Software license audit: Why there's nothing to worry about

Why worry about software license audits. Without understanding, the details regarding purchased licenses and those actually being used by employees creates risk for an organisation that can lead to a substantial fine from their software vendor.

For those anticipating a software license audit in the next year or so, the primary worry for leaders of these organisations is that the number of licenses purchased will deviate from the number of software applications actually used. Added to which, software costs can turn out higher than necessary as some licenses may not be used at all.

The primary benefits a corporation receives from performing a software license audit are greater control and various forms of cost savings. An internal software license audit is used both as an efficiency mechanism to improve software distribution within an organisation and as a preventive mechanism to avoid copyright infringement prosecution by software companies. Audits are an important part of software asset management, but they also ensure that the company is operating within legal and ethical guidelines.

Software license audits. They are a much more common problem for organisations than is often covered by the media. Disparities occur when the following happens: As new employees enter service, their access privileges are often copied from other employees in similar functions. Thus, blanket rights are given even when the individual should not have access to the specific system, but does because of the copy/paste. Typically this includes rights to applications the employee may not actually need. In other cases, temporary access rights to applications that employees require for a particular project are not revoked once the project requiring them has been completed. Worse still, accounts by employees who have left employment with an organisation are not terminated so the individual can easily access the company’s system whenever they like. As such, there are a number of reasons why the number of licenses used may not match the number of licenses purchased.

If you’re not managing software licenses effectively, you and your organisation will likely find yourself involved in a drawn out battle with your software vendor. And not taking the process seriously can place a pretty significant burden on your organisation, should you find yourself in the middle of an audit. That’s why it’s essential that your company is prepared. Conducting your own audits or preparing for a software license audits can be a necessary challenge, but there are several easy and available options for managing the process.

Automate user provisioning and role-based access control

Possibly the easiest way to manage access rights, in an automated fashion, is using the human resources system as the source for creating, modifying and removing user accounts and authorisations. Employees can be assigned temporary access to the network and the applications they need. In the licensing context, this ensures that the rights of former employees are revoked in a timely fashion.

Combined with role-based access control (RBAC) solutions – a software set that lets administrators assign rights based on the role or title of employees – rights will only be assigned once consensus has been reached on the applications that employees actually require for their daily work.

Monitoring a team’s software access and activity

IT managers, systems administrators and administrators can monitor activity through the use of a dashboard listing the number of times an application has been launched by an employee and the number of minutes a particular application has been used, as well as the idle time in minutes.

If an application remains unused for a long period, the application can be revoked or the user can be given a warning. The total license costs and the status of used applications can be mapped out using an interface with a facility management system or IT service management system.

Passive auditing

Periodically communicate with managers about the access rights of their teams and which applications their employees have on a regular basis. This reporting can take place once every three months, for example, or once a year; whatever timeframe works for the organisation. Therefore, managers can conveniently check whether everything is in order and give their approval. They can also make changes, which will be implemented directly.

There are some things to be aware of, though. For example, far in advance of any potential audit, make sure to review your organisation’s license agreement; the more you know, the better you’ll go. The more educated you are, the better the position your company will be in. Having a comprehensive knowledge of your license agreement will help you avoid making costly mistakes with your software licenses.

When expecting a software license audit in the future and when needing to prevent fines or to cut license costs, make sure to take the right precautions. Doing so can save organisations a great deal of money associated with software fines or for paying for unused licenses.

Robert Doswell is managing director of Tools4ever UK

Image source: Shutterstock/Pavel Ignatov