Microsoft Licensing – Preparing Your Organization for a Microsoft Audit

Whenever you install a Microsoft product, either as an individual or a corporation, you agree to comply with the terms of the End User License Agreement (EULA). This contract gives Microsoft the right to determine how you use the software, and also grants them permission to audit your organization. Please realize that you don’t own the software involved. Instead you have purchased the right to use the software products under certain terms and conditions.

License audits are here to stay

In case of a software license audit, the idea of someone checking compliance often creates a stressful situation, even when you have nothing to hide. Audits are no surprise to Microsoft Volume Licensing (VL) customers, but more and more other types of customers are being audited too. The software publisher faces increasing competition and declining Windows sales, so their efforts to maximize revenue are rising.

The start of a license audit process is usually a simple request letter to perform a self audit. Check your e-mail! Upon receipt, you should immediately conduct a comprehensive inventory of all Microsoft software products in use.

Even without a software audit at hand, the collected data will save a tremendous amount of time for your next true-up or license renewal. The cost of the data collection varies with the size of the organization and the volume of data. However, unless you are nearly or completely compliant, the money you spend will be much less than in the case of non-compliance.

A number of applications can help to at least partially automate your inventory of licensed software. But they rarely provide an accurate or comprehensive account that would satisfy Microsoft, the Business Software Alliance (officially BSA | The Software Alliance), or a court.

What exactly should you do?

Upon having received a self-audit request letter from Microsoft, your organization needs to list Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) licenses, servers, employee owned devices (including home PCs, tablets, and smartphones), retail purchases, legacy systems, and other hardware which may be running Microsoft products. A Software Asset Management (SAM) tool will provide a good starting point, but nothing more than that.

In addition to SAM reports, you need to gather and organize all receipts and authorization documentation for all systems. In the case of onsite hardware running Microsoft software, you need documentation to verify compliance. This may be an Enterprise Agreement or Select Agreements including User and/or Device Client Access Licenses (CALs), product keys, invoices paid, OEM licenses, Partner Pack documentation, and anything else to prove that the software is appropriately licensed. The bottom line is that any device or user running or accessing Microsoft products must be licensed to do so!

Four articles – read them all!

This is the first in a series of four articles to help customers preparing for and managing the process of a Microsoft license audit. The required discipline and record keeping is a fundamental exercise to ensure that your company will be compliant and isn’t needlessly overspending on software. What Microsoft or the BSA are really looking for will be the topic of our next article in this series. In article number three we’ll address the remediation of unfavorable audit results. The final article in this series will cover developing a sound SAM discipline to avoid surprises.

If you are in need of extra expertise and a structured license administration and management approach, feel free to contact B-lay. We will help you make software compliance an exciting opportunity to improve your business! 

This article was published on 04-02-2016