What is a Software License Compliance and How to Ensure It

This article explains what is a software license compliance and goals it has as the object. It provides an overview of license compliance tools and processes.

License policies are very complicated nowadays and even IT people may not understand the difference between concurrent, non-concurrent, volume and other types of licenses. Here is a very common software installation scenario when someone in the office installs the application required urgently using a serial key from another installation. Depending on a license agreement of installed software it can be a legal action or it can be qualified as a software license compliance violation. How to avoid such kind of license compliance problems?

Understand Software License Compliance Requirements

In order to ensure software license compliance across entire organization you need to perform software license audit in order to understand how many licenses for different software is owned and check license agreement type for every license. It is one of the most complicated and time-consuming part of a software inventory management, because you have to carefully check and note a license agreement for every software to be used on the next stages of software inventory.

At a first step you need to separate time-limited and perpetual licenses. Next, you can check types of perpetual licenses that can be valid for the particular version of a software or for all versions. Possible licensing types include per user (concurrent), per PC (non-concurrent), volume licenses (when one license is valid for a particular number of installations) and upgrades. Having all license types classified you can perform software license audit depending on a particular license type. For example, software with a concurrent license can be installed multiple times in case if it's used by the same user.

Perform Installed Software Audit

Another important information for software license compliance check is the actual number of installations for every software item. In general you simply need to count a number of installations of every version of every application in scope of entire organizations. If you have a software with the concurrent license you may also need to group installations by users that have an access to them. For example, someone can use the same application on the desktop PC and on the laptop, that is legal for in case of concurrent licensing.

How can you collect a list of installed programs from computers across organization? In general, all information that you need is available in the Windows Add/Remove Programs list, so you can create software usage report manually, but of course it will take a huge amount of time. Instead you can use one of the free software inventory reporter tools. These tools can collect installed software information remotely from network computers and export collected information into a file.

Analyze Software License Compliance

When you have information about all installed software across organization and a list licenses the organization owns, you can compare purchased licenses against your inventory to recognize what is in compliance and what is not. It will not only help to resolve license compliance issues, but can also save costs for software orders. You can identify how many unused software licenses you have and how and when software should be updated.

If you prefer to automate software compliance report creation, you can use a specialized network inventory software. Automated tools can collect information about installed software across network and also aggregate collected data by software items. They can offer advanced mechanisms to filter software that shouldn't be licensed, combine multiple software items into the one in order to show really relevant information. To build a license compliance report for every software item that should be licensed you need to enter a number of licenses that is owned. As a result you will get a report that displays a number of lack or unused license for every software item.

Freeware Inventory Utility

EMCO Network Software Scanner allows auditing programs and software updates installed on Windows PCs that are located in a LAN/WAN.

Useful Resources
  • WMI Reference contains explanation of the infrastructure for management data and operations on Windows-based operating systems.
  • Microsoft Script Center is focused on teaching system administrators how to use Windows PowerShell and other scripting solutions to reduce time spent performing mundane tasks.