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Software Licensing in a BYOD Environment

It’s possible to hit a moving target so long as you take the time to aim.

“It’s possible to hit a moving target so long as you take the time to aim.”

This article has been contributed by Jonathon Kirby, Content Development Specialist at IAITAM.

Software licensing and its difficulties have been discussed at length and have been one of the focal points of IT asset management programs everywhere since their inception. The ability to ensure that an organization is compliant with the usage and purchasing of software in their environment while trying to maintain the lowest price point is a balancing act IT asset managers have learned. Add in the difficulties of mobile employees, their mobile assets, current licensing language, and employee privacy vs. corporate data protection and the situation becomes a lot more complex.

Details! Details! Details

This problem is two-fold. First the BYOD aspect needs to be addressed. Policies and procedures need to be developed for personal devices being utilized to send, receive, and compose corporate information. This detail needs to be solved and successfully managed to effectively manage the software licenses that are downloaded onto those devices.

Essentially, if the hardware is not properly managed, it becomes an uphill battle to manage the software that resides on that hardware. With the BYOD element properly managed attention can be turned to managing the software. The difficulty that comes with BYOD software licensing is that the software itself isn’t centralized.

Two Primary Concerns

That presents two primary causes for concern:

  • Software license discovery
  • Applicable license types

Software license discovery becomes exponentially more difficult because the mobile devices are not connected to a standard network. Typical enterprise discovery tools were not designed with mobile assets in mind. These discovery tools troll the existing network pinging various devices that are connected to find exceptions and report them. Without the mobile devices being set to one specific location, discovery tools are not robust enough to track the license data.

Another option needs to be incorporated that allows for a mobile device to be scanned. This is an independent solution that each organization will need to develop and find what works best in their environment but some common solutions include:

  • Checking the mobile device into the network on a predetermined periodic basis
  • Procure a discovery tool that works remotely
  • Control upload/download of data (when not a BYOD device)

These are just a small sampling of the various solutions other organizations have used. There are many more options available, you just need to ensure that the solutions chosen is compatible with the organizations existing IT environment, the organization, and the employee work culture to ease the transition.

Licensing: User vs. Device-based

Now that the discovery of software licenses has been addressed, proper procurement of those licenses will help mature the BYOD license management program.

There are two main types of licenses that can be purchased: user-based and device-based. User-based licenses travel with the user regardless of what device accesses the program. Device-based licenses are licenses in the classic sense; they are loaded on a device and locked in place until re-harvested and moved to another device. Both types of licenses have advantages and disadvantages and it is important to identify which is best suited for your organization. This decision is organizationally-dependent as well since financial calculations, typical workloads of remote employees, device constraints, privacy constraints (for BYOD) and the maturity of an ITAM program all play a contributing factor in the decision.

Behind the Scenes: Working Together

IT asset management is difficult when dealing with remote employees and assets; the most difficult facet being the license management portion of it. It takes patience and a sense of cooperation between the IT asset manager and the mobile end user to find a solution that works best for both parties involved. If done successfully, it can be a boon to the organization and stand as a testament to the knowledge and understanding of the IT asset manager who made it happen behind the scenes.

It’s possible to hit a moving target so long as you take the time to aim.

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One Comment

  1. PetrS. says:

    I would like to point out the need to have connection to the DSL (Definitive Software Library). I see SW Catalogue more as a list of available SW (and communicated) to the business. DSL is more about installation files. So every change needs to be communicated also to the technical staff (packaging team, technicians, helpdesk staff) and physical files have to be replaced/deleted. Otherwise all these people tend to keep “status quo” and use the same files/versions/procedures as they did month ago.

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