The Microsoft Licensing Corner #1

Are you at risk for compliance drift?

As Microsoft software consumers, we understand that software audits are part of the deal. Inevitably, there will come a time when we need to prove that we have the right licensing to cover what we’re using. We know you’re not deliberately gaming the system or installing software you haven’t paid for. What you will have to watch out for, though, is compliance drift—a slow slide out of compliance as a variety of factors change. And it’s best not to wait for Microsoft to ask, cajole, or prod you to engage in a software audit. So that you can stay one step ahead of Microsoft, I’ve put together five ways to identify if you’re at risk for drifting out of compliance.

Compliance drift happens slowly in certain segments of an IT environment where day-to-day actions, such as replacing hardware, spinning up new servers and VMs, integrating secondary devices, etc., may inadvertently cause a gradual drift out of compliance. This can be compounded by the fact that licensing rules frequently change as well—what may be perfectly fine with version X, is now not the case with new version Y. With all these moving parts, compliance drift can happen to anyone, Based on what we are seeing in various organizations, we can identify some common risk factors:

1. The absence of a reliable on-going asset management tool or lack of personnel to monitor the data from such a tool.

2. A lack of clarity into your current licensing position—not knowing your current license inventory: products, versions, editions, etc.

3. A high volume of OEM and retail product for non-Windows software. Do you have OEM Office Home, retail Visio 2007, Office Home and Student, etc.?

4. High turnover in the IT department. There’s a phenomenon called “diffusion of responsibility”: in situations where licensing responsibility has frequently shifted from one person to another, we often find compliance nightmares.

5. A lack of Microsoft licensing expertise. No one knows everything about Microsoft licensing, but if nobody in your organization knows, for instance, the difference between a User CAL and a Device CAL, you may find yourself drifting.

If you have one or a few of these risk indicators, it may be a good time to reach out to the Microsoft licensing specialists at PC Connection to talk about your compliance status. And don’t worry. We’re not the compliance police: we will never disclose any details to Microsoft that you do not wish to be communicated. 

Also, if you think that you have an area of concern with regards to compliance (i.e. SQL sprawl, server virtualization, OEM and Retail histories, etc.), there are several ways that a good software advisor can help you clean things up. Some customers may require a full-blown SAM engagement—start to finish—with one of our experienced SAM pros. But others may just need a SQL reconciliation, or quick gap analysis. Here are a few helpful examples:

License Reconciliation Report for Software Asset Management Assessment
Software Compliance Reporting - Licensing Reconciliation Checklist
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