What are Software Audits, and Why Are They On The Rise?

Recent years have seen an uptick in software audits, with more companies being asked to provide evidence of licensing compliance. This is largely due to the fact that organizations are now using more software than ever before, with an increasing number of employees working remotely.

Watchdog groups like the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the Federation of Software Theft (FAST) serve the sole purpose of ensuring the protection of software vendors’ intellectual property. These groups and software vendors are dedicated to discovering and auditing non-compliant organizations every single day with little to no notice. According to Gartner, the likelihood of an assessment for a medium to a large firm over the next two years is predicted to be 40%, which is expected to rise by 20% annually.

But why do software vendors act in this manner? 

Simply put, the main motivator is money. Revenue from software sales fell when the American economy saw a downturn and software expenditures were slashed. Software vendors were forced to hunt for alternative income sources when these profits started to decline. Audit fines and penalties of several hundred thousand dollars to even millions of dollars appeared as lucrative options for these vendors. According to the BSA, 25% of businesses that operate in the US are non-compliant in some way, costing software vendors an estimated $6 billion in the loss. 

 

What is a Software Audit?

A software audit is an assessment of a company’s compliance with software licensing agreements. Organizations that use pirated or unlicensed software can be subject to expensive penalties, including fines and damages. In some cases, they may even be required to forfeit their business’ computers and other equipment. 

 

How Do Organizations Fall Out of Compliance?

 The truth is that conformity is not simple. It involves more than just purchasing adequate licenses. Even techies typically struggle to completely comprehend software licensing laws because they are so sophisticated, and even when they do, modifications to the regulations occur so often that it is challenging to stay up to date. 

Most businesses lose their ability to comply with the rules when they lack proper record keeping and miscomprehend software usage rights. Both parameters are equally crucial to stay in compliance. The first approach is to have clear visibility into your integrated software usage. In the unfortunate case of your company being audited, this can be an added benefit because you will be able to provide records immediately and demonstrate your good faith efforts to adhere to the regulations.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to have an attorney or specialist who excels in contract negotiations. They can elaborate to you how you can lawfully utilize your software, saving you from involuntary non-compliance. Avoid attempting to resolve this on your own, as it is easy to misinterpret or fail to notice crucial facets of software use terms and conditions. For instance, there have been instances where a business has expanded internationally and had staff members using software in other countries. They believed this was acceptable since they had many licenses, but since those licenses were only intended for use in the United States, they were in violation without even recognizing it. 

 

How to Lower Your Risk of Being Audited

  1. Exhibit a Sound Understanding to the Software Auditors 

To show that you have a good grasp of your software agreements, it is crucial that you respond to any inquiries the auditors pose in an efficient and thorough manner. In order to achieve this, you’ll need a workforce in control of the project, a SAM solution in place to oversee your software inheritance, and frequent internal audit findings to get a complete picture of your software assets utilization. 

This is especially true if your business has just undergone a merger or acquisition or if it is a large corporation with numerous branches. Such circumstances will make you prone to disorganization, which in turn raises the possibility of overlooking factors important for compliance.

  1. Stay Prepared

Inform your staff on the importance of software asset management, and prepare a defense plan in case a software inspection occurs. Even if a software audit is conducted, a quick assessment with a few fines will show the software provider that you are not an easy catch. Preparing includes having your licenses in order, appointing a specific person to oversee your company’s software audit, and having an audit defense strategy in place. Knowing what to do will ensure that every software audit of your company proceeds without incident and with the least amount of damage possible.

  1. Be aware of your Software Architecture

Establish an efficient asset life cycle, along with a streamlined procedure to purchase and retire software resources to keep a close check on them. Failure to do this can lead to the acquisition of numerous unnecessary licenses, which quietly drain the company’s IT budget. Keep track of what licenses you have and how many licenses you need so that you can stay compliant. Additionally, make sure that only authorized users have access to your organization’s software. Implement user controls and set up alerts so that you can immediately spot any unauthorized access or usage. 

Often, the majority of software audits search in the company’s Active Directory (AD) to assess compliance. A company’s AD contains all devices and accounts—not just those that are currently in use—that have ever used their software resources. There will be ex-employees in your Active Directory, along with devices that have been gathering dust in the company’s store, and the auditors will claim that each of these entities needs a license.

 

Conclusion 

Monitoring your software resources will cost much less than having them audited. In addition to achieving compliance, successfully managing your software and how they are used also ensure that your software resources are used to their full potential. You may delete shelfware and restructure your agreements to ensure that every software program you have is being successfully utilized. Efficient asset administration has no drawbacks because the added administrative costs will eventually result in equal cost reductions. By making sure all of your organization’s software is properly licensed and keeping track of who is using it and when, you can help your company avoid costly penalties associated with non-compliance.

The Best Software Asset Management Tools

Best SAM Tools: Reviews, Pros, and Cons

Software Asset Management tools are great for tracking your software installations and making sure that you are within compliance with your software contracts. If you have a larger infrastructure, with thousands of devices to manage, then having an accurate depiction of your software environment without a SAM tool of some kind simply isn’t doable.

When used correctly, SAM tools are your best defense in any software audit that comes your way.

Picking a SAM tool that is right for you is critical to both ensuring that your Software Asset Management program is a success and avoiding wasting money on a tool that can’t deliver on its investment. There is nothing worse than purchasing licenses and paying consultants to implement the solution only to have untracked data crop up during a software audit.

At MetrixData360, we have worked with many software asset management tools that are in the market today, since our tool set, the SAM Compass, is capable of both acting as your only SAM tool and working in tandem with any SAM tool that is already implementing into your software estate. Having worked with so many different SAM tools, we want to help you make the right decision on which tool is best for you, so here is a review of some of the best SAM tools that are currently available.

Snow Software: Snow License Manager

About Snow Software

Snow is an international consulting firm that offers many different services, their diversity can’t be overstated as they are involved with software asset management, audit defense, licensing and risk management. They also have developed their own SAM tools that you can purchase, their main product being their License Manager.

Benefits of Snow Software

The Snow License Manager provides a singular view of your data. It can track the lifecycle of your applications and has a built-in calculator that can effectively capture your licensing position, even across different licensing metrics. The program is fast and can automatically identify more than 95,000 software publishers and over 550,000 applications. It also comes with flexible deployment options and can access your data from multiple points.

Drawbacks of Snow License Manager

According to reviews in Gartner, the downside with Snow’s environment is that it has been noted to struggle with accurately linking with the Archive Directory.

 

Who Snow Would Be Perfect For

  • Users of IBM, Oracle, and SAP
  • New users
  • Smaller companies with fewer than 500 employees</li

Certero Tools

 

About Certero

Certero is an international corporation with locations in North America, Europe and Australia. They value a more personalized approach, aiming for integrity, trust, innovation and tenacity. They are best known for their Cloud, Oracle and IBM software products.

Benefits of Certero

This product might not be as well-known, but it is very sleek and compact. Their SAM tool is easy to deploy, run and update with areas of expertise that goes beyond SAM. Certero offers full platform and full vendor coverage with license management optimization, and a maximum-security access control.

Drawbacks of Certero

One unfortunate flaw in Certero’s program that comes up in Gartner review are issues around sub-capacity counts within IBM’s ILMT. Also, according to The ITAM’s review, Certero AssetStudio Review, the self-help written content could be improved, meaning that you will have to rely heavily on the customer support team at Certero while you move up the learning curve.

Who Certero Would Be Perfect For

  • Cloud users
  • Oracle and IBM users
  • New Users
  • Companies on a budget

Flexera SAM Tools

About Flexera

Flexera has been in the business for thirty years, having managed over 30 million servers and devices throughout their history. They don’t just offer consultation and training but also their top-class SAM tool FlexNet Manager.

Benefits of Flexera

FlexNet offers an interesting ‘what-if’ analysis capability, so you can see how the changes to your hardware or software will impact your future licensing requirements. FlexNet has also been reported to be quite comprehensive in its data gathering so you will have detailed information on your software deployments.

Disadvantages of Flexera

The downside with FlexNet, according to Gartner Reviews, is that it is a complex software estate that might be difficult for new users and require significant investment in consulting and time to set up. FlexNet has also been reported to have some issues working with SQL servers, giving you less-than-accurate license reports.

 

Who Flexera Would Be Perfect For

  • Large organizations of more than 1,000 employees
  • Advanced users
  • CFO-friendly for projected return and costs

ServiceNow

About ServiceNow

is a global company that was placed as third on Fortune Magazine’s Future 50 List in 2019, which ranks companies on their position for long-term growth. ServiceNow aims to create a smoother digital workflow and prides itself in a high renewal rates and a history of creating strong business relationships with enterprise customers.

Benefits of ServiceNow

ServiceNow is an extremely popular product that has swept across North America, as seen in Gartner reviews. They have a strong foothold in IT Service Management and are excellent at ticketing. They are also looking to leverage this into the SAM space. ServiceNow offers training to their customers, so that you can be effective at using the product. Since it is a broad platform, it is also effective at tracking the life cycle and usability of software and hardware assets.

Drawbacks of ServiceNow

According to ITAM’s Review, ServiceNow (ITAM) Review, with a larger organization, ServiceNow can become complicated and difficult to manage due to the multiple layers of configuration. They also only offer a free Developer instance as a demo, which will expire after seven days of inactivity, and has limited data to test with.

Who ServiceNow Would Be Perfect For

  • Smaller businesses of fewer than 500 employees
  • Current ServiceNow customers
  • ITSM users

Aspera SmartTrack

About Aspera

This friendly consultant firm has been going strong for twenty years and maintains an excellent customer service reputation where their business resides, in Europe and North America. They aim to take SAM and turn it into something that is easily approachable and customer-oriented.

Benefits of Aspera

Aspera’s SmartTrack Manages offers a wide variety of vendors including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Adobe, Citrix, HP, CA, Autodesk, Symantec, Attachmate and Red Hat just to name a few. SmartTrack also has software normalization, filtering out the noise of your software inventory. The program has automated license re-harvesting and cloud management services to save you money. They are known to be quite user-friendly, with a free demo offered for potential buyers and information that is easily digestible.

Drawbacks of Aspera

Unfortunately, according to Gartner Reviews, Aspera’s unique compliance reporting takes some getting used to and full deployment into your environment takes time. Comments in ITAM’s review, Aspera SmartTrack review, states that Aspera would be better suited for a larger company with a complex infrastructure, which means if you are a smaller company with a more basic architecture, you might find that Aspera will be too complicated to implement.

Who Aspera SmartTrack Would Be Perfect For

  • New users
  • Environments with multiple licenses
  • Larger companies of over 1,000 employees

Xensam Xupervisor

About Xensam

Xensam has stretched across the globe in the small time it’s been active. The fairly new player only kicked things off in 2016. They focus on putting their customers first, offering to candidly compare themselves with their competitors.

Benefits of Xensam

Comments from Gartner Reviews have called the program very simple, polished and easy to use. One lovely feature Xensam has at their disposal is the ability to show actual active usage, while other SAM tools just track when the application is open, according to their Xupervisor page on their website. You can try them out for free, as a demo is offered.

Drawbacks of Xensam

As seen in reviews from Gartner and Capterra’s Xensam Xupervisor Reviews, Xensam only offers hardware information for certain devices, which might prove a troublesome gap of information in the case of a software audit. It also offers very few connectors to the Cloud vendors.

Who Xensam Xupervisor Would Be Perfect For

  • New users
  • On-prem environments

AssetLabs Prelude

About AssetLabs

AssetLabs comes with a very personal touch, taking great care to let you get to know their customers and their valued partners. They offer a variety of services including but not limited to audit defense, true up preparation, server optimization, and, software inventory normalization.

Benefits of AssetLabs Prelude

The benefits of Prelude are found in its wide array of services. Utilizing Prelude will get you customer support and free training. AssetLabs are certified by CSAM as experts to help manage your own SAM portfolio, tailored to your specific use. Their data connectors are free of charge, and the environment can provide quarterly or bi-annual ELP updates. Prelude is also great for categorizing and normalizing your software titles to match ISO specifications.

Drawbacks of AssetLabs’ Prelude

Some limitation of Prelude is in the fact that Prelude doesn’t do well with more complex license models like IBM, Oracle, and SAP. It also has no discovery model and therefore would need to rely on other tools to compensate. It’s last struggling point is that Prelude doesn’t have a SaaS application.

Who Is AssetLabs’ Prelude Perfect For?

  • Learners in the Licensing Industry
  • New users
  • Companies who do not want the large costs that come with implementing a complex SAM solution.

For More Information About SAM Tools

Whatever SAM product you choose for your company, make sure that your product can suit your needs when it comes to your company’s size and your software vendors. Finding a SAM tool that can meet your short-term and long-term goals is important in ensuring your satisfaction with the product. For more information on how to purchase your SAM tool carefully, check out our article Things You Should Consider Before You Buy A Software Asset Management Tool.

Be sure that you ask questions and properly weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each SAM tool so that you are confident your license information is accurate and reliable.

At MetrixData360, we utilize our in-house tools to supplement any missing data your SAM tools may have failed to detect. If you’d like to find out how our tools can provide you any missing data points or if you’d like a chance to validate the accuracy of the SAM tool you have in place, clicking the link below will take you to Our Tools page.

Why Do Software Asset Management Tools Stink at Software Asset Management?

Why Are Software Asset Management Tools So Bad at Software Asset Management?

Software Asset Management Tools are all basically imperfect solutions to the challenging task of Software Asset Management.   We all want to know what software has been deployed and be able to correlate that with the licenses that we own.  On the surface it sounds pretty simple yet in our experience pretty much all Software Asset Management Tools are somewhat bad at Software Asset Management.   Here are the top 6 reasons that these tools fail to deliver on their promises.

Reason #1. Bad Inventory Data

The old saying “Garbage in, Garbage out” holds true when considering Software Asset Management tools.   Capturing accurate inventory data of what has been deployed on your network is a critical component of software asset management.  Some of the common culprits that cause the process to break down include inconsistent data sources.  By this I mean naming conventions.   If you have good process and discipline around this, it makes it much easier to accurately identify development and test environments for instance.

Reimaging can also cause challenges as they sometimes create a custom ID Tag as part of the reimaging process.  This can cause the asset to no longer be recognizable by the tool.

Reason #2. Failure to Account for Duplicates.

One of the most frustrating occurrences is when Software Asset Management tools double count the deployment of software assets.  We often see this happen when updates have been applied to software, but the old installation is not completely removed and replaced with the update.  As a result, many software asset management tools will count both copies of the software instead of just one.

Reason #3. Failure to Identify Development and Test Environments

A clearly defined production environment is so critical as the underlying software that is deployed is what the analysis is based upon.  Mixing production and non-production instances is often confusing from an audit perspective and could lead to software asset management tools showing incorrect licensing requirements based on flawed data.   We strongly recommend having solid naming conventions and, if possible, dedicated non-production environments.

Reason #4. Licensing Models Change

The only thing that is constant in software licensing is that licensing models change and sometimes with very little to no notice at all.  This is a huge challenge for software asset management tools.   For example, in the last few years we have seen Microsoft SQL Server change to Core Based licensing from per CPU/Per Named User/Device.  In addition, traditional software licensing models are increasingly being turned on their head as cloud computing becomes and more prevalent.  Remember that each and every software vendor has a unique licensing model that can change at any time.  We are also seeing vendors focus on the installation of software on a server accessible by a community of users.

Read About the Dangers of Audit From Smaller Software Vendors

The point is that these models are constantly in flux and most software asset management tools are somewhat static.  In order to get good data a separate optimization process is usually required.

Reason #5 Virtualization and Cloud Models Add Complexity.

On the surface it would seem that cloud computing could have the potential to make software asset management somewhat obsolete.   Unfortunately, the reality is that it had increased the complexity involved in software licensing and inventory.  Most mid-sized to larger organizations operate hybrid cloud environments in which workloads and assets transition from being cloud based to on premise and back again.   Hybrid cloud environments are an absolute necessity for most organizations, but they dramatically increase the complexity of software asset management and licensing in general.  For more information check out this webinar we recorded about it.

Click Here to Watch

Reason #6 OEM and Retail Box Purchases

OEM and retail box purchases of software can also confuse software asset management tools.   In the case of OEM licenses, they arrive in the environment with the purchase of new hardware.  Depending on the vendor you may or may not uplift them to volume licenses or you may just let them exist as standalone installations.  The problem will be that if they continue to exist as OEM licenses they will not appear in your volume licensing statements and will cause reconciliation and potentially contractual issues for your organization.  The same holds true for retail box purchases.  Furthermore, both OEM and retail box licenses may have very different rules in terms of usage than volume licensing.

What’s the solution?

The bad news is there isn’t a single software asset management tool that truly automates software asset management and does it well.   At MetrixData360 we developed a managed service called SAM Compass which provides you with the best of both worlds.  SAM Compass combines inventory tools with licensing optimisation and then adds software licencing expertise to provide a holistic solution.

Want to learn more about SAM Compass?  Click Here and Scroll Down

Register for our SAM Compass Webinar Here!

Further Reading

 

Flexera’s Initiative with Microsoft a Silver Bullet for Software Audits?

Microsoft and Flexera recently announced a partnership that they claim will use a standard set of software asset management tools.  Click to Read Article

Customers who deploy both Flexera’s FlexNetManger Suite and Microsoft’s Intelligent Asset Manager (part of SCCM) would be allowed to set an “agreed upon ELP baseline”.  An ELP is an Estimated License Position that shows you how your licenses owned relate to your software deployments and outline any overages or license shortfalls.  This announcement does not state if this “agreed upon ELP baseline” will be documented in any contracts.

At Microsoft Inspire 2017 conference Flexera CEO Jim Ryan described the program like an electrical provider, stating that to audit electricity consumption you simply attach a meter and bill accordingly to the meter.

Three issues were identified in the aricle:

#1 Near Term Exposure:

The cost to deploy the Flexera-Microsoft tool would need to be accounted for.  It is also indicated that this deployment would likely be done by either Flexera (with the clever nickname FlexeraSoft) or Microsoft looking over your shoulder.  This would mean that once the tool or meter is installed any licensing exposure could be agreed upon immediately causing the company to remedy any shortfalls right away.

#2 Long Term Exposure:

The question posed is what exactly will this tool be measuring?  Microsoft has in the past promoted Unified Logic’s Movere tool which is said to monitor the high-water mark of software usage.  The challenge with this approach is that spikes in product usage could be attributed to changing configurations.  These changes may not necessitate purchasing licenses however.

#3 SAM Tools Can and Do Fail:

It is next to impossible to create a SAM tool that does it all.  Since Flexera and Microsoft are developing this tool it is likely that the programming will be done to their favor not yours.  They also tend to operate under the paradigm that you can just do this and ignore important things such as your security protocols when pitching the simplicity of this program.

MetrixData360 and others have SAM options that are independent of Microsoft and we suggest that anyone considering this offering careful review their options before going with a vendor supported (in their favor) solution.

Click here for more details.

Google Introduces Chrome Enterprise subscriptions for $50 per Chromebook per year

Organizations should be ready for Chromebooks to hit their organization and Google is going to take a swat at Microsoft with a new bundle of services that put the Chromebook on par with Microsoft Windows.  Chrome Enterprise will provide management features to allow for support of a fleet of Chromebooks, virtualized desktop applications and theft prevention to name just a few.  In addition it includes one of the most important features: authentication to Microsoft’s Active Directory!

The price for this service is $50 per year per managed Chromebook.  Google did not state if large Enterprises will be eligible to receive discounts on this price.  Google will be also adding support for enterprise mobility management into Chrome OS with this launch with VMware Airwatch to start and other EMM providers to follow.  This move is seen as giving organizations an opportunity to utilize low-cost Chromebooks in their enterprises instead of Microsoft Windows.  The cost of $50 per year may seem high but many organizations are paying $84 or more for Windows Enterprise E3.

MetrixData360 is seeing more large organizations looking for ways to decrease hardware costs and this announcement from Google may be a step in that direction.  Anyone looking to decrease licensing and overall costs may want to seriously look at Chrome Enterprise.