Did your customer’s computer really crash? – using software activation to verify.
Here’s the picture: A software publisher’s support hot-line rings. The caller reports that his computer has crashed, and that he needs another software license for a new replacement computer right away. What to do?
Software publishers strive to ensure that their customers are not inconvenienced by software licensing issues. When a computer crashes, users scramble to find a new one. They re-install their applications and contact their vendors to obtain new licenses. Software publishers provide a new license as quickly as possible, but how do the publishers know that the old license will be permanently retired and not put back into service if the old machine is repaired someday. This is an especially important issue for software publishers who sell perpetual licenses.
Many software publishers handle this scenario by asking their customers to sign a form that certifies that the old license has been destroyed and that it will not be put back into service. This provides a modest hurdle to dissuade customers from taking advantage of the software vendor’s easy license replacement policy. Other publishers require a license transfer to be associated with an order, so that there is a paper trail that the company agrees that the old license is not to be used, verified by a purchase order coming from the company. But, today software vendors who use an Internet software activation service, such as Reprise’s Activation Pro, have better methods to handle this case and others like it.
With Activation Pro, software applications are “activated” over the Internet. Activation performs two important jobs: delivering licenses to users 24×7, and leaving behind a record of each fulfillment. Each fulfillment record contains:
- activation key that was used
- user’s computer hostid to which the license was issued
- user’s IP address
- date and time of the first and last fulfillment using that key
- other data that the application wishes to associate with the activation event, and
- a copy of the license that was delivered to the user
So, how do you use RLM and Activation Pro to handle a crashed or decommissioned computer? Using RLM and Activation Pro, applications can periodically request the status of the fulfillment from the Activation Pro database. If the fulfillment is valid, the application runs as normal. But, if the ISV deletes the fulfillment record from the Activation Pro database because the computer was reported to be crashed or decommissioned, the application can know to deny service.
When using this model, the license should include the activation key used to fulfill the license. This way the application can check out the license at runtime to determine if it is valid, retrieve the activation key and the hostid from the license, then check the status of the fulfillment. The application will find out whether the license is still valid, or whether the fulfillment has been deleted.
Implementation details of the method described here can be found in the RLM and Activation Pro Reference Manuals on the Reprise Website.