Software licensing - Essential guide


Software licensing - Essential guide

Today businesses have numerous ways to deploy IT systems. Software can be bought as packaged off-the-shelf products, built in house using standard components or accessed as a pay-per-use service. Few organisations build systems entirely from scratch that make no use of third-party products, which means the majority of IT departments must license some of the software parts of their IT estate.

The problem for most people is that IT is constantly changing, as are user requirements. Staff join and leave the company, systems are decommissioned and new ones are deployed. All this needs to be tracked otherwise IT departments may find they are paying for software that is no longer used, or risk being fined for running under-licensed software, where the product has not been licensed correctly for the number of staff accessing it.

Nowadays companies run a combination of server software, desktop software and software services. Software is licensed by user or by processor. Some are commercial, while others are open source, which means the licence fee is in effect free of charge. Some products are licensed on a monthly or annual usage basis.

In an ever-changing complex IT estate, all these options need to be tracked. This is where software asset management (SAM) has a role to play (see Fast Ltd's SOS guide), by helping the IT department to monitor where software products are being used. Through SAM, IT managers can check whether they are falling foul of licensing terms and conditions or whether they are paying for more software than they actually require.

Trial and free versions of software asset management tools 


Alteris Inventory Solutions >>

ZENworks IT Asset Management Software >>

Spiceworks, free software inventory management >>

Free Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) >>

Discovery 9 from FrontRange Solutions >>



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This was first published in February 2010


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