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Avoid major fines for IT licence misuse

A recent story hit the headlines which saw a UK company slammed with a fine of almost £100,000 for using unlicensed IT software comes as a stark reminder of the importance of managing your IT property. The threat of prosecution is now greater than ever before with major software vendors cracking down on unlicensed use.

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A UK company was recently slammed with a fine of almost £100,000 for using unlicensed IT software. This comes as a stark reminder of the importance of managing your IT property and the threat of prosecution is now greater than ever before with major software vendors cracking down on unlicensed use. Here we shed light on the complex world of software asset management (SAM), explaining how to drive efficiency, save costs and avoid unexpected fines. The risks: Fines and reputation In short, all forms of IT software require a licence for legal use. The amount of software on the market is vast and varied which makes licence compliance a complex and time-consuming task. Many businesses overspend because they don't keep accurate records. They also struggle to work out which licences need reviewing and waste funds on unnecessary licences. To add to the financial risk of being caught without appropriate software licences there is of course the reputational damage. In the case of First Choice Facilities, the firm was forced to pay the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the leading global advocate for the software industry, £18,000 as part of a settlement following an investigation into unlicensed software use. It also parted with an additional £81,000 to purchase sufficient software licences to address the shortfall. It is alleged the firm used unlicensed software as a result of acquiring a new company. The case further enforces the importance of effective SAM for businesses changing infrastructure through mergers and buy-outs. This can often result in the purchasing company wrongly assuming software in the purchased company is licence compliant, or that licences will be automatically transferred over. This is frequently not the case. The challenge It is not always easy to communicate the complexity of SAM. The analogy we often provide is that of the company car fleet. Imagine an organisation with 200 company cars sitting in its car park. This is recognised as a significant investment. The organisation would therefore ensure each vehicle is correctly licenced and insured. This is no difference with IT software which all requires specific licences. Imagine every car has been built with a different engine. For instance a 1.6, 2.0, v6 or v8 would all have different licensing entitlements and complexities - all of which require separate licences. If you imagine every component within each car is different and all require unique licences we begin to create a more accurate picture of the compliance challenge involved with IT assets. The solution Use the right tools – Today's technology solutions provide a hardware and software inventory, giving up-to-date information on the software you have. This can be automatically compared against licence entitlements to establish shortfalls which need addressing to gain total licence compliance. Use the right people – SAM professionals can ensure asset information is kept accurate and up-to-date to protect a firm's software assets from any future organisational change. Use the right processes – Firms need to ensure that they have the policies and procedures in place for installing new software and monitoring software usage. This will ensure that existing software licenses are re-harvested wherever possible to prevent buying unnecessary licenses and to maximise savings. About the author John Lunt is the managing director of Certero, a specialist in software asset management and password reset solutions. For more information, email John.Lunt@certero.co.uk, phone 01925 868970 or visit www.certero.com.

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