Have you received a notice from Microsoft about a Microsoft Software Asset Management Review? This is an ominous sounding undertaking. The minute you receive one of these letters from Microsoft, you already know whether you have a problem or not. This is really just a fancy title for an Audit to ensure that all Microsoft software in use has been paid for. For most organizations, this will not be a problem. Oh sure, there may be a few edge cases of software that was license crossed, but generally, if you have been playing it straight, this process should not present any more headache than the hassle of responding to it.
On the other hand, there are occasions where this can be a real problem. Licensing typically gets out of whack for one of three reasons: confusion, neglect or outright fraud. I was reading some information to prepare for this post and found quite a few suggestions in various blog posts and comments to tell Microsoft to “pound sand”, “it’s none of their business”, “they can go to hell”, etc. I suspect these suggestions come from I.T. Managers who are knowingly using unlicensed software, or put less politely, software pirates. In many of these cases, senior management may not even be aware that this is one of the ways their IT department has kept their budget down. Or, as in a case I saw recently, the company thought they were paying for proper licensing, only to discover later that their IT Manager had been pocketing the cash through a sham provider! Among the vast population of professional IT managers, there are a few slime balls. But let’s look at the other “non-fraudulent” reasons you may get out-of-whack on licenses.
It is not at all difficult to get confused about your license status. A new user joins your organization and needs to get setup quickly. You grab a laptop off the shelf and realize that it is running XP, so you install Windows 7 with your VL key and while you are there you install Office with a VL key, you add the user to your Exchange and run down to their cubicle and fork over the device. Did you take the time to check and make sure you had license capacity? Maybe not, maybe you made a mental note to check later, and then forgot. Maybe you remembered that you had capacity on Exchange, but find later that you did not on the other software. It can definitely happen. Occasionally users are not satisfied with IT’s response about some software and go out and find it on their own and install it… on your hardware. What? Yes this happens too. Maybe your company has been on an acquisition binge and you suddenly have a ton of new hardware to get reconciled. Maybe you simply do not understand how Microsoft’s licensing works.
As part of the Microsoft Software Management Review process you will be asked to complete this summary. It looks like a lot of work, and it is. But there are some tools that can help you: Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) and Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit, SpiceWorks can also do this. Forceworks can also help you with this process. Down below is Microsoft’s FAQ about the Microsoft Software Management Review process, but let’s talk about how Microsoft Cloud Solutions may be able to come to your rescue.
As a result of an audit, er… review, you may find yourself looking a two significant expenses. First you may be obligated to pay for unlicensed software you have used in the past, and second you may be obligated to pay to upgrade your software to current versions. This double-whammy could get expensive. While we may not be able to do much about past sins, we can certainly help you to prevent this from happening again in the future, and reduce your cost of getting current. Among the Microsoft Cloud Solutions family are several products, one of them is Intune. Intune is basically a cloud version of System Center. If you are not familiar, Intune provides quite a few features for administrators, the two that can help you prevent this from happening in the future are the system scanning capability that can provide similar information to the tools above, but on an ongoing basis with alerts. Another feature of Intune is that you can prevent users from installing rogue software on your hardware and instead provide them with a portal of approved applications that they can install and you control. Intune has quite a few other features that you might also want to check out, here is a link to a free trial.
So, Intune can prevent these issues going forward, but it does not solve the cost issue of getting up-to-date, that’s where Office 365 comes in. With an Office 365 Midsized or Enterprise plan, you solve a multitude of licensing issues in one whack without a big upfront expense. First, your users will have the latest version of the entire Office Professional Plus suite on their desktops licensed via subscription instead of a key. With the subscription they can install this on up to five devices simultaneously. As long as your subscription remains active, you will never need an Office license key again. Also, since Office 365 includes Hosted Exchange, you will no longer need licenses or cals for the Exchange server and once you have migrated your documents from your file shares to SharePoint Online, you will also no longer need the Server license and cals for your file server either, or on-premise SharePoint. Within a matter of days all of your licensing problems can be resolved for as little as $15/mo/user for the Midsize Subscription with everything above. If you are only have issues with certain things, like for example, Exchange, there are standalone subscriptions to apply to just those pieces that you need. Office, Exchange and SharePoint are each available individually.
Hopefully, you will never receive one of these audit notices from Microsoft; but if you do, contact us right away, we can help shepherd you through the process.
Microsoft Software Asset Management Review FAQ
- Why is Microsoft conducting these licensing reviews?
The licensing reviews are provided for two main reasons – firstly as a licensing advisory service (i.e. how do I license this product?) and secondly to ensure that all software in use has been paid for. Since we started offering these licensing reviews, we have seen the incidence of non-compliant software reduce as organizations have been made aware of their licensing commitments.
- What right does Microsoft have to request this information from me?
Both the Open and Select Licensing Programs carry certain rights and obligations on the part of both Microsoft and our customers. Under those agreements there are certain audit rights for Microsoft. Following is an example of a clause from a Microsoft Volume Licensing Agreement:
Customer must keep all usual and proper records relating to the Products Customer runs. Microsoft may request that Customer conduct an internal audit of all Microsoft Products in use throughout Customer’s organization, comparing the number of Products in use to the number of effective Licenses issued in Customer’s name. Following any audit, Customer agrees to deliver to Microsoft a written statement signed by its authorized representative, certifying that either (1) Customer has sufficient Licenses to permit all usage disclosed by the audit, or (2) Customer has ordered sufficient Licenses to permit all usage disclosed by the audit. By requesting an audit, Microsoft does not waive its rights to enforce this agreement or to protect Microsoft’s intellectual property by any other means permitted by law.
- What is the timeframe for providing the installed information to you?
Our experience is that it typically takes a customer around 10-15 working days to complete the Deployment Summary, however if your organization feels this timeframe is not long enough, we are more than happy to work with you to reach an agreement in terms of providing the information.
- Our organization does not have an automated inventory tool. What can I do to understand the products we have installed?
Microsoft makes available a free downloadable software product to assist with the inventory – MAP (Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit), which is a powerful inventory, assessment and reporting tool that can securely assess IT environments for various platform migrations and virtualization without the use of any software agents for up to 100,000 PCs. It is available at www.microsoft.com/map.
- What happens if I don’t complete the information?
We hope that most of our customers will work proactively with us to ensure a compliant licensing position. However, given the great emphasis Microsoft places on protecting its intellectual property, for those organizations that don’t wish to engage in this process, a more formal communication may be made with respect to our licensing rights and your organization’s obligations under your Microsoft license agreements.
- If my organization is found to have unlicensed software what will happen?
If through the review process you do identify some unlicensed use of Microsoft products, we ask you to address the matter during the review process and contact your Reseller. The consultant will be able to assist you with this and they can also provide some advice around software asset management to ensure you minimize the chances of any future non-compliance occurring.
- What if the review identifies shortfalls for products that no longer exist?
It is possible that products you have an agreed shortfall for may no longer be available for purchase as they have been replaced by another product. Your Reseller will be able to direct you to suitable alternatives.
- Where do I go to get access to information about software licensing rules and agreement information?
More information is available online:http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sam/default.mspx
This is a link to our Software Asset Management (SAM) guide, which provides some useful information relating to SAM and anti-piracy.http://www.microsoftvolumelicensing.com/
This link details all of the Microsoft server products and provides information around licensing requirements and the licensing options for the particular server technology.http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/volume-licensing-briefs.aspx
Provides links to licensing briefs and updates on terms and conditions of Microsoft software use.http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/about-licensing/product-licensing-faq.aspx Good link to go to in terms of Licensing 101.
- In what way is licensing for the Microsoft Windows Desktop Operating System (Windows OS) different from all other products?
Following are some important facts to remember about Windows Desktop licensing so you understand the best way to acquire Windows and can feel confident that your company’s PCs are licensed properly.There are only two ways to acquire the full, underlying Windows license on a new PC:preinstalled by the computer manufacturer when you buy your new PC or as Full Packaged Product through retail channels. The most cost-effective way is to always acquire Windowspreinstalled on a PC. The underlying — or full version — license gives you the initial license to run Windows. You may then acquire Windows upgrades through a Volume Licensing program.Volume Licensing Agreements*, purchased with or without Software Assurance, never cover the initial full Windows© Desktop operating system (OS) license. They only cover Windows Desktop OS upgrade licenses. Windows upgrades are designed to upgrade previously acquired full Windows licenses only and may not be used to install the initial Windows OS on your PCs. Microsoft’s Volume Licensing program gives you the license to upgrade any covered PC to the most recent version of Windows. For the upgrade license to apply, you need to first have the underlying license already on the machine.To ensure your company is acquiring Windows properly in the future, we recommend you speak with your procurement team, and any others who make acquisition decisions, and ensure they understand these policies.(* including Open, Select, Academic, Enterprise and Enterprise Subscription licensing programs)What are some common scenarios where customers may be at risk?
- A naked PC purchase (i.e. no Windows OS is included on the machine) on the basis that this is covered by a Volume License Windows upgrade. Please be aware that an upgrade requires a full base license purchased via OEM or FPP.
- Purchase of a PC running a consumer edition license, such as Windows Home, on which a commercial edition, such as Windows Professional is then installed via a Windows Professional upgrade acquired through Volume Licensing. Please be aware that Windows Home edition licenses are not eligible for a commercial license Volume License Windows upgrade.
- Purchase of a Netbook on which Windows Professional is then installed via a Volume License upgrade. Netbook devices are licensed for OEM Windows Home or Windows Starter and these licenses are not eligible to be upgraded to full versions of Windows via Volume Licensing.
- What do I do if I have unlicensed PCs or I have installed Windows OS licenses from my VL media and I didn’t have a full base license?
To help customers whose organizations may have acquired PCs without an operating system and then mistakenly used their VL to install Windows, or who have PCs that may be running a version of Windows that is not eligible for the Volume Licensing upgrade, there are a couple of solutions available to resolve the situation. Microsoft has recently released two new programs called the Get Genuine Kit (GGK) and Get Genuine Windows Agreement (GGWA) which enable you to acquire full base licenses on a one-time basis for existing PCs. GGK is available through OEM resellers and can be used if you have a shortfall of less than 5 Windows OS licenses and GGWA is available through Volume Licensing resellers and can be used if you have a shortfall of 5 or more Windows OS licenses. Contact your Reseller for more information, pricing details and to acquire the licenses.
- I can’t find the Product Key for Windows 8, what do I provide in Section 5: Other Licenses held (EXCLUDING Volume Licenses)?
Microsoft Windows 8 OEM no longer has a product key sticker. Please contact your OEM or Partner for this information or please provide copies of supplier invoices for up to five* Windows 8 OEM licenses. *We require proof of ownership for non-VL licenses installed. For each product version we will require proof for each unit installed up to a total of five.