SAM Review vs Audit – Choosing the Right Approach

If you have been selected for a software audit or review, you might be feeling something akin to missing a step while walking down the stairs, or standing in front of a crowd of bosses and realizing you brought the wrong notes and now you have nothing to say. But what is the difference between a Software Asset Management (SAM) Review vs Audit? You’re panicking, you’re frustrated, and you’re wondering if it isn’t impossible to make a career out of basking on the edge of a quiet lake in the middle of the woods where software auditors will never find you.

Hold onto whatever soothing picture captivates you and stay calm. The first step (or planning for the first step) to your software audit is figuring out if you’ve been given a SAM Review or a Software Audit and what the difference between the two is. 

In this article we are comparing the two in the following areas:


  • Definition
  • Pricing
  • Timing

Defining a Software Audit vs a Software Review

Software Asset Management Reviews

One thing that sets a SAM review (also called SAM Engagement, Self-Audit or Software Compliance Review, according to Aberdeen) is that SAM reviews are often presented as voluntary. Since a SAM Review often appears voluntary, you may question what is in it for you?  Software vendors will often position these reviews as an optional learning experience (you should read that as revenue-driven for them), so you may think it’s ok to decline and in fact, according to Scott and Scott LLP, there is little to be discovered that your own internal team couldn’t determine by themselves.

However, life becomes immediately harder when you refuse a SAM review. In most cases, if you push back against a vendor issued-SAM review, the vendor’s response is to send you a full audit regardless. After all, anyone who doesn’t want to be examined has something to hide, right? Resistance as THEY say… is futile, my friends.

The other major difference between a SAM review and a legal audit is the fact that SAM reviews are often conducted internally, using the company’s own SAM tools and their own SAM expert team.

Full Software Audits

Full audits (also called Legal Contract and Compliance (LLC), according to Aberdeen) are very much not voluntary, and it is rare for a business to be able to resolve a software audit notification by simply ignoring it. When you signed your contract for your licences, software companies maintain the right to validate your compliance against the terms of the software contract.

Most contracts only limit software companies to perform an audit every twelve months and that they must provide notice so as not to disrupt your business. Software audits also cannot be conducted during what is defined as the ‘busy season’ of your business. Putting off an audit until the busy time has passed will not remove it entirely. The auditors can be patient, and they can wait.

Proving to be a challenge upfront in the audit, may not be the best strategy.  You are going to need to build goodwill through the audit process. At the completion of the audit, you are most likely going to want to negotiate a settlement and your vendor will be far less flexible if you make it difficult from the start.

You should also note that different vendors have varying methodologies when it comes to audit operations.  Some vendors have their own internal audit teams while others use third party firms like Deloitte or KPMG.

How Much Do SAM Reviews and Audits Cost

Once a SAM review or a full audit has begun, what will happen after is pretty much the same.  In both you are required to collect data about what is installed on your servers and desktops, which will be compared against what you actually own. The main difference between the two is the remedy of any shortfalls or findings against you.

Full SAM Audit

  • In a full audit, you may be required to pay list price for any software you need to purchase (any discounts you have with the vendor will not be applied). If you are found out of compliance (for Microsoft, you only have to be out of compliance by 5%), you will have to pay for the entire auditing process, including compensation for the third-party auditors.

SAM Review

  • In a SAM review, you can potentially could just purchase against the terms of your contract and the cost of the review is usually paid for by the software vendor.

Now that you understand how much an audit will cost, check out our Software Audit Pricing Guide to figure out the determining factors in hiring audit assistance.

Time Frame

The software publishers will often tell you the whole process of both an audit and a SAM review will take between 30 and 90 days (depending on the size of your organization) but this has never been our experience.  Many audits and SAM Reviews that we’ve seen have gone on for 6 months or longer. The true driving factor to the length of either a software audit or a SAM review is the quality of your data.

Do You Know Where Your Useage Data Is?

Do you have strong accuracy of data in your inventory tools? Do you have good records of all your software licenses and contracts?  Even though a team of auditors will be asking you to collect data during a full audit, it’s important that you understand why they are asking for specific data and what they are planning to do with it once you give that data to them.  So often we have seen audits that have been dragged out unnecessarily, as companies produce data that is easily misinterpreted by the auditors. The presence of a third party auditor may also impact the length of your negotiation, as the third-party auditors are going to want to ensure 100% completeness of data (and if you have gaps in your data, they will make assumptions that could be costly to you).

Being organized and ready to begin the moment you are notified by the auditors is a great way to reduce the overall time your audit or SAM review will take.

When an audit is finalized you will want to get a closure statement (also called a release) from the software publisher. Without the closure statement, the vendor may be able to just turn-around and audit you again, if the findings did not come out as they anticipated.

Further Information on How We Can Help

Software audits and SAM Reviews are confusing and time consuming, but you can do this and with the right information on your side, you’ll get out of this audit or SAM review with as little damage to your company’s budget as possible. At Metrixdata360, that is our goal, to save you money and provide you with a clear licensing position. Don’t let the auditors push you around!  To learn more about how we can help you if you are in an audit or a SAM review, please look at our Audit Services page.

Software Audit Preparation: What You Need to Know

Software audit preparation is becoming more and more important as publishers view audits as revenue streams instead of simple compliance tools.  In this game of company overlords and intimidating auditors with charts streaked with red, it can often feel as though you are powerless to stop your software vendor from marching in and walking away with double your yearly budget. In this series, we are going to discuss ways you can prepare for an audit before the software data hits the fan. 

Putting out the Sparks Before They Burst into Flames

The best software audits are the ones that don’t happen. Some vendors treat SAM reviews like routine check-ups and there’s little you can do to avoid it simply being your turn.  That being said, there are strategies you can implement that lower your risk of facing a software audit in the first place.  

Maintain a Good Relationship with Your Software Vendor.

As is the case in any relationship, communication is key. Keeping an open dialogue with your vendor and making you are upfront in regard to any decreased spending or changes in your company’s growth, so that your vendor feels like they are in the loop about your software.  

 Negotiate the Audit-Clauses in your Contract

In every software contract, there is a clause that states the right to audit. In the rarest of rare cases you might be able to remove the clause entirely from your contract but by the time your contract is up for renewal, you’ll be hard pressed to get your vendor to agree to such a deal twice. That being said, you still might be able to edit the clause a little bit. The first thing you can alter is how long the down period between audits is allowed to be (usually it’s a year). The second thing you might also be able to include in the clause the amount of time a vendor can go without contacting you during the auditing process before the software audit is considered closed. This is a valuable thing to have in your contract, since some vendors can leave an audit dormant for months before kicking things up again. Another possible point you might want to fight to have included in the contract is what time period can be classified as your ‘busy season’ and therefore the ‘no-audit’ zone. Auditors can’t come in and steam roll a business, that’s already in most contracts. If you’re an Airplane company, you can’t deal with an audit the week before Christmas and the resources that are sapped by the auditing process would handicap your revenue, so be certain that timeframe is specified.  

Understand Licensing Models Before you Sign Up for Them and Do Not Sign Up for Models That You Cannot Manage

Complexity is a breeding ground for human error and if your head is spinning when the vendor is laying out the system you’re signing up for, make sure you do your homework and do your best to understand where your money is going. That way, there will be no surprises when the auditor’s data findings come in. If you think that an overly complex system is something you just can’t manage, you can always find another contract with a system that can suit you better. Unless you already have systems in place, it’s more likely you won’t be able to account for hundreds of licences and profiles with just a couple of spreadsheets.   

Understand the Big Risk Factors and Show Microsoft You have Processes Under Control 

Software Audits come in many shapes and sizes and it’s impossible to predict when an audit might come but there are things that increase your chances of being audited such as 

1.Having undergone a significant decrease in your spending with the vendor.   

2.Having a complex infrastructure with multiple locations that can range to an international scale. This will make it easy for things to be missed.  

3.Having frequent mergers and acquisitions 

4.Having an overly complex profiles and multiple licenses with the vendor  

5.Having your spending with that vendor not match recent company growth 

Understanding these risks can help you proactively try to counteract them. If your company has an overly complex structure, show your software publisher the systems you have in place that will keep track of them. This will demonstrate to your vendors that you are prepared, organized and have everything under control.

For a more detailed look into the difference between SAM Reviews and Software Audits, see our How does a Microsoft SAM differ from an Audit?

When you Feel the Storm Brewing: How to Get Ahead of the Software Auditors

But what if these tips were helpful to know five months ago? What if, for you and your business, most of these ships have already sailed and that leaves you on the beach, panicking as you’re waiting for the inevitable software audit to breathe down your neck. Not to worry, there are still things that can be done to prepare yourself.  

Set up your Audit Team

The first thing you need on your side in the shadow of an approaching audit is a team of experts, but what should that team consist of? It’s tempting to throw the problem at IT since this is a tech problem, isn’t it? According to BizTech’s article How to Prepare for a Software Audit, while you will need the IT department on the team to help you collect data, they won’t be helpful leading the process and the same is true if you hand the whole thing over to the procurement specialist or your financial rep. These people will be useful on the team but not leading it. Software audits have an intense legal aspect to them and they should be led by attorneys with experience in dealing with software audits. On the team you should also have people from upper management and pick someone (preferably someone who knows how much and how little to say) to be the point of contact with the vendor and the software auditors.   

Get an NDA in Place with Your Auditor

A non-disclosure agreement is critical if you are dealing with a third-party auditor hired by the software vendor. This will keep the auditors from taking the king’s share of your data and bringing back to the vendor far more than what they should be privy to, given the scope of the audit. Imagine what would happen if your software vendor knew you were buying more products from their competition than you ever bought from them. Relations with that vendor might suffer as a consequence. A Non-disclosure agreement will also state that everything the auditor’s plan to give the software publisher needs to pass under your eyes first. This has its advantages because you’ll know what your license position is before the publisher does and you’ll be able to check for any mistakes, clear up any grey areas and write letters to the vendor in order to explain yourself and propose mitigation strategies for the future before the data is sent over to the publisher.  

Understand the Scope of your Vendor’s Software Audits

Look over the vendor’s past audits (if possible) and make note of what your vendor usually looks at. If your company has multiple locations, make sure you understand which branch and which region (if your company reaches an international scale) has which products. That way, you can anticipate what sort of access your vendor will ask for. You might have to push them to ask for a scope during the auditing process so that you don’t have to face the unpleasant effects of scope creep. Scope creep occurs when an audit continues on into product after product and region after region until the auditors eventually find something that will give them the profit they originally anticipated when they first began the auditing process.

Make Sure you Have up to Date Entitlements, Contract Stacks, etc

Nothing says prepared, organized and under control better than up-to-date contracts and date entitlements. If your contracts have renewal dates (also called the end date, it is found most often with maintenance contracts, and typically includes one year minus one day after the contract’s start date) make sure that they have not expired. Have the renewal conversation with a software vendor well before the auditing process has taken place, as it might overly complicate the process and effect data results.  

 Verify the Accuracy/Completeness of your Hardware and Software Deployments

Deployment refers to the installation of software on your servers and it is one of the metrics used to calculate your usage of that software. The metric will then either take into account your hardware (how many servers do you have using the program?) or users (how many user accounts have this program or how many users are on the program at any given time). Make sure that both data findings are up to date and ready to go because this will most likely be used in the auditing process. It will save you a lot of time and will allow you to better check the auditor’s data if you have this already available. 

Build your Own Estimated License Position (ELP)

During the gathering of data, the auditors will come up with an estimated licensing position for you. According to Software Media’s article Microsoft License Verification Process FAQ, an estimated licensing position is a rough outline that states how much you are under on your software use, areas of improvement, or critical weak points. The auditors hired by your vendor will come up with their own licensing position for you during the software auditing process and it can easily inflate your compliance gap to horrendous levels (and very rarely will they show you where you are overspending). One great and easy way to counter this is by having your own licensing position ready to compare the auditor’s findings with. 

The Comfortable Lies We Tell Ourselves

Many companies we’ve come across over the years tell themselves pleasant stories that allow them to sleep easy at night. That is until their software audit arrives and they find that their perfect defensive strategy was held up only by wishful thinking. If you are telling yourself any of the following statements, it might be time to have a closer look at your audit preparation strategy.  

“Any application installed on a server is licensed via Citrix”

There are two products that come from Citrix: XenApp and XenDesktop but the one we need to worry about is XenApp. XenApp lets you install software on your server and then it manages the software that you have on your desktop such as Adobe Acrobat and Office. The thing that people often don’t realize is that Citrix has its own licencing metric that doesn’t necessarily coordinate with the metrics of the software that you are installing through Citrix. A licencing metric is how any particular vendor decides to measure your purchase. As an example, Microsoft charges you by the number of devices using the software but Citrix charges you by the users on Citrix at any given time (concurrent users). So if you have 1,000 devices but only 500 users on Citrix at any given time, Citrix will ask for 500 licenses but Microsoft really wants 1,000.

“These servers are owned by our Service Provider so, we don’t have to license them”

Many companies hire a third-party to manage their servers. These service providers install products, set them up in a company’s systems and manage any technical difficulties that might arise. Since it seems that these service providers have everything under control, many companies think their job is done. The truth of the matter is, if the software is on the company’s server, it’s the company’s responsibility and they are liable if the software is improperly licenced. Even if a third-party service provider has their licenses all in a neat little row, the company might still need to buy their own licenses. Should the service provider try to buy the licenses for the company, they might be violating the software vendor’s terms of use. Don’t let this matter fall to someone who is technically not responsible if something goes wrong. Even if your service provider is doing a great job, have your licenses lined up and organized as well.    

 “We don’t have a list of users to devices, so I guess you can just make assumptions”

Never allow the auditors to make assumptions, because it will never be in your favour. The third-party auditors are not on your team, in fact they more likely will be paid based on how large they can make your compliance gap. So they will not give you the benefit of the doubt. They can easily claim you owe double or triple then what you actually do in your licensing position. If the vendor sees those numbers before you’re given the chance to explain yourself or clear up any grey areas that might lower the number closer to reality, then that inappropriately high number will be your starting point during the negotiation process. 

 “These are test/dev servers, but we don’t have a full list, and I don’t manage them so I don’t know why all those users have access”

Many vendors allow for you to sample their products before installing them with full licences. These are called test/dev and they aren’t priced or licenced at the same rate as products in production (the ones your whole company uses). The vendor will outline terms that will classify a product as test/dev and usually that includes a limited amount of user access. This is because hypothetically it is only your IT department that will be using and testing these products while they are in test/dev. Many companies don’t learn what sort of criteria a product has to meet to be classified as test/dev and often will let their products accidentally slip from test/dev into full production territory while still improperly licenced. Make sure you understand what qualifies a product as test/dev and then make absolutely certain that those qualifications are met and maintained.  

“But my Microsoft Account Rep or reseller said….”

Vendor Sales Reps, including Microsoft are highly trained to sell you licenses, first and foremost. They are trained to present to you high pricing proposals that include many products and “extras” that may not suit your business needs or accurate cover everything you require. They may come across as though these are fixed rates that are non-negotiable. There is also no way to validate what a Microsoft Account Rep did or didn’t say. To avoid getting into a confrontation that puts your word against the Account Rep, it’s best to maintain the philosophy ‘unless it’s written down, it didn’t happen.’ What’s more, don’t trust the Microsoft Account Rep over your own data, even if what you’ve been told is true, it’s far better to have it backed up with tangible evidence.   

 “We have a SAM Tool and it says…..”

There are many SAM tools that claim to be able to track your software activity and collect data for any impending audit, but plenty of vendors do not actually accept the data these programs collect. Often businesses will have to fight in order to convince the auditors to use their SAM tools over the ones the auditor’s will bring in themselves. It is also not guaranteed that these SAM tools will gather everything an auditor asks for. Every vendor uses a different licensing metric. So, it is important that these tools are not your only source of auditing aid for any upcoming software audit. 

No one particularly enjoys software audits, but one thing that is worse than a software audit is a software audit that is unorganized, ill-prepared and banked on pleasant half-truths. So, take some time to see if there’s anything you can do to lower the risk of an audit or prepare for one if you feel like it is already on the way. So, when the software vendors and their auditors walk through your door, they won’t find you sleeping with your ears stuffed with easy wishful thinking. Instead, they’ll find you ready for a fight. For more information on how to prepare for a software audit, please visit our Learning Center.

Project For The Web Now Available

Price And Product Impact of Project For The Web

Microsoft’s newest offering for cloud-based project management, Project for the web, expands on the Project platform, but may have a pricing impact to you. Microsoft currently has the following Project Online products available, Project Essentials, Project Pro and Project Premium. This new offering Project for the web is the entry level Project management program, designed to be used by task-level employees. With the new Project for the web, Microsoft has aligned the subscription structure with other Office 365 products, moving from the “Essentials”, “Professional”, and “Premium” titles, to the familiar E1, E3, and E5 plans, labeled Project Plans 1,3, and 5 respectively. This shift in titles may also include an increase in price for the E1 type users.

What Is Project For The Web?

Project for the web is Microsoft’s newest cloud-based project management tool. The “For the Web” moniker refers to the fact that the Projects system is accessible in a browser-based format. As Microsoft describes it:

Project for the web is Microsoft’s most recent offering for cloud-based work and project management. Project for the web provides simple, powerful work management capabilities to meet most needs and roles. Project managers and team members can use Project for the web to plan and manage work of any size.

What does that actually mean? Project for the web allows teams to remotely work together, view project roadmaps, schedule tasks, create and track milestones, and compile reports. For the web also integrates with most of Microsoft’s other online offerings, allowing a smoother workflow across Office 365, Power Apps, and Microsoft Flow. This means that a project manager can assign and schedule tasks to their team members. From there, the team members can see where on the project roadmap they are, what tasks have been completed or are still open, and even create reports.

Project Pricing Tiers

Microsoft is continuing with their trend of tiered-subscription models for Project for the web, but they have also rebranded the tiers. The former “Project Online Professional” is now Project Plan 3, while “Project Online Premium” has become Project Plan 5. Let’s look at what each tier will cost you compared to their previous price. If you want to check out some of the features available with those plans. Click here to see Microsoft’s Project pricing page.

Project Plan 1

Project Essentials Pricing
Project Plan 1 gives users access to only Project for the web, it does not allow on-premise use. Users can manage project documents across the Office 365 ecosystem, schedule tasks, submit timesheets, as well as use integrations with PowerApps and Power BI. This plan is meant for those who work at the task level and removes much of the higher-level project and portfolio management tools. The entry level subscription is $10 per user per month. 

Project Plan 3 vs Project Pro Online

Used to be: $30/month per user
Is now: $30/month per user

Previously known as the “Professional” tier, Project Plan 3 gives access to Project Online and you can use Project Online Desktop Application (Project Pro) for users looking for more functionality and flexibility than those on Plan 1. All the features of Plan 1 are included in Plan 3, but users can also create roadmaps to success, set tasks, add team members, and view the entire project from a top-down perspective. Plan 3 also allows for full integration with the Power Platform, including PowerApps, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow. While users can access Project Online and the Desktop Application with Plan 3, some functionality is restricted, like the ability for demand management and enterprise resource planning.

Project Plan 5 vs Project Premium

Used to be: $55/ month per user
Is now: $55/month per user

Formerly the “Premium” edition of Project, Plan 5 is Microsoft’s complete Project subscription package.
Project Plan 5 gives users access to the Project Online Desktop Application and is designed for Enterprise Project Management (EPM) type users. The Project Desktop Application allows Directors to monitor and manage their department’s complete roster of projects from the top down. Project Plan 5 allows Project Managers the most in-depth planning and management tools available. Users at this level can compile smaller projects into master projects, track project resource costs, compare planned budgets and resources to actual real-world data, and even set baselines to monitor performance against historical data. Plan 5 also opens additional functionality in Project Online not available in Project Plan 3.

Project Essentials

Project Essentials was an add on for Project Online which provided the most commonly used features for task-level workers, but required that you also have Project Online Professional or Premium to actually use Essentials. With Project for the web, Essentials has stayed, essentially, the same, providing team member functionality. Team members with Project Online Essentials can:

  • Only use a web based interface.
  • Update tasks, issues, and risks.
  • Submit timesheets
  • Share documents and collaborate with Microsoft Teams users.

If you have a Project Plan 3 or Plan 5 license, you can purchase Project Essentials for task workers.

How Do I Control Project Online Costs?

For clients that are currently contracted for Project Essentials, you will not feel any impact on pricing until you renew your contract. For Project Pro Online and Premium Online users there really is not much of a pricing impact. The real key to control costs is ensuring that you subscribe your end-users to the correct licensing tier. There is a big difference in costs between E1 and E5, and so often we see companies buying higher level licenses for users that only need E1s.

Understanding the hierarchy of Microsoft’s pricing scheme is essential to making a smart buying decision.

For task-level team members, Plan 1 should suffice. Users at this subscription level can communicate with each other, share files and resources, can monitor the timeline and task lists, as well as submit timesheets. While the feature list is limited, Plan 1 is designed to allow teams to complete their assignments without interrupting the planning process.

Project Managers will want at least Project Plan 3 since this tier makes the real planning tools available. Anyone who is active in the planning process of the project, assigns tasks, is authorized to make approvals or requests, or needs to closely monitor performance and resources, will require at least this level of subscription.

Project Plan 5 is designed for organizations that want Enterprise Project Management (EPM) functionality and who need full control of their project environment and portfolio. Not all users will require Plan 5, but users that are planning, tracking, and managing projects across a department or company likely will.

Where To Go From Here

Now that you have a better understanding of the Project platform, you can make an informed decision regarding the subscriptions your organization needs. If you are considering purchasing licenses for Microsoft Project and would like more information about negotiating a contract with Microsoft, our learning center is full of useful information for you to use, or you can reach out to us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Moving to the Cloud? 5 Problems You’ll Need to Address

Moving to the Cloud is tremendously useful for (significantly) reducing the number of servers required to run your environment efficiently. Salesforce, in their article Why Move To The Cloud? 10 Benefits Of Cloud Computing Operating, talks about some of the benefits of entering the Cloud which can include greater flexibility, excellent disaster recovery systems, increased collaboration and less money spent on hardware. However, before you get too excited to join the Great Cloud Migration, here are some important things to keep in mind before you make the transition.

Size Matters: Instances are Sized Correctly

In the past, when you wanted to digitize your work, a physical piece of hardware would arrive on-premise with a defined amount of storage to accommodate your license instance storage requirements.
If your operations only required 200 GB per server, it would then be a smart investment to purchase servers that offered 500 GB just in case your organization grew and you needed more storage as business boomed.

Purchasing storage in that manner made sense when you were dealing with a fixed, physical asset. Now, as organizations migrate to the Cloud, we are still seeing the tendency for purchasing more space than what is actually required in anticipation of future growth.

The Cloud isn’t a physical, fixed asset that you own with storage limitations attached to a piece of hardware. Welcome to a subscription-style storage solution with an a la carte menu that can be augmented or adjusted as needed – whenever it’s needed. If organizations only require 200 GB of space for nine months of the year, then get what you need for as long it’s needed and certainly hold off purchasing more than required in advance!

Assuming You Can Bring Your Own Licenses To The Cloud (BYOL)

If you assume you can bring your own licenses, then you are…not exactly wrong. For some software publishers, their contracts do allow you to move licenses from on-premise to the Cloud – but not always on a 1 to 1 instance basis. Other software publishers do not allow for license use rights to be transferred from on-premise to the Cloud – therefore putting you at risk of being in a non-compliance position with that vendor for the remainder of your contract term.

It is very important to do your due diligence in understanding your contract permissions and restrictions and plan the timing of a Cloud migration strategy accordingly. Not all vendors and products can move at the same time. Consider any applications that might carry sensitive data like patient records or customer credit card information, it is highly unlikely the publisher of that software will let you take that information anywhere near the Cloud. Such an act would prove a huge liability to you as well as to them since the Cloud has been known to have massive breaches in security.

For some publishers, you need to purchase specific Cloud licenses for a piece of software, and for others (to make things even more confusing) they offer a hybrid use right. There are also vendors like Microsoft, who will offer you the right to use their on-premise and SA licenses on their specific Cloud (Azure is one of Microsoft’s).

Service Provider Licensing Agreements are their own battle entirely. Service Provider Licensing Agreements permit a third-party vendor to provide the software to clients as a service. SPLAs usually acts as a monthly service provider and is flexible on a monthly basis. The problem is that these resellers are now also offering Cloud servers, but you will be on the liability-hook for anything that is running in your Cloud space.

Translation Error: Not Understanding How Your Licenses Will Change When Moving To The Cloud

When moving to the Cloud, many companies think that their licenses that they are currently using on-premise will seamlessly cover them for use in the Cloud. If you have 20 servers, you should be allowed that same amount of space on the Cloud, right? However, not all licenses are allowed to be used in the Cloud, so it’s important that you review your contracts and the use rights of all products you move to the Cloud to understand what you can and cannot do.

Otherwise, as you transition to the Cloud, you’ll come across a different licensing metric that will suddenly leave you with a few unlicensed servers or, even worse, in complete violation of the vendors licensing rules.

Let’s take Microsoft’s Azure Hybrid Benefits (AHB) as an example. AHB gives you some rights to use your licenses up in the Cloud, so purchasing it should mean that moving to the Cloud is made simple, but it’s not. You may be licensing your on-premise VMWare Servers with Windows DataCenter, and this would allow you to have an unlimited number of Virtual Windows Servers (VMs) on that single VMWare server.

However, if you have 20 VMs on the server, it might be easy to assume you can move all 20 VMs to Azure without paying for Windows Server Licenses since you have unlimited virtualization rights but this will leave you open for a big surprise. The truth is that the AHB only allows you to cover up to 2 VMS with the licenses that you are using to cover 20 VMs, leaving 18 VMs of Windows exposed to a license compliance gap.

Not Tracking Who Is Installing Software

Companies moving to the cloud often give their IT and development departments the ability to set up as many Cloud instances as they believe they may require, making it difficult to track who is doing what. Without any sort of administrative oversight, the potential to become exposed to disorganization can create a lot of unnecessary sprawl and forgotten instances left plugged into your environment that will be draining your budget quietly in the corner. In our many years of experience, we were once approached by a client whose software bills had spiked mysteriously seemingly overnight.

After doing our research, we traced the spending back to a single server belonging to a junior IT assistant. The junior IT resource, with a single click of a button, had accidentally turned on an unnecessary storage application that was now collecting data from the entire company. When the assistant had turned the storage app on, he had done so thinking that the product cost a little over a dollar a minute to run. Scaled up to the whole company though, that was an additional $4,000 a month, all because no one was monitoring what was being activated in the Cloud.

To make matters worse, according to Timothy Morrow from Carnegie Mellon University, the deletion of data is difficult to monitor on the Cloud. Once deleted, the process to ensure that it is completely removed and fully inactive varies from provider to provider. Make sure that whenever a project is set up in the Cloud, you have a system in place that can properly track it so that you can ensure it has been decommissioned once the project has concluded.

Not Monitoring Usage Regularly

This is another byproduct of not having any sort of administrative oversight around Cloud usage. If instances are established with no oversight they could be left running unknowingly. It’s important that you monitor the activities that occur in your space in the Cloud, that goes for usage as well as installation. Your financial department will be unable to calculate down to the number where and how all the organization’s money is being spent. They can only see the lump sum amounts that can be investigated if something is truly amiss. In any operation’s budget, Cloud expenses can come across as small expenses and can be easily overlooked until they expand into a big spending problem.

Potentially, the task of monitoring and authorizing installation use in the Cloud could be delegated to your Software Asset Manager. As companies are steadily picking up and moving their hardware to the Cloud, the same people that have to manage your software assets on-premise are going to have to learn to do the same on the Cloud. That way you can be sure you are only paying for what is being used.

While it may seem like everyone is heading for the Cloud, it is important to put proper planning/sizing and environment need analysis in advance of making the move. At Metrixdata360, we are quite familiar with these challenges your business will face as you move into the Cloud and as such, we have developed SAM tools that can help you counteract these challenges. We have a tool-set that can monitor your environment constantly to track a timeline of your usage so that you can see exactly where and when your money is being spent. Our main goal is to save you money and control your expenses.

For more information about our SAM services and how we can help you through your Cloud transition, click here.

How Much Does Hiring A Software Audit Consultant Cost?

Software audit engagements with a SAM Expert consultant, it sounds quite fancy, technical and expensive. Before a long, labor-intensive audit, you’ll come to the part that most people think about all throughout the process, waiting, dreading and hoping the consultant has accurately assessed your environment and their calculations are correct.

In this blog we are going to be answering a few common questions many businesses have about hiring an audit consultant. Is it worth the investment in hiring a third party? How much does hiring a software audit consultant cost? What is the industry standard of pricing for a software audit consultant?

What Is The Value Of An Audit Consultant?

The main job of an auditing consultant is to get you organized and ready for your upcoming audit. Their primary focus will be to save you money, energy, and provide their expertise.

Save You Money

The financial penalties a company can suffer due to lack of preparation and organization can be absolutely crippling. According to the BSA Global Software Survey, the global rate of PC software that was installed without proper licensing in 2013 was at 43%, making it an issue that impacts many businesses worldwide. A software audit gone sideways can leave a company with a bill that is anywhere up to 100% of their annual software budget (for some companies that’s $50,000 and for other companies, that budget is millions of dollars). Your business has hardworking employees to keep on the payroll and it would be a rare thing if you just happened to have that kind of money in your back pocket. That’s the main reason people hire software auditing consultants, to analyze the data (freeing up your internal resources) and to get your bill down to the lowest possible number. If your environment data is accurately inventoried and organized, it’s possible to hand over your data for an audit and have your vendor respond “You owe much less than we initially thought.” What a great feeling! Software auditing consultants can potentially achieve that result for you.

Save You Resources

One of the advantages to having software auditing consultant as a part of your team is how much time and energy you save. Software auditors can come into a company like an impatient tornado, wanting data to be gathered yesterday. These are the type of tasks that you can’t pass off to your assistant, the data gathered will be highly sensitive and can only be done by high-paid employees from every department, from IT to finances, legal to security, all the way to upper management. Software auditing consultants can streamline a lot of the data collection process because what the software auditors will ask for and what they actually need to run the audit are not the same thing. It drains the time of your highest paid employees by sending them off on fool’s errands. So as to prevent valuable internal resources from being consumed with collecting required data, software audit consultants gather your data for you, using their own finely tuned SAM tools.

Provide You With Expertise

Another great advantage of deciding to have software audit consultants on your team is that this is what they do; they analyze data. Compare it to use-rights, look at product bundles and figure out how best to leverage what you have, as opposed to what you need in the near future. Software auditing consultants dive into the data and effectively achieve a strong push back position, getting rid of all shades of grey in audit assumptions with clear, concise and accurate license inventory used during negotiations. Consultants can also prevent overspending, showing you not just where you are underpaying in your licensing but also where you are overpaying and where your costs can be cut and put back into your budget. They are with you every step of the way, so you don’t have to worry about software vendors pushing you around. Instead, you’ll be able to push back.

Who Is A Consultant A Good Fit For?

Companies that need software audit consultants come from all branches of every industry and range in all sizes. If you’re a single location or if your company reaches a global scale, as long as you have software licenses and the need to manage those licenses, you could probably benefit from the help that software auditing consultants can offer. In a survey run by Gartner in 2013, 49% of respondents reported experiencing more than one audit in the previous year, so it’s not a question of if you’ll be audited… it’s when. However, if your company is small enough that it only has a few licenses to keep in order or if your IT department is running flawlessly and they have the situation perfectly under control, then you probably won’t need the services a software auditing consultant can offer.

How Much Does It Cost?

There are many factors that can affect the cost at the end of the day, so to give you one price to fit every case would be inappropriate and inaccurate. It also doesn’t help the situation that most consulting firms will keep their prices locked away to whip out only after you’ve contacted them for a quote and after a five-minute sales pitch about all their fine services. Here are the factors that can drive up your costs:

  • Size: How big is your organization (how many software users)? This will affect the volume of data a software consulting firm will have to go through.
  • Vendor Type: What type of vendor are you facing down? Some vendors like Microsoft, SAP, IBM, or Oracle will have a more labor-intensive process compared to vendors like Adobe.
  • Timeframe: What is the engagement’s estimated timeframe? Some audits (hopefully yours) take two to three months, others can drag on for the better part of a year.
  • Consultants Payment Method: The method by which software auditing consultants can charge you could be based on either a flat rate, a contingency rate or based on the number of working hours.

A Software Audit Consultant With MetrixData 360

At Metrixdata360, we want to see you succeed by saving time and money. If you are interested in a software audit our engagements typically range between $35,000-$100,000 depending on each client’s unique environment (as discussed there are many factors that contribute to cost). That being said, most of our projects fall into the $75,000 range. Our preference in pricing is usually at a fixed fee.

After reading this you may have realized that you need the expertise of an audit consultant to keep you company on track. We would be happy to help you take the next step toward hiring the perfect consultant for your project. Get a quote now.

SQL Server Licensing Price Increase

We have done a significant amount of work with clients recently preparing them for the changes that Microsoft made to SQL Server licensing.  Contrary to how Microsoft has positioned these changes in the market, most of our clients have faced price increases of 50% to 100% or more on their SQL Server licensing costs!

SQL Server 2012 License Changes

During the launch of SQL Server 2012 we were given the impression that SQL was transitioning to Core based licensing to allow clients the opportunity to purchase based on capacity.  In other words, as servers become more powerful and virtualization becomes more prevalent – clients can virtualize their SQL Servers and license based on capacity (Cores in use in Virtual environments) or license all cores in a server and have unlimited virtualization rights (requires SQL Enterprise with active Software Assurance).  On the surface the concept seems to make sense and promises savings, but in practice it costs clients more for their SQL Server licensing. 

Consider the following:

1 SQL Processor license = 4 SQL Core licenses

SQL Server Core Factor

SQL Servers That Are Not Impacted

For older servers there is really no price difference as most of those servers are running less than 4 cores per processor (we will ignore the impact of SQL Enterprise Server/CAL model disappearing for now) and the price is the same.  For more details on how SQL Server 2012 licensing works you can download the SQL 2012 Licensing Guide here.

Servers not impacted

SQL Servers That Are Impacted

The challenge is that most new servers are running 6 or more cores per processor (many as high as 32+ cores per processor) and for each of these your licensing costs continue to multiple.

The only way to avoid this multiplying licensing cost effect of Cores is to consolidate and virtualize your SQL Servers.  This is easier said than done as many of the applications that reside on these servers do not allow for deployment under these scenarios.

How Will SQL Pricing Changes Impact Users?

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical client (these clients exist out there):

Here is the scenario:

  • In 2nd year of an Enterprise Agreement
  • Currently have SQL Standard Servers, SQL Enterprise Server and CALs (for all users) on their EA
  • Have a SQL Standard Server Processor license but no SQL Enterprise Processor and no step-up option (to allow a move from SQL Standard to Enterprise)
  • Deploying a new “internal use only” SQL 2012 Enterprise that will be on a cluster of 2 servers with 32 cores each (total of 64 cores) deployed physically
  • Would normally purchase a SQL Enterprise Server and use all their CALs that they currently own to license this application

Worried that you are not licensing SQL Correctly?

Click here for information on our SQL Server License Optimization services.  



SQL Enterprise Server CAL Eliminated

Upon the launch of SQL 2012 Microsoft eliminated SQL Enterprise Server/CAL option. The only way to purchase SQL 2012 Enterprise is via Core licenses.

SQL Server CAL

SQL Server/CAL Licenses

Can’t this EA customer just use their SQL Server Enterprise Server CAL licenses?  That’s a great question! Let’s look at what the SQL Server 2012 licensing rules state for this client:

“SQL Server Enterprise Edition Customers Licensed Under the Server+CAL Model

As of July 1, 2012, Microsoft will no longer be offering SQL Server Enterprise Edition under the Server+CAL license model. Current customers with active SA coverage for existing SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition server licenses should consider the following when transitioning to SQL Server 2012:

SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition server licenses will be available on price lists through June 30, 2012. EA and EAP customers with active agreements on this date can continue purchasing new licenses until the end of their current term.

After their current term expires, SA coverage can be renewed and maintained on SQL Server Enterprise Edition server licenses to provide continued access to SA benefits, including License Mobility rights and access to future releases.”

Sounds good so far, doesn’t it?  

Lets continue:

“SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition software licensed under the Server+CAL model is restricted to only run on servers with a total of twenty cores or less: There are now two versions of SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition software: a server-based version and a core-based version. Customers must run the software version for which they are licensed.

For customers running SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition server-based software instances in a physical environment, that OSE is only permitted to access a maximum of twenty physical cores. A per instance technical limit is also enforced.”

WHAT!!!!  They limit it to 20 Cores?????

Yes that is correct! This customer cannot license their new deployment via server/CAL even though they have an active EA because the server will use more than 20 cores (they are running 32 Core servers).



How Much Does SQL Server Cost Now?

Under an EA Level A they would have trued up 2 x SQL Server Enterprise for approximately $30,000 total (for the 2 licenses)

But instead:

Microsoft’s suggested solution is to sign an EAP Agreement for this purchase (positioning this as if the client will save 40% off list) as follows:

EAP Agreement – 32 x SQL Enterprise 2 pack Core licenses 3-year total approximately $480,000

The CIO is rightfully upset.  His $30,000 budget was just blown by 16x for this purchase!



SQL 2014 License Change

With the launch of SQL 2014 Microsoft made another significant license change – they removed the right to only pay for the Active Server in an Active Passive Cluster.  They instead added this into Software Assurance (SA) Benefits. So previously you only needed to license the Active side, regardless of where you had SA or not. This change forces you to purchase SA for the Active side of the cluster.

How To Avoid SQL Server Price Increases

The question one needs to ask is if SQL is giving the company a 16x better return than it would have before June 30th?  Nope! Is Microsoft doing him a favor with the EAP offer? Nope! 16x over budget is 16x over budget. We’re not talking a 10% price increase here and this is hard dollars!

So what should this client do?  

What should you do if you find yourself in this situation or a similar situation?

SQL Server License Optimization Services

SQL Server is one of Microsoft most confusing licensing models.  It also is one of their most expensive products. This is why we developed a SQL Server Optimization Service.  Utilizing our proprietary developed licensing tool, you can rest easily knowing that you are licensed in the most optimal manner.  If you’d like to read more or the tool, please check it our here or if you are interested in having a call with one of our SQL Licensing experts please feel free to hit the talk with an expert button on the side to schedule a call.

Changes to Microsoft SA Benefits: Do They Impact You? (VIDEO)

Why Microsoft Software Assurance Benefits Matter

Microsoft announced that they would be making more changes to their Software Assurance Benefits (SA Benefits) Program in September of 2019. This is not the first time (nor will it be the last time) that Microsoft has made changes to their program. In 2018 for example, they made a change to the Home Use Rights that were part of their SA Benefits.

Although the announcement was made already, the changes do not start to take effect until February 1st, 2020 with some of them having little to no impact on certain customers until January 1st, 2022.

Changes were made to 3 of the SA Benefits:

  • Deployment Planning Services
  • Training Vouchers
  • 24×7 Problem Resolution Support

In this blog we are going to look at the recent changes Microsoft has announced to the SA Benefits Program. Specifically we will look at the changes to Deployment Planning Services, Training Vouchers and 24 x 7 Problem Resolution Support.

How Do You get SA Benefits?

Customers who purchase Software Assurance through Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Programs receive various benefits based on what products they purchase Software Assurance (SA) on. The quantity of each benefit you earn is outlined in the Microsoft Product Terms.

Deployment Planning Services Microsoft will be retiring Deployment Planning Services (DPS) over the next 2 years and moving customers to their FastTrack Program. Microsoft is making this change to align themselves more closely with their goal of driving adoption of their cloud products (Microsoft 365, Azure and Dynamics 365). Many customers in the past took advantage of DPS, as it allowed them access to Microsoft Consulting or Partner Services to assist with deploying Microsoft technologies.

Key Dates For Changes To The DPS

    • February 1, 2020 – all Cloud Services will be removed from the DPS catalog. If you want Cloud Services after this date, you will have to access them through the FastTrack program.

Note: Some customers elected to transfer their training vouchers in a 3:1 ratio to DPS credits. You will only have until this date to this after which you will no longer be able to trade in training vouchers. If you want to do this, it can be done via the Volume License Service Center Portal.

  • February 1, 2021 for customers who no longer receive additional DPS days for incremental purchases or true ups, it will also be the last day that new/renewing contracts can create DPS vouchers.
  • June 30, 2021 – is the last day to create a DPS voucher for you to use. The good news here is that you do have 180 days to use a voucher from the date from the date you create it (meaning the last redemption date is January 1, 2022).

Training Vouchers

Microsoft is evolving its training platform, both online and instructor led. Microsoft launched its online training portal Microsoft Learn, which is focused on instructor led training through certification and role-based curriculum.


Key Dates For Changes To The Training Vouchers Will Occur As Follows

  • February 1, 2020 – All Azure courses will be removed as well as the ability to transfer to DPS as mentioned above.
  • February 1, 2021 – Customers will no longer receive new training vouchers for incremental purchases or true ups. It will also be the last day that new/renewing contracts can create training vouchers.
  • June 30, 2021 – as with DPS this is the last day to create a training voucher with 180 days to redeem it.

24×7 Problem Resolution Support

This change may be the one where customers feel the most impact, as our clients tell us it is the most useful of all the Microsoft Software Assurance Benefits. So, what’s changing with Problem Resolutions Support (PRS)?

  • Customers will no longer receive a limited number of support incidents (how many you received was based on your spend, program, and the products that you purchased). Now, as long as your Software Assurance Spend is annually greater $250,000, you will receive a new basic support offering.
  • Customers who spend less than $250,000 per year and who do not have a support contract with Microsoft will be directed to partner support or can purchase Support Incidents from Microsoft for a cost.

What Is Basic Support?

Microsoft has defined this as support during business hours with a 24-hour response time goal (Note that it is not a response time, but a goal, so it may be faster or slower).

Premier and Unified Support

Our clients received the most benefit from PRS when they converted their support instances to Premier Support. This conversion allowed them to reduce the costs of their Premier or Unified Support contracts, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Microsoft has stated that after February 1, 2021, PRS credits will stop, but customers who have purchased Unified Support will receive credits at that time. They have not provided any details beyond this.


Key Dates For Changes To the Problem Resolution Support

  • February 1, 2021 – Convert the last of your PRS vouchers to Premier or Unified Support credit.
  • February 1, 2021 – Customers will no longer receive new PRS Credit.
  • February 1, 2021 – New support model launch (Basic Support and Credits for Unified Support)

Are you looking at an EA Renewal? Worried that these changes to SA Benefits will impact you? We know this can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be, that’s why we offer a Microsoft EA Renewal Negotiation Service. Head over to our services page to get the help you need.

If you have questions or concerns about how these changes will affect your organization, please feel free to reach out to us by clicking this box. We’re always happy to take five minutes to help you.