A Kinder, Gentler Licensing Strategy

Give your customers the tools to stay compliant

For the better part of the last twenty years, software vendors have relied on license managers to control their customers’ use of their high-value software applications to ensure compliance with their license agreements.  However, vendors of higher-volume enterprise software are starting to view license management not so much as a service-denial mechanism, but as a valuable built-in tool to help their customers manage their own compliance and for them to gain a more accurate understanding of the extent of their software usage.

Balancing vendors’ and customers’ needs

Let’s face the simple fact that software users just want to get their work done.  In a perfect world, software vendors don’t want to limit a user’s ability to access their software, but at the same time vendors want to be fairly compensated for that use.  End-users generally don’t want to exceed their license rights (especially now with tighter internal compliance rules in place) but they often don’t know what those rights are, making it impossible to stay compliant.

When software vendors deploy a strict denial-of-service policy, users may at times find their software unavailable when the license server is not accessible or is not running correctly.  Fixing that situation may require costly intervention from the vendor.  Of course, publishers can decide how strictly to enforce their licenses by the way that their software behaves when licenses are not available, but what strategy should these vendors adopt to strike the right balance between their needs and those of their customers?

Letting Customers Police Themselves

What’s needed is an implementation strategy for license management that provides customers with all the parts of the licensing system that enables them to control their software usage without burdening those customers who don’t.  A strategy like this is a win for both end-customer and vendor alike because:

  • Your customers do not need 3rd party software to control usage – it’s built in, lowering their total cost of ownership
  • The transparency of the system makes clear to both customer and vendor what is meant by “a license”
  • Your customers have everything they need to comply with your license agreement, so they should never be out of compliance
  • The “always available” license policy saves you from the care and feeding of the licensing system when your customers move/change license inventory or network
  • Detailed license activity logs can be used to produce audit reports if necessary

How is this strategy implemented in RLM?

It’s simple, really. When your software tries to check out a license, it runs as normal except in the specific case of “all licenses in use.” Your application might then ask the user if he wants to continue running anyway even though he may be exceeding his company’s current allotment of licenses. All other licensing failures should result in a message to the user, but allow the user to continue to run. This means that if the licensing system is not installed, or is not running at the time the user requests a license, they will be able to continue to run.

Is this licensing scheme for me?

Maybe, maybe not. The implementation described here works best for products that are encouraged to be widely shared within an enterprise, such as desktop productivity tools, utilities, framework and collaboration products.  Products with higher “per seat” value might benefit more from the more common (stricter) licensing strategy.

No single licensing implementation works across all product categories, but a license manager, such as RLM, is the best tool to provide the flexibility to cover the full spectrum of license enforcement models – from “very strict” to “self-compliant,” as we have discussed here.

If you would like to discuss which licensing strategies might work best for your business, please contact the experts at Reprise Software.

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