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Microsoft software audits spark the fear

Snow Software has found that the prospect of a Microsoft software audit is the one that causes the most worries for customers

Software audits often send a cold chill down the spines of those responsible for managing applications across a business and can leave some customers exposed to unforeseen licensing costs and threats of fines and court action.

perhaps not surprisingly given the popularity and market share enjoyed by Microsoft, SAP and Oracle it is the audits from those companies that concern customers the most.

A survey from software asset management (SAM) specialist Snow Software found that three quarters of those SAM and IT managers it quizzed saw Microsoft as the vendor audit to be feared the most. There were high levels (53%) for Oracle and SAP (33%).

Snow’s research discovered that the worries about Microsoft were well founded with 68% of firms having been audited in the last year.

What worried customers was not just the prospect of an audit resulting in fines but also the fallout of having to explain to senior management just why those unplanned costs had occured and the disruption it could cause to the business.

“While we expected to see Microsoft reported as having the highest volume of audit activity, it is surprising to see them take the number one slot in terms of being feared by their customers,” said Matt Fisher, vice president of Snow Software.

“In our experience, Microsoft is actually one of the least aggressive and difficult software auditors.  We typically hear far more horror stories from customers that have been audited by Oracle or Attachmate (now Micro Focus),” he added.

Unlike the appeal of Christmas jumpers and mince pies the audits don’t seem to ease off in December with many vendors keeping their foot on the pedal until the end of the year.

“The year-end audit has long been a stalwart of Q4 revenue for many software vendors, whether performed as an outright audit or disguised as an incentive to upgrade to the latest versions and technologies,” added Fisher.

The answer of course is for customers to keep a firm grip on their software estate and be in control of all the facts when the auditors come calling. Along with specialists like Snow groups like the BSA and FAST have long recommended SAM as a way of keeping on the right side of the law and controlling costs.

Steps to take

Resellers helping customers deal with software audit fears can recommend the following steps are taken, according to advice from Snow Software:
1.       Acknowledge the audit request as soon as possible – the worst thing you can do in any vendor audit is ignore the initial audit letter. The auditor will not go away. A prompt response within a few days of receiving the audit letter will make what follows easier
2.       Discover as much as you can about the vendor you are being audited by –the best way to prepare for an audit is to know what’s required well in advance
3.       Perform a full inventory to discover all assets including hardware configuration, software deployments and usage.
4.       Compare the inventory against license entitlements and create effective license positions for all software vendors.

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