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.

Bring Your Own License (BYOL) Rules on Third-Party Cloud Providers

Bring Your Own License (BYOL) Rules on Third Party Cloud Providers

Software licensing is ridiculously confusing, and its hyper complexity is not slowing down anytime soon. This confusion can easily lead to overspending, which equates to more money in the software vendor’s pockets, taken at the expense of your company’s software budget. how does overspending occur? One key reason behind our client’s overspending stems from the complexity of Bring Your Own License rules (BYOL) on their third-party cloud providers. 

At MetrixData360, we have helped hundreds of companies save millions of dollars, in this article, we will clear the waters by showing you the steps you can take to mitigate any potential areas of overspending in your software licensing environment.

 

 

 

Rule Change 

Microsoft changed its rules as of 1st October 2019 around how Microsoft products are licensed in 3rd party hosting scenarios.  These changes primarily impact AWS, Google, and Alibaba clouds (although others are affected).  The concept of Bring Your Own Licenses (BYOL) is influenced significantly by these changes.  Before these changes, as long as you had hardware dedicated to your use (i.e., were not using shared infrastructure), you could BYOL now.  With these changes, you may be required to purchase subscription licenses for these products through the hoster (e.g., Windows Servers, Office).  Specific versions may still be licensed via BYOL if licenses were acquired for those products before October 2019 or on a contract still active as of October 2019. 

 

To understand these rights, you must review the Microsoft Product Terms.  Below are the relevant sections: 

 

 

  1. Customers may use the server software on a Licensed Server, provided it acquires sufficient Server Licenses as described below. 

 

A Licensed Server is: 

A Licensed Server means a single Server, dedicated to the Customer’s use, to which a License is assigned.  Dedicated Servers that are under the management or control of an entity other than the Customer or one of its Affiliates are subject to the Outsourcing Software Management clause.  For purposes of this definition, a hardware partition or blade is considered to be a separate Server. 

 

 

The Outsourcing Software Management clause states: 

Customers may install and use licensed copies of the software on Servers and other devices that are under the day-to-day management and control of Authorized Outsourcers, provided all such Servers and other devices are and remain fully dedicated to Customer’s use.  The customer is responsible for all of the obligations under its volume licensing agreement regardless of the physical location of the hardware upon which the software is used.  Except as expressly permitted here or elsewhere in these Product Terms, the Customer is not permitted to install or use licensed copies of the software on Servers and other devices that are under the management or control of a third party. 

 

Authorized Outsourcer means any third-party service provider that is not a Listed Provider and is not using Listed Provider as a Data Center Provider as part of the outsourcing service. 

 

AWS is a Listed Provider.  Next, we need to determine if we have a right to utilize software at the Listed Providers through Microsoft License Mobility through Software Assurance right: 

 

License Mobility through Software Assurance 

Under License Mobility Through Software Assurance (SA), Customer may move its licensed software to shared servers under any of its Licenses which are designated as having License Mobility for which it has SA, subject to the requirements below.  Products used for Self-Hosting may be used at the same time under License Mobility through SA rights, subject to the limitations of the Self-Hosting License Terms.  

 

Permitted Use: 

With License Mobility through SA, Customer may: 

      • Run its licensed software on shared servers;  
      • Access that software under access licenses and for which it has SA, and under its User and Device SLs that permit access to the Products;  
      • Manage its OSEs that it uses on shared servers; and/or  
      • Manage its OSEs that it uses on its servers using software that it runs on shared servers. 

 

Requirements: 

To use License Mobility through SA, the Customer must: 

      • Run its licensed software and manage its OSEs on shared servers under the terms of its volume licensing agreement;  
      • Deploy its Licenses only with Microsoft Azure Services or qualified License Mobility through Software Assurance Partner; and 
      • Complete and submit the License Mobility Validation form with each License Mobility through Software Assurance Partner who will run its licensed software on their shared servers. 

 

License Mobility allows for use on a shared server.  Products that have this right associated with them allow BYOL (as long as you have active Software Assurance).  Next, we need to see if a product has Server Mobility.  For Windows Server: 

 

4. Software Assurance 

 

Windows Server does not include License Mobility rights.  For Windows Server (or any product without License Mobility), this means BYOL is only available for versions that were released before October 2019 and for which licenses were acquired prior (or on active contracts as of October 2019) to October 2019 

 

 

Please refer to the current Product Terms to ensure this info is still accurate as Microsoft makes changes frequently to their licensing rules. 

 

Start Saving on Your Software Licensing

Being able to cut software licensing costs will mean money back into the IT department for smarter and more innovative investments. This can be done by tracking the life cycles of your assets through the successful deployment of an inventory tool (along with someone who can effectively read it), through having a clear understanding of usage during contract negotiations, carefully considering your migration to the Cloud, and by conducting internal audits to ensure compliance.

At Metrixdata360, we can help you cut down your costs to save you from unnecessary drains on your budget and potentially heavy audit penalties. Don’t put off saving money, get your free consultation today!

AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud: A Cloud Service Comparison

Azure vs AWS vs Google Cloud:
What’s Right For You?

Deciding to move your company’s digital environment to the Cloud is no small task. When comparing AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud, there are several factors that need to be considered, including your budget and necessary functions for your business. Moving your environment to the Cloud can be a costly experience if done incorrectly, but in this cloud services comparison, we hope to help you avoid common pitfalls. Things like improperly sized instances, different licensing metrics, and unmonitored usage can trip up an otherwise smooth move to the Cloud.

While we most often are asked about Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), we also field enough questions regarding Google Cloud that it would be a disservice to not include it in this comparison.

At MetrixData360, we strive to help our customers find the right software solution for their environment while keeping costs to a minimum. We’ve helped companies make their move to the Cloud that you can find your perfect home in the Clouds.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Starting our comparison of AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud is Amazon’s IaaS offering. Having pioneered the industry 18 years ago, AWS currently dominates the Cloud market. In 2018, AWS generated $7.3 billion, making up more than half of Amazon’s total earnings for the year.

How Much Does AWS Cost?

One of the most appealing features about AWS is its more affordable pricing compared to its competitors. AWS charges a pay-as-you-go styled billing system that requires no upfront payments or long-term commitments, which can make it quite cost-effective for startup businesses on a budget.

Amazon is constantly trying to make AWS cheaper, decreasing their price on fifteen different occasions over the past four years. AWS also has a calculator that can provide a quote for your business.

How Secure is AWS?

AWS has built industry leading security infrastructure for their clients, claiming to possess the largest ecosystem of security partners and solutions. Their system is fine-tuned to prevent attacks, detect any suspicious activities, respond to incidents quickly and effectively and remediate your AWS environment.

AWS also offers courses to promote best security practices. AWS claims that its high quality security is similar to the security that would be available to you on-prem with the advantage that your AWS security can be scaled up to match your company’s growth.

What are the Leading Features of AWS?

Getting to start with AWS can be incredibly easy, barely any more trouble than ordering something from Amazon. You set your features, apply your payments to your credit card and email, and click “start.”

AWS also has a massive computing profile when compared to its competition, with hundreds of thousands of clients around the globe, the sheer scale of it is something to note along with the fact that it is accessible from over 190 countries.

What are the Disadvantages of AWS?

The main disadvantage of AWS is that the price you sign up for doesn’t cover the other services you might eventually need. AWS doesn’t offer customer technical support by default. Instead, it comes with an added fee.

There is also a cap on the resources on their platform. AWS does have resource caps to help avoid system overload, which comes with the added benefit of making sure users don’t tear through their IT budget. The cap is placed at a setting that the average user isn’t expected to exceed, and you are able to request an increase, but you’d have to pay more for the additional space.

Although it is easy to get started with AWS, it’s another thing entirely to actually understand how to run it. There is an expected learning curve while you get a handle on AWS’s platform.

Microsoft Azure

The second contender in our AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud battle of the tech giants is Microsoft’s entry. While Azure might be smaller and newer to the Cloud market than AWS, Azure reports that their Cloud business is growing at a faster rate than AWS did when it was at Azure’s size. However, the umbrella term “Cloud” includes several Microsoft programs like Office 365 and Dynamic 365, which makes it difficult to judge how Azure’s growth actually compares with AWS. This tight integration with other Microsoft products also makes it highly appealing to companies who already have Microsoft deployed in their software estate.

How Much Does Microsoft Azure Cost?

Azure charges based on the minutes of consumption used with the option for lump sum payments for short term commitments offered at a discount. There are many features that can affect your final monthly cost with Azure, including per-gigabyte fees that are applied to both storage and usage. Azure also offers prospecting customers a calculator to estimate your monthly cost.

How Secure is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft has invested over one billion USD into Azure’s multi-layered security system, proving it to be one of their main priorities. Roughly 6.5 trillion threat signals are analyzed on a daily basis in Azure through AI-driven security signals.

You can opt into certain security features when setting up your Azure account, which will increase the protection of your data. You can encrypt all your data stored on the server-side, which will prevent readable copies from being available if your profile is breached.

There is also an advanced-encryption standard, which is one of the more popular security options on Azure.

What are the Leading Feature of Microsoft Azure?

Azure hybrid benefits are easy to use and its system of high redundancy promises minimal down time. Azure’s storage also provides easy and painless access to files. Reviews also report that it is easier to set up, change and configure VMs to your Cloud estate.

What are the Disadvantages of Microsoft Azure?

While Azure offers many benefits to its users, it doesn’t offer to manage your company’s data. Activities like server monitoring and patching will still have to be done in-house or outsourced to another vendor.

There is also a steep learning curve that comes with the management of this network and compared to other platforms it is more difficult to use.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud is one of the newer players to the cloud platform, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in the sheer volume of investment. For this reason, Google Cloud has massive projections in growth. Google Cloud enters the market with the vast technical expertise of having Google behind it, so how does Google Cloud fare against AWS and ?

How Much Does Google Cloud Cost?

When you sign up for Google’s free trial of Google Cloud, Google will actually provide you $300 worth of credits to spend on their Cloud. Google Cloud also provides their potential clients with a calculator, in order to determine their end price.

Google charges per minute use and offers sustained-use discounts after a certain product is used more than 25% of a month. There are many potential variables to affect the end price with Google Cloud.

How Secure is Google Cloud?

Google Cloud security comes with an edge over its competitors by offering its customers the choice between letting Google Cloud manage your profile keys or letting you manage your own. By managing your own, you can quickly rotate through keys, dispose of old keys, manage key permission, and audit key use.

If you chose to enable two factor authentication (2FA), it will provide you with an additional layer of security so that even if a weak password is cracked, your system will not be exposed to hackers.

What are the Leading Features of Google Cloud?

One feature programming customers will enjoy is the fact that Google’s Cloud functions are written in JavaScript (Node.js), Python, and Go. The platform utilizes some of the most popular languages in use today, giving developers an ease of access that other platforms lack.

You are also allowed to use all your GCP, Firebase, Google Assistant, and 3rd-party Cloud services as building blocks to construct your Cloud empire.

What are the Disadvantages of Google Cloud?

The main disadvantage with Google Cloud comes from the fact it’s newer to the market and therefore lacks many of the advanced features that AWS and Azure have in their tool belts. For this reason, many clients chose to use it as a secondary provider, hosting some of their data on Google Cloud and the rest elsewhere on a more robust platform. As the platform continues to grow, however, there is a good chance that Google will be developing similar features to flesh out their cloud platform.

AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud: Who is Right for You?

Moving to the Cloud should be quick, painless, and cost effective but we all know that life doesn’t always work that way. This is why it is always best to do your research beforehand and make a calculated decision that is best for your company. Ultimately, the best choice for your environment boils down to your needs: budget minded users will likely be drawn to AWS, but those with a Microsoft heavy environment may be drawn to Azure for its integration with other Microsoft programs.

At MetrixData360, our goal is to help you make smarter spending decisions when it comes to your software, so that you are only paying for what you need. If you would like to learn more about how MetrixData360 can help your company make a smooth transition into the Cloud, click the link below to check out our Service Page.