "The licence is then subsumed in the monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription. Stop paying, and you stop gaining access to the software."

For larger businesses, investing in software asset management both as a process, and as a tool will be worthwhile.

Even there, though, organisations need to take steps to ensure they pick the correct tools, based on their existing software usage and the their organisational structure; a company with a large number of mobile workers using Microsoft applications will have a very different profile to one that has most of its staff using SAP or Oracle in a fixed location.

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