FAST Compliance Manager tool helps control software licensing

The FAST Compliance Manager has been launched to help organisations stop paying for software they don't use, and to stop using software they haven't paid for.

A new compliance tool, FAST Compliance Manager, has been launched to help organisations take a tighter grip on their software licensing, and avoid the twin problems of paying for software they do not use, and using software they have not paid for.

The FAST Compliance Manager (FCM) comes from FAST Ltd., a software company with close links to the Federation Against Software Theft, an industry body that campaigns to stamp out software piracy.

FCM provides a central licence repository where companies can store details of all software agreements, and then analyse the information against data imported from software audit and discovery tools.

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It will be made freely available to FAST's 2,700 corporate members as part of the general asset management and compliance service they receive. Annual membership fees start at £3,500.

Andy Pearce, managing director at FAST, said the tool was designed in response to input from members. The repository has been available in beta form for the last six months, but the production version, which is due out at the end of February, will include many features that users have requested -- automatic importing of data from various audit and discovery tools, and the ability to view the licensing position of the organisation from both corporate and departmental levels via a single dashboard.

"We encounter a great deal of over- and under-licensing in our audits," Pearce said. "FCM enables an organisation to see the overall licensing position, and avoids the kind of situation where a departments rushes off to buy new licences when it may not be necessary because another part of the company has licences to spare."

Pearce cited the case of one public sector body that found it was over-licensed to the tune of £600,000 because it had failed to cancel licences when disposing of redundant hardware. Another Midland-based private-sector company was revealed to be over spending by £1.2m on software licences.

But piracy and under-licensing can also be a problem if companies fail to control it, according to Samantha Bramwell, who looks after licensing for Microsoft in the U.K. "In a third of the audits we did last year with companies, we discovered pirated software," she said. Apart from the problem of breaking the law, she said pirated software also carried the danger of being infected with viruses.

FAST Ltd. is a membership organisation and is part of the IRIS Group, a privately owned group of software companies. It is legally and financially separate from the Federation Against Software Theft, which is backed by the software industry as a whole. FAST, however, has an exclusive agreement to the FAST brand, and has developed its own software licensing compliance standard in association with the British Standards Institution.

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