Migrating SQL Server to the Cloud Like a Pro

Moving your SQL Server to the Cloud, that devilish concoction of riddles and frustration, might be a little harder than anticipated. There is a lot to figure out, such as providers, solutions, and options — so many options. At MetrixData 360, we often assist our customers in migrating to the Cloud successfully, primarily in making sure their transition is adhering to the rules of their software vendors and to make sure they are moving in the most cost-effective way possible.

So, in this article, we’ll be discussing how you can successfully move your SQL Server into the Cloud and some of those juicy options you have at your disposal.

Why Migrate Your SQL Server to the Cloud?

Before you go through all the trouble of moving your SQL Servers to the Cloud, it is important to ask why you would even want to do something like that when you already have a SQL Server on-prem that works just fine.

  • Future-proof your software infrastructure:
    • It is clear that the Cloud is where the business world is going, and the pandemic of 2020 has only sped up this transition. It is also clear that Microsoft’s goals are to operate and sell licenses exclusively in and for the Cloud, and on-prem products are being phased out of their lineup.

 

    • Scalability in the Cloud is so much easier: Your SQL Servers need to be as elastic as possible (especially in these times of uncertainty), and the Cloud typically allows you to adjust your Cloud sizing as you go along.

 

  • The Cloud is praised for having advanced security: Protecting your data is everything, and the top Cloud vendors are praised for having world-class security infrastructure.


Azure vs. AWS

While there are many cloud providers to pick from, there are basically two main Cloud providers that dominate the marketplace and serve as the only viable option for large international companies: Microsoft’s Azure and AWS from Amazon.

Both providers will allow you to move your SQL to their Cloud platform, and both offer your classic pay-as-you-go plan that is often found in the cloud, along with a variety of configuration types. So, let’s look at each platform’s SQL Server Migration Options and see if we can find one that is best for your business.

Related: How do the top three Cloud platforms stack up?
Check out our Comparison

Virtual Machine Configuration Types

Objective Description AWS Azure
General Purpose Balanced CPU-to-memory ratio. Ideal for testing and development, small to medium databases, and low to medium traffic web servers. T2, M3, M4 DSv2, Dv2, DS, D, Av2, A0-7
Compute Optimized High CPU-to-memory ratio. Good for medium traffic webservers, network applications, batch processes, and application servers. C3, C4 Fs, F
Memory Optimized High memory-to-core ratio. Great for relational database servers, medium to large caches, and in-memory analytics X1, R3, R4 GS, G, DSv2, DS
Storage Optimized High disk throughput and IO. Ideal for Big Data, SQL, and NoSQL databases I2, I3, D2 Ls
GPU Specialized virtual machines targeted for heavy graphic rendering and video editing. F1, G2, P2 NV, NC
High Performance Compute Fastest and most powerful CPU virtual machines P2, R3, R4, X1, C3 H, A 8-11

 

Recommended Virtual Machine Configuration Type(s) by SQL Server Edition

SQL Server Edition Virtual Machine Types (both AWS and Azure)
SQL Server Express General Purpose
SQL Server Web General Purpose / Compute Optimized
SQL Server Standard Memory Optimized / Storage Optimized
SQL Server Enterprise Memory Optimized / Storage Optimized / High Performance Computer

Azure in the Cloud

Microsoft’s Azure has currently three deployment options for putting your SQL Server Database in the Cloud:

Azure VMs

With Virtual Machines (VMs), you have access to the Server’s Operating System (OS) as if it were hosted in your infrastructure, allowing you the freedom to install all the software that you require, just so long as you have sufficient storage space. This solution offers the widest range of services, including backups, restoration, mirroring, detaching and attaching, log shipping, bulk loading, DMA/DMS, and replication. VMs are also excellent for almost every migration strategy and it is quite easy since it is the closest you can get to simply copying and pasting your old server into a new server. For this reason, it is the most popular option.

 

Azure Managed Instances

Manages Instances are a fully managed SQL Server Database hosted by Azure and are simply placed in your network. This means you do not have to worry about security, updates, or patches — all of which are handled by Microsoft. This solution is the next best option after VMs, since it has all of features listed above except for detaching and attaching, mirroring, and log shipping. It is fairly compatible with most strategies and a migration can expect few hiccups.

 

Azure SQL Server Database

Azure SQL Server Database is perhaps the most limited solution of the three, since this option doesn’t provide you with backups or restoration, detaching and attaching, mirroring or log shipping, it is also the solution where you are most likely going to run into issues. There are often issues surrounding security and infrastructure incompatibility which can halt the operation.

To assist in this migration, Microsoft has created the Data Migration Assistant, which is specifically designed to help you move your SQL to Azure by comparing feature parity and database compatibility, allowing you to better understand your unique deployment options.

SQL Server in AWS

Microsoft SQL Server is flexible enough that it can be moved to a host that is not owned by Microsoft, including AWS. There are a few advantages to picking AWS over Azure: AWS is larger, has more options, and it may already be the primary platform that your company is using, and keeping your operations on a single Cloud host will make your management of it that much easier.

AWS has two options when moving your SQL Server: Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS).

Amazon EC2

Amazon EC2 allows you to maintain control over every aspect of your SQL environment and it will run very similar to when your SQL Server was on-prem. This means that you can have your own database administrators and set up your own architecture. Availability, configuration, and backups with the EC2 will be up to you since you will be setting up your own database. Despite the fact that, in general, the RDS is more attractive, the EC2’s main appeals come from its full control, its greater variety of features, and its ability to exceed the maximum database size and performance needs of the RDS.

Amazon RDS

Where the EC2 offers an experience as close to on-prem as possible, the RDS is much more akin to your typical Cloud services, with pre-configured parameters and settings that are best suited for the SQL Server edition and DB Instance you select upon installation. RDS also provides you with additional features such as CloudWatch and AWS Management Console to provide you better control over your compute, memory, and storage capacity utilization. RDS takes care of things like patching, backup, disaster recovery, and event notification to ensure you’re up to date and running at peak performance while enjoying a hands-off experience.

Virtual Machines
Features AWS Azure
Product Names EC2 – Elastic Compute Cloud – Virtual Machines Virtual Machines
Commitment Types Pay as you go (on demand),
Reserved Instances (1 or 3 year terms for discounted rates compared to On-Demand pricing)
Pay as you go
Instance Types Standard (no control over which physical server hosts VM, Dedicated Hosts Standard (no control over which physical server hosts VM)
Operating System Yes Yes

Managed SQL Server Database(s)
Feature AWS Azure
Product Name RDS – SQL Server SQL Database
Availability Single AZ (one server), Multi AZ (SQL Server mirror across multiple servers) Standard, Premium (High Availability)
Editions Express, Web, Standard, Enterprise
Versions 2008, R2, 2012, 2014, 2016
Max Databases Per Instance 30 Single – 1
Elastic Pool – 50-500 depending on level
Max Storage 4 TB Single – 2 GB to 4 TB depending on level
Elastic Pool – 156 GB to 4 TB depending on level
Ease of Importing Databases Difficult/Complicated
No access to underlying OS so accessing the database can be challenging
Requires AWS S3 or Azure Storage Container (cloud storage)
Relatively straight forward
No access to underlying OS
Features/Limitations Support for native capabilities of SQL Server Edition (seamless migration)
No support for SSAS, SSIS, SSRS, DQS, MDS. These require SQL Server in Virtual Machine
Not all native capabilities of SQL Server edition supported (may require code modification and/or loss of functionality)
No support for MDS, DQS, or SSIS. These require SQL Server in Virtual Machine
Benefits Over VM & SQL Server Approach No overhead management required (OS/SQL Server patched, service packs, maintenance all handled by provider)

What Type of Licenses Will You Need to Move Your SQL Server to the Cloud?

SQL Server Licensing
Features AWS Azure
Provided by Service Provider Yes Yes
Client Provided
(with SA)
Yes with SA using Licensing Mobility Yes with SA using License Mobility
Client Provided
without SA
Yes (EC2 Dedicated Hosts only) No

How Much Does SQL Server in the Cloud Cost?

The question on everyone’s mind always circles back to price and how much it will cost you. As pressing as this question is, it is also difficult to answer since there are so many factors to consider that will be unique to your individual environment. Luckily, both AWS and Azure have tools to help you come to an estimate:

Related: SQL Server is one of the Most Confusing Licensing Models out there.
Check out our SQL Server Licensing Guide for an Explanation that makes sense.

 

Need Help Moving to the Cloud?

SQL Servers can be such a headache that simply getting them to work properly on-prem and ensuring they are licensed accordingly can be a task and a half. So, moving to the Cloud can be an intimidating process to say the least. If you find yourself in this situation of wanting to move your SQL Servers to the Cloud, know that it is possible, and you don’t have to go through it alone. At MetrixData 360, we have helped many of our clients get ready for the Cloud by ensuring your licenses will permit you to move safely and in a manner that will ensure your transition is compliant and cost-effective. If you would like to learn more about our Cloud Services, you can click the link below.a

What Are Azure Instances?

SQL Server Licensing Models

How to Purchase the Right SQL Server for You

The Psychology of Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreements

Licensing Windows Server Explained

Windows Server Licensing Explained

Windows Servers licensing is not an easy concept to wrap your head around. Next to SQL Servers, it is one of the most complicated licensing models Microsoft has to offer, perhaps one of the most complicated licensing models period. It might be as entertaining as watching mud dry and as complicated as today’s political climate, it can be mastered with the right tools at your disposal.

At MetrixData 360, we specialize in the toughest licensing that software vendors can offer, even software as complicated as Windows Server. So, we thought we would go over some of the basics you will need to know when ensuring compliance with your Windows Server licensing.

What is Microsoft Windows Server?

Windows Server is an enterprise-class server operating system, with the purpose of sharing services with multiple users and providing administrative control over storage, applications, and corporate networks. Since its release in the early 2000s, Windows Server has served as a critical element in the software infrastructure of many organizations to this day. Among the current Windows Server editions, each has its own slightly different licensing metric. Due to the nature of these servers, it can often be quite difficult to license them and to ensure one is properly licensed.

Types of Windows Servers

Windows Server Essential

Ideal for anyone anticipating eventual mobility into the cloud, this server has built-in integration with Office 365 hosted services.

Windows Server Essential follows a Speciality Server licensing model, meaning it is licensed per server. The upfront cost for Windows Server Essential, which is significantly lower than the other models, is the majority of what you will have to pay for the server. It’s priced as such because Windows Server Essential is unique in that there is no need to buy additional users or device Client Access Licenses (CALs) after the initial purchase. Instead, the server has a cap limit on the number of users and devices that can access it.

Customers can choose between using up to 25 named user accounts or installing Windows Server Essential on no more than 50 devices. For this reason, it is best suited for smaller companies that have minimal anticipated growth over the next two to five years.

Windows Server Standard Edition

Proving the happy medium between Essential and Datacenter, Standard Edition offers a solution that is similar in function to Datacenter but is closer to the cost of Essential, making it suitable for a medium-sized company.

It offers the ability to run two virtual machines, along with fully integrated services and direct access for users. It follows a core-based licensing model and requires CALs. Due to this fact, purchasing a Standard edition is a little tricky, since you must purchase 16 cores per server and you will also require additional purchases if the number of cores per server is greater than 16. If a business requires more virtual machines than the two offered by the Standard edition, then the Datacenter edition should be considered.

Windows Server Datacenter Edition

The most advanced and expensive of the Windows Servers, the Datacenter Edition offers the ability to run an unlimited number of virtual machines and can effectively meet the demands of large enterprises with larger IT infrastructures. Just like the Standard Edition, the Datacenter Edition follows a core-based licensing model. The greatest drawback of the Datacenter Edition is its cost, which is roughly eight times the original price of the Standard Server.

What is a Core-Based Licensing Model?

If you have Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Datacenter editions, then you will have a core-based licensing model. A core-based licensing model means that the number of licenses that you need is determined by the number of server cores inside the number of processors.

This type of model was introduced in 2016 with Windows Servers, and this was done in order to provide a more consistent licensing metric across Cloud platforms and to allow for easier cloud mobility.

The three basic rules that you must adhere to with the core-based licensing model are as follows:

  1. Every processor must be licensed to cover a minimum of 8 cores
  2. Every server must be licensed to cover a minimum of 16 cores
  3. All physical cores in a server must be licensed

When adhering to the core-base licensing model, you will need to first have a base license that covers 16 cores. if your server has more than 16 cores, any additional cores will require additional licenses. All additional licenses come in increments of 2, 4, and 16 cores. Additional licenses are also required when using more than two virtual machines (VMs) on a Windows Server Standard edition.

No additional licenses are required for VM’s that are run on Windows Servers 2019 Datacenter. Should you be running an application on the Windows Server such as a SQL Server or an Exchange Server, then the general licensing rules for the server application must be applied.

Related: Trying to get a handle on your SQL Server licensing as well? Check out our article: SQL Server Licensing Explained for a deep dive into Microsoft’s most complicated licensed product.

Client Access Licenses (CAL) and Remote Desktop Service (RDS)

After you have your cores figured out, you will need additional Client Access Licenses (CALs) to cover every user or device which connects to the server. CALs are distributed based on unique persons, described as users, or devices. It should be noted that depending on whether you choose to license per user or per device can greatly influence the overall cost of your licenses.

CALs can be considered keys, in that every person or device will need their own separate key to access the server, which will require its own license in the same way that a door requires a key for its lock.

CALs come in packs of 1, 5, 10, or 50. Once a user or device is given a CAL, they will have access to any Windows Server of the same edition or lower, so long as the server software is running on Customer’s Licensed Servers.
For example, a user with a Windows Server CAL 2012 may access a Windows Server 2008 edition or a 2012 edition, however, they could not access a Windows Server 2016 edition. Mixing and matching Window Servers and CALs can become quite confusing and you should consult a licensing expert before configuring your licenses in such a manner.

Remote Desktop Service (RDS) CALs, previously known as Terminal Services, will also be needed for users or devices who wish to access programs or full desktops remotely. Both a CAL and an RDS will be required for remote desktops, with the only exception to this rule being if two users or devices are accessing a server software but only for administrative purposes in which case there is no need for either a CAL or RDS. An RDS will allow the remote access of applications for a wide range of devices and network connections.

Windows Servers in Azure

Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure, has adopted the ability to license Windows Servers in its own complicated manner. There are many different ways to license your Windows Servers in Azure including but not limited to:

  • Building Windows Servers directly into Azure through the use of Azure virtual machines: this can often be an easy solution to implement, but an expensive one, as the cost of Azure virtual machines will simply be added to your overall cloud spending, which can certainly accumulate without proper regulation to limit rampant spending.
  • Hybrid Benefits: considered the new way to license, although, you will need to use your own activation method such as a KMS Server or a MAK key.
  • A License in Windows Server Cannot Move within a 90-day Period: it is important to note that license mobility and SA benefits do not apply to Windows Servers.

Virtual Machines and Windows Server

Simply because a server is only virtual, it does not remove the need for a license, as virtual instances of Windows Server must be licensed under its host, and the host license must account for virtual machines.

In the scenario where clusters of virtual machines are free to move between hosts, all potential hosts must be licensed as if they were the current host. There is no need to count the host operating system or provide it with a license as long as the operating system is used only as the hypervisor to run the virtual instances.

The exception for this scenario, of course, is Windows Server Datacenter editions, where each host only needs to be covered with 16 licenses, this will give them the right to unlimited virtualization.

Stacking licenses is the practice of using multiple Windows Server Licenses, either Standard or Enterprise, in order to properly license multiple virtual machines over multiple hosts.

It can be quite difficult to figure out the correct number of licenses to fully cover a virtual server, however, when this limit is reached the licensed host is considered licensed for capacity; the same is applied to a host or cluster which is described as licensed for capacity when it has a finite number of virtual servers allotted to it.

Related: Want to Learn More about Virtual Machines? Check out our article: All About Virtual Machine

Need Help With Your Windows Server Licensing?

Windows Servers are critical elements to your software environment; however, their usefulness shouldn’t be tempered by the difficulty surrounding their licensing. Having a strong understanding of what you need to buy and how best to buy it will give you the confidence you need when confronted by Microsoft’s sales reps.

At MetrixData 360, we specialize in difficult licensing structures, the likes of which would leave most people’s head spinning. Our licensing experts thrive in the most challenging of scenarios, and our SAM Tool is equipped to quickly handle the most complicated of Windows Server licensing scenarios.

If you would like to learn more about our services and how well we can help you license your servers in a way that can save you money while keeping you in compliance, you can check out our tool page using the link below.

What is Active Directory (and how to use it to save on Software Licensing)

What is Active Directory? The Active Directory is an extremely popular directory service used by the vast majority of Fortune 1000 companies in the market today. It is also perhaps one of the most critical elements within your software environment, so knowing what it does and how it can benefit your efforts in taming this unruly technological beast that is your software environment is essential.

The Active Directory can be a confusing place. However, at MetrixData 360, we often find ourselves working with our customers’ ADs and we know how overwhelming an experience it can be without the proper assistance or knowledge.

We know how an Active Directory works, and we know how to make it so that it can assist you in your software asset management efforts.

So, in this article we will examine the Active Directory tool: what it’s used for, how it works, and how it can be used in software asset management.

What is the Active Directory?

Active Directory is a feature of the Windows Server Operating System and acts as a critical element in many companies’ software infrastructure. For a Windows-based environment, almost all applications and tools are put through the Active Directory to allow for authentication and directory browsing. The Active Directory is broken down into two parts:

  • The Database:

The database is also known as the directory, which is comprised of the most critical info about your environments such as users, groups, their passwords, their computers and their licensing restrictions and their permissions (e.g. You can allow all employees to see your company benefits but only permit the financial team to modify the document).

  • The Services:

This controls all the activity within your IT environment. This is meant to ensure that everyone is who they say they are, ensuring passwords and ID are correct and limits user access to certain information (authorization).

You can see how critical an active directory is to a software environment and you can also imagine that stability, availability, and security must be a top priority for Admin staff regarding the Active Directory.

How Does Active Directory Work?

While you could write a small book about the inner workings of the Active Directory, to put it briefly, it does not benefit a company to have their computers operating independently from one another: there needs to be an element of connection, with the ability to share information while simultaneously controlling access to sensitive information that should only be viewed by authorized employees.

If all this information is stored in a central location, it can greatly improve productivity. Picture the AD like a phone book, matching names to numbers and locations (although that is only one of the things AD organizes). This pool of data is arranged hierarchically. AD has a few main structures it relies on:

  • Domain: Any related group of users, computers or other objects, there are also sub domains or Children of top domains, which may act as smaller groupings within the Domain.
  • Trees: Multiple Domains grouped together
  • Forests: Multiple Trees grouped together
  • Schemas: Definitions of all the objects which are used to make sense of the storage systems of every forest.

Active Directory in the Cloud

With the vast majority of modern businesses existing now in the Cloud to some extent, IT professionals may be wondering about how their Active Directory will be able to effectively translate to this new environment or if it will even survive the move.

Sadly, the Active Directory cannot easily be transferred to the Cloud despite the growing popularity of Cloud solutions among the IT department. This is mainly due to the fact that the Active Directory was first published in the late 90s, where the main goal was simply to get every office worker a computer.

The Active Directory helped to ensure that these computers were controlled and monitored under one system. While it may be difficult to move your Active Directory from on-prem to the Cloud, there is also the available counterpart of Azure Active Directory, which allows users that same level of control over external resources (Microsoft 365, Azure portal and similar SaaS applications) and internal resources (applications on your organization’s intranet and cloud apps developed by your own organization).

A basic version of Azure AD is available as a free feature to those who are subscribed to any Microsoft Online business service, with more premium versions requiring licenses.

Related: Moving to the cloud can be a costly occasion.
Here are a few hidden costs you should be aware of!

Active Directory and Software Asset Management

Because so much is stored in the Active Directory, many companies let their Active Directory become disorganized, and some companies do not allow easy access to their Active Directory.

The Active Directory, as a result of this lack of upkeep, could have large amounts of data that is dated and a record of assets that have long since been retired while still seeming as though they are in use. Despite this disorganization, the Active Directory is one of the first places that the software auditors look to when conducting an audit.

They will take the information stored in the Active Directory and build a compliance gap based on that information. This is why having a clean Active Directory that is up to date and comprised of only assets that are currently in your infrastructure is important if you want to avoid unwarranted auditing fines.

Your Active Directory also allows you to have a clear picture of all your assets in one place and as such can prove a valuable tool in your software asset management efforts.

At MetrixData 360 we often consult our clients’ Active Directory when we first begin cleaning up their assets. This gives us a starting point for what assets need to be hunted down, and what assets can be cleaned up.

Related: Ready to Get Started on Software Asset Management?
Check out our Beginners’ Guide to Get Started!

MetrixData 360 Active Directory Reporting Tool

Having a clean Active Directory is imperative in your efforts to keep your software environment organized and ready for whatever this tumultuous year can throw at your business.

At MetrixData 360, we have created our own tool to help with the difficult task of cleaning up your Active Directory. Our Active Directory Reporting Tool is specifically designed to be adjustable, scalable, quick, easy, and safe to use. Our clients have found our tool valuable in its ability to complete months of work in seconds.

An accurate depiction of what you have, what you need and what you don’t is at your fingertips with our Active Directory Reporting Tool.

For more information about what our Active Directory tool does, and to see it in action you can check out our Active Directory reporting tool page.

How to Avoid Overspending on Software Licenses

Why You’re Overspending on Software Licenses

Overspending on software licenses is a common problem many companies are confronted with. In fact, it is suspected that 93% of companies possess software environments that consist of up to 20-40% of unused or unnecessary products.

This is not a tiny sum considering many companies put millions of dollars into their software budget every year. But what is the root cause of this problem? And how can you proactively strive to avoid such a costly predicament?

At MetrixData 360, we’ve helped our clients save millions of dollars on their software licensing just by simply cutting away the excess they didn’t need. After reviewing so many of our client’s profiles, we’ve noticed a few commonalities. So, let’s take a look at what causes this bloom of unused licenses and how you stop its spread.

What Is Shelfware and Why Should You Be Worried?

Shelfware is a rather informal term in the tech industry that describes software or hardware that you have purchased but are not using. There are many reasons why this shelfware might manifest in your company:

  • The product does not have a complete life cycle and has not been retired or re-harvested correctly. Even though no one is using the hardware or software anymore, it is still considered active.
  • The product has been purchased in a bundle, a discount offer, a testing scenario, or simply as an impulse buy. Perhaps the company envisioned it being used for something or perhaps they thought they’d find a use for it later. Now however, it exists as excess beyond what the company initially needed and they continue paying for it.
  • Despite investing time and energy into planning, testing, deploying and developing a product within their software infrastructure, the stakeholders of the company just aren’t interested, and the software is shelved for the time being, if not indefinitely.

When your company houses significant amounts of shelfware, you run the following risks:

  • Security Risks: losing track of assets may leave them outdated and under-patched, and therefore exposed to potential security breaches. Few hackers will try to butt heads directly with your firewall; most attacks occur through old and forgotten software.
  • Financial Risk: the biggest risk of shelfware is a financial one: despite the software not being used, you are still stuck paying software fees in addition to continued maintenance.

Common Causes for Shelfware

Upfront Payments

This is a common tactic that the software vendors use — they often offer a greater discount with larger upfront purchases in order to obtain those enterprise-level deals.

This makes sense when you consider their motivations. Their goal is to ensure you are perpetually increasing your spending with them and to make their year-end quotas, so it will not make much of a difference to them if you end up making effective use of the software.

On your side of the table, you are optimistic that you’ll be able to use the extra licenses for something, if not now, later. Besides, it will be worth it regardless because you will have a better discount, right?

However, the result is a massive and growing stockpile of shelfware. It’s important that your discount is not your only goal during a contract negotiation. Instead, focus more on your company’s future growth and the exact amount of licenses you will need.

Related: For information on how to conduct a software contract negotiation effectively, you can check out our article:  Guide to Software Contract Negotiations

Compliance Satisfaction

Software audits are known to get messy. What usually happens is that the software vendors will send in their auditors. The auditors, who may very well have been paid based on the size of compliance gaps they can find, review your software environment and produce an inaccurately large compliance gap based on making conservative assumptions.

Since they assume the worst-case scenario and if you didn’t have a strong defense to counter them, then you likely had to settle the negotiation phase. This will be done by buying the number of software licenses you were told you owed, which turned out to be far from reality.

Since your compliance gap is overinflated, you have to overbuy on licenses just to satisfy the vendor and to bring the tedious audit to an end. This leaves you with far more licenses than you actually have a use for.

Having a strong software audit defense will give you the tools you need to prevent this fate. Imagine only paying for what you owe during an audit.  It’s possible, and if you’d like to figure out how you can get started on building out your rock-solid audit defense, you can check out our software audit defense page.

Licensing Metric

Every company is slightly different in the way their software environment is run and how it can most effectively be licensed. Certain licensing metrics, therefore, can prove more expensive for certain companies than others.

For instance, let’s say you are licensing a product using a per-user metric.The system that will be hosting the product is accessed by nearly everyone in your organization, despite the fact that only 20% of your employees will need to use the product.

In order to be completely compliant, you will need to find a solid way to prove that only certain employees are using the product without having to buy a license for everyone. It all depends on how your unique software environment is configured and it is important to take into consideration the multiple licensing metrics that your vendor offers.

Losing Track of Assets

One of the root causes of shelfware is not having a clear picture of what you have and what you need.

Many companies purchase based on what they have purchased in the past or based on an educated guess (we have 1,000 employees, therefore let’s get 1,000 licenses, done!). This type of oversimplified estimation puts you at risk of guessing too high or too low, both of which can prove costly and unnecessary.
Having a clear picture of your software environment will help to prevent shelfware through reharvesting old licenses and avoiding the purchase of unneeded new licenses. This is an area where Software Asset Management (SAM) can prove highly advantageous since SAM will give you a clear picture of everything you have in your software environment and based off of that, everything you need to purchase.

You can also use SAM to create a value gap.  An organization is made up of all kinds of employees, and each employee needs a different type of technology in order to get their work done. Some employees sit behind a desk all day, working on five monitors with the best technology at their fingertips while other employees spend their days on their feet sharing a desktop with five other employees.

Licensing all of an organization’s employees the same way will mean that the employees on their feet will get the same technology as the high consuming employee with five monitors, despite the fact that they will use it significantly less.

Hand-tailoring your licenses to match the specific needs of each employee type will greatly reduce your end cost, but the type of data you need to create this type of solution is only provided by software asset management tools.

Related: Want to Get Started on a Software Asset Management Solution? Check Out Our Article: Beginners Guide to Software Asset Management.

Underused Software

One simple remedy of shelfware is making sure that the communication chains are kept open between the people who buy the licenses and the people who will be using the technology.

Ask users their opinions on the technology and assess how useful it will be to their job. This will give yourself a clear framework on how the investment will better improve the productivity of employees.

Make sure that you provide effective training that teaches employees how to work with new software so that you can ensure the proper integration of the software into your organization.

Get the Software You Need and Skip Paying for the Extras

Shelfware is a common occurrence that organizations suffer from. It is an unnecessary and unseen leech on their budget. There is, however, another way of doing things, which will allow companies to effectively control their software spend without running the risk of software compliance. This involves creating an effective software asset management strategy.

At MetrixData 360, we have helped many of our clients create a rock-solid SAM strategy using our combined tools and team of experts, giving them peace of mind while they move forward in developing their organization’s technology.

How to Manage Your Software Licensing During a Merger and Acquisition

Mergers and Acquisitions often prove a messy juggling act of trading assets, people, and a boat load of documents, leaving you dizzy and uncertain about where anything is anymore.  While it may not seem that important with so much going on, many companies often neglect to examine how their software contracts will transfer between the acquiring company and the target company after the M&A is completed.  At MetrixData 360, we have dealt with many companies who have found themselves in this situation and confronted with a tidal wave of complications and licensing issues at the very last leg of their merger and acquisition as a result. So, to help you through this transition and avoid this fate, in this blog post, we’ll go through your to-do list for making sure your software environment is in good shape for the transition.  

  • Understand Your Software Licenses  

Even before the move has begun, you’ll need to know if you and the other company are ready and capable of the move. This requires you to have a complete understanding of your software licenses and those of your target. Here are just a few of the questions you should have the answers to before you complete your merger and acquisition. You can consult both of your active quantities and products in use to find solutions to these questions: 

  • When do you expect to integrate the new organization and their assets into your environment? 
  • Will your assets merge right away or will significant plans to align and merge be required?
  • Who are the key contacts at either organization who will be responsible for providing data and information on the software assets? 
  • Can you report on the licensing and quantities in production effectively? 
  • What publishers does the other company have in their environment?
  • What products are they using from their publishers? 
  • For each publisher, what volume license program are they using to acquire their licenses? 
  • Do they have any special instructions, amendments, or exceptions that have been provided by the publishers in question? 
  • What level are they regarding pricing tiers? For example, Microsoft’s EA has a waterfall pricing structure based on the number of seats you have. After the merger and acquisition, both of you may be pushed into a higher level with greater discounts. 
  • What is the start and end date of their agreements?  
  • How old is their technology? Will it be compatible with yours? If they have legacy software, your two environments may not even recognize the other’s existence.  

Determine Software Compliance for Both Companies

According to MetrixData 360’s own CEO, Mike Austin, one of the most shocking things we see many CIOs confronted with during or after their merger and acquisition is:

“The shattering of their previously held belief that the acquired company is compliant. They are not expecting to be weighted down with millions of dollars’ worth of compliance issues. While it may not always be that extreme, quite often the perfectly compliant company they were signing up for is far from what they’re actually getting. Since not all licenses are transferable, not doing an assessment of the acquired company’s licenses across all vendors is just inviting future massive and unbudgeted compliance issues later on.”

Since many software publishers have an “affiliate clause” or its equivalent in their contracts, this means that whatever compliance issues that the other company has going into this arrangement will suddenly be your problem as well.  Considering what a massive and unbudgeted expense compliance issues can be to companies, you should never complete a merger and acquisition without knowing where the other company stands with their various software vendors. If you don’t know what compliance issues the other company has, you’re bound to eventually find out. M&As are one of the leading factors that will initiate a software audit. 

  1. Contact the Software Publishers 

Each of your publishers and the publishers of the other organization needs to be contacted and you’ll need to get copies of the purchase history reports for both you and the other company.    These purchase history reports should include past purchases and current products with active support and maintenance. Most importantly, you should note any upcoming expiration dates your target has. You’ll need to work with each publisher one-by-one, starting with the ones who are closest to a renewal, and you’ll need to check what sort of new licenses you may need to purchase.  This can be a whole other issue since purchasing the wrong number of needed licenses could mean compliance issues or wasted licenses, both of which could prove costly to you.   A word of caution though: mergers and acquisitions can often trigger a software audit since software vendors will expect things to be disorganized and non-compliant immediately after the merger and acquisition is completed.  While this step needs to be done, you should be careful when approaching your publishers and letting them know you are going through a merger and acquisition. It may spark their attention.  

Related: Dealing with an Upcoming Renewal? Check out our Contract Negotiation Guide for some tips to help you save big!
  • Trim Back Unneeded Products and Services 

Once the merger and acquisition is completed, you may find that your combined software environments will have a lot of duplication in both licenses and services. There’s no need to have these competing elements in your combined software licensing environment as they will only serve as a waste of money and may cause budget issues later.   Figure out which products and services can be removed and discontinued between the two of you and which ones are going to be maintained in the shared environment. This can also be an excellent time to do some spring cleaning and find unused and unnecessary licenses in your own environment.  

  • Check Your Licenses for Transferring Legalities 

It’s important to determine the exact process each publisher has when it comes to how licenses will be correctly transferred over to the ownership of the new organization that comes out of your merger and acquisition. If the licenses that you were intending to move actually do not have transferable rights, then they will be essentially useless after the merger and acquisition.  You should also figure out how long the transfer process takes and when it can be started. And you’ll need to determine how easy new users can be added to the contracts or how critical software can be expanded into new environments.   You might want to make note of any clauses in your target’s contracts that state that you, as an affiliate, will be roped into any compliance issues that the target is experiencing. This has, at times, proven a deal-breaker for companies going through a Merger and Acquisition. One company finds out that the other company has millions of dollars in compliance issues, a burden they’ll now have to share, and they then decide to back out of the merger and acquisition.  It’s important to make sure you avoid this situation before you find yourself in the thick of it. 

  • Consider Future Growth 

With so many employees getting traded, let go, and moved around during a M&A, it will be important to map out any long term goals your IT team has for its software infrastructure, including any Cloud or Hybrid Cloud solutions. This will ensure clarity as new people are brought onto the staff and will help to ensure compliance through proper planning.

Measuring Software Compatibility Before a Merger and Acquisition

Mergers and Acquisitions can be a whirlwind of events and as much as it might add another insurmountable task to your plate, it’s important that you make sure your software environments are compatible and capable of blending properly.  We suggest that, if you are acquiring the company, you audit the assets you receive as soon as possible, either immediately before the merger is complete or immediately afterward. This way you can identify any data gaps in what you acquired regarding deployment or licensing. If you are selling your assets, you may want to audit the equipment which is being traded as a part of the divestiture to ensure you are transferring only the licenses that you need to transfer and nothing more. This includes desktops, laptops, and servers, etc.  Regardless of whether you are selling, buying, or a little bit of both, you need to make sure that you are prepared for when that time arrives, and MetrixData 360 is here to defend your interests. We’ve helped many companies get through their mergers and acquisitions while making sure they remain compliant and cost-effective. Make sure you check out our self-assessment service page for more details!