Are you exposed and at risk with your software licensing plan?

Many businesses will either wilfully or ignorantly turn a blind eye towards making sure they have proper software licensing in place.

© kentoh - Fotolia

© kentoh – Fotolia

Continually burying your head in the sand though, and pushing this to the sidelines, or failing to give this the priority it deserves, however, can leave your business exposed to serious legal and financial penalties so you want to give this subject some serious consideration.

Rather than think of this as a scare tactic, though, let’s take the time to look at the facts and consider this all objectively so, at the very least, you can be informed.

Not For Profit Organizations

Non-Profits, of all the types of organizations, really have the least amount of excuse for not having a proper licensing policy in place.

There are organizations out there like TechSoup (techsoupcanada.ca in Canada and techsoup.org in the USA) that are essentially clearing houses for software and hardware donations from a large number of vendors and it’s only for charities and non-profits.

Specifically as it relates to software, most licenses are available for a fraction of the cost of buying it via regular channels so there really is no barrier to having proper licensing practices in place.

If you are a not for profit organization or charity I would strongly advise you to sit down with your IT provider and have discussion regarding your software licensing strategy in light of the fact that organizations like TechSoup exist.

For Profit Companies

Unfortunately, if you are a for profit company, you don’t qualify to use the services of an outfit like TechSoup but there are some smart ways to save a few $$$ when it comes to your software licensing costs.

OEM Software (Microsoft)

If we’re talking about Microsoft software specifically you can save money by purchasing things like MS Office at the same time as you purchase a new PC. This is called OEM software and it’s much less cost than ordering separately from the new computer. The trade-off however is that you don’t qualify for attaching Microsoft’s Software Assurance to the product which essentially is a premium cost that allows you all upgrades that come along for a 2 yr period.

If you plan a fairly regular turn over of your PC’s/Mac’s though then perhaps OEM software is the way to go for you and you’d just have to get in the habit of buying new OEM copies of MS Office each time you purchase a new machine.

Open Licensing (Microsoft)

If you have multiple computers to buy for at the same time then perhaps Open Licensing makes sense for you. This allows a few benefits :

  1. Allows 1 license key to be used for multiple installs
  2. Allows certain free “at home” copies for each legitimate open license copy being used
  3. Allows you to add (extra cost) Software Assurance to the licenses thereby “assuring” you access to upgrades for a full 2 yrs after your purchase
  4. If you purchase software assurance (usually around a 50% premium) then every 2 yrs you can simply renew your software assurance for those licenses and get all upgrades for a further 2 years and start the cycle again … this ends up being much cheaper in the long run compared to purchasing all brand new copies each time.

Non-Microsoft Software

It will be impossible to cover each and every vendor here but check into each different company and see what kinds of programs they have in place for legitimately licensing their products. You might be surprised at how affordable some of the products are.

Here are a couple of examples :

Adobe for instance has their Creative Cloud suite of products where you can license just one product or get their entire creative suite for one low monthly price per seat.

AutoDesk is another one … they have a number of plans available where you can pay as you go on either a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis to make it more cost effective for the organization.

There are many other examples but companies will likely make it much easier than you think to legitimately license their products.

Summary

If you are a non-profit or a charity the extremely low cost of getting your licensing on board through organizations like TechSoup (mentioned above) virtually eliminates any barrier to getting your software licensing in order … you just need to take the time to schedule a meeting with your IT Person today and start the discussion …

If you are a for profit corporation/business begin by taking an inventory of all the software titles you currently use … then take a look at the number of licenses you actually own and can “prove” that you own and see what deficiencies might come to the surface. I would then check out the vendors of each of the titles you currently use and see what programs they might have in place like the Adobe and AutoDesk examples mentioned above and at least “start” the conversation of what it would take to make things legitimate and current.

The more informed and educated that you are the more “peace of mind” you create because at that point you at least know “what” the deficiencies are and “what” it will take to correct it … that’s the first step. The next step after that is working those costs into your budget so you can put the whole issues of software licensing to bed and move on to bigger and better things.

Companies like Microsoft are known to require companies to perform audits and report back to them with the current license counts in use vs. the license counts that have been paid for and then further require the companies to provide “proof” of ownership. I’ve seen companies get caught with this and then it’s literally a mad scramble to gather the information required and then an even bigger panic when they realize they are out of compliance and have a massive and “emergency” bill on their hands.

Why not get out ahead of this and start the process now so it’s done from a position of “strength” as opposed to a position of “weakness” … you’ll have greater peace of mind in the process!

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