The most common causes of non-compliance

Top Tip - Do not attempt any audit or SAM work unless you understand the points made in this section.

From what we have seen working in the SAM arena, all organisations operating proprietary software, however good their software management, are in danger of suffering the consequences from one of these common mistakes.

By being aware of these points and taking steps to stop them happening, through knowledge and education in the right areas of your organisation, the financial risks of non-compliance will be dramatically reduced if not eradicated.

We begin by defining exactly what software and a software licence are and why they differ from each other:

The seven most common causes of software compliance:
1) Software is not a licence - For many this is a basic point that everyone should know already, but we often work with people who do not appreciate the differences between software and software licences and it causes no end of trouble, so make sure you are not one of them.

2) Licence/Activation keys - The most common confusion in the technical world caused by the publishers using the wrong word in the wrong place.

3) Available but not used - The licence rules nearly always require that even if software is not used, if it is installed or available to a user then a licence is needed.

4) The right licence? - Sounds obvious and simple, but unless the licences you procure match the software that is deployed precisely they will be invalid and there is a risk of having to purchase the new licences that are correct and right off those that are not.

5) Prove it or lose it - If your organisation cannot prove that it owns a licence then it doesn't own it, as simple as that.  We look at what constitutes licence proof and what the industry has to say about the subject.

6) The risk of counterfeit software - Counterfeit software takes many forms and basically means that the licence is not genuine.  In this section we introduce the various formats of counterfeit and explain the main issues.

7) The upgrade trap - Publishers can ask you for proof of base licences to upgrades many years after the original purchase took place and when records have probably disappeared, so be very careful of the risks.

We conclude with a summary of what all of this can mean - When a licence isn't...

For advice on how to fix the problems generated by these issues, go to our How to do SAM section.

We begin by answering the question What is software?