“Customer must keep record …”

Recently an organization faced a raid of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), including law enforcement agents and seizure of all IT assets. After recovery of the first shock, the very first question asked was: “Please hand over your license administration…”

Absence
And they hadn’t any. Consequence was that the license experts of the BSA, as always, started their investigation, looking into each and every PC and server within the organization, searching for software installed. Accordingly, with absence of a license administration, BSA starts making assumptions.

Microsoft Office on network servers
One of the issues this organization was facing is that BSA assumes that each and every device which has access to the network servers (Remote Desktop Services, RDS / Citrix) is actually using Microsoft office on that servers. With absence of the license administration the organization has to prove otherwise, which can be pretty difficult.

Assigning licenses
In official and legal Microsoft licensing documents it says (quote Product Terms):

“Before Customer uses software under a License, it must assign that License to a device or user, as appropriate.”

And the various Software License Agreements (Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, Open Value Agreement and others) state that “Customer must keep record.” (as much as five times per agreement)  Combine those two obligations into a record and you will have the basis part of the license administration (add license agreement numbers, data of assignment, et cetera).

Assignging licenses Microsoft

Why administer?
Big question is ‘Why is this important and relevant to this case’? In fact, it is very simple. Assignment or reassignment can only be done every 90 days. For license verification reasons an organization (and Microsoft and the BSA) need to know on what date which license was assigned to what device or which user. Only than verification with the actual use can be made. Without this, again, assumptions are flying around. Since organizations cannot ‘measure’ software usage in the past, one just can’t prove any actual use in the past. Please do not forget, that users who do not use – as in this example Microsoft Office – the software on a network servers must not have access to the software.

Proving right or wrong
In general, one is innocent until guilt has been proven. But without a proper license administration the world is turned upside down: the BSA will hold you guilty until you prove that you are innocent and that is a lot of work.

The cause
One other question that pops up is: “Where did it went wrong? What is the cause most organizations do not have a proper license administration?” Well, we all know that licensing, especially Microsoft licensing, can be complex. But that alone should be the reason to keep records. Secondly, people do not read terms when they enter into a legal agreement. Let’s face it, who of you readers actually reads the ‘Privacy Terms’ of a new App you install in your mobile phone? And who of you actually read the Microsoft Licensing Agreement and the underlying Product Terms, back to back, before signing with Microsoft?

License administration benefits
Let’s forget about the ugly BSA case and obligations Microsoft enforces in contracts. A proper license administration will benefit every organization in multiple ways. For starters, with this administration you have an overview of any shortfalls or over-licensing, which both will save you money. With license assignment and registration of this assignment, you will be able to determine how many licenses you will actually need within your virtualized IT Infrastructure, rather than ‘buying the max’, just to be sure. And those are just two simple examples, there is plenty more.

Software Asset Management
I know, that keeping these records can be complicated and time consuming. But since they are very important you could simply get in touch with your local Software Asset Management firm and ask them what services they offer to help you. Yes, this will cost you money, but I know as a fact that your license administration is a money saver in the long term.

October 2019