Following on from our introductions to Cloud Computing, the Virtual CIO, the IT Roadmap, the benefits of outsourced machine management and IT Consultancy services, the latest blog in our IT 101 series looks at what you need to know about those overlong, over-complicated contracts we know as software licences.

What is a software licence?

A software licence is an agreement between you and the owner of a software program. It outlines the terms of use and explains how you can make the software work for you, without getting on the wrong side of copyright infringement law.

With software licences, the devil is in the detail, so it’s important to understand the boundaries and be very clear about your rights as a fee-paying user.

The information they provide should answer any questions you might have around things like:  

  • Where you can install the programme
  • If there are any limitations
  • How often you can install it
  • Whether you can copy, modify, or redistribute it and
  • If you can look at the underlying source code

Software Licensing is currently going through a period of change

Licensing isn’t quite as black and white as it used to be, as vendors increasingly move from perpetual licensing models with a one-off charge for services, to subscription-based accounts that require monthly or annual payments as part of a software as a service (SaaS) model.  

For example, you might remember previously buying a new laptop and purchasing Microsoft Office with it, whereas now you are likely to be offered a renewable, cloud-based service such as Office 365.

It’s a no-brainer from a provider’s perspective, with different levels of service and  bespoke features and benefitS opening new revenue streams - all wrapped up in a neat package that tells the customer they’re in charge.   

Like or loathe the new reality, the changes make it more important than ever to get familiar with the small print, so you know exactly what you’re buying.

Comparing providers like-for-like and working out where the best value lies can prove confusing, time-consuming and expensive for smaller businesses, so it’s worth involving your outsourced IT support to make sure you get the service your business needs.  

Your IT support or virtual CIO can also help with installing, activating and deactivating software, as the process varies from product to product.

You’ll need to follow specific instructions for each and, in some instances, use a Licence Key (a long string of letters and numbers) that ensures you get the service you’ve signed up for and help keep you compliant with copyright restrictions.

Key things to note about Software Licensing

  • With software licensing, free doesn't refer to price. It means ‘free speech’ and refers to the rights and restrictions around its use.
  • Free and open-source software has fewer restrictions and you don't generally have to ask anyone's permission to use it. You can usually copy and redistribute the software too.
  • Proprietary or closed-source software has significant restrictions, limiting its use.
  • The End User License Agreement is commonly referred to as EULA and it’s a good idea to read any of these agreements in detail, particularly for one-off or smaller purchases from less familiar companies. This spells out what you can and can’t do with the software.
  • Pay attention to how long the licence lasts. A perpetual licence doesn't expire. Once purchased, you can use it as long as you like. A term licence however, covers a specified period (it’s usually monthly or annually) and you’ll be expected to renew and pay at the end of each term.
  • It’s worth considering volume or site licences, whenever possible, because they offer lower prices and bundling can make administration easier.
  • Secondary or home use rights might be available, allowing you to install copies of the software on more than one computer, albeit with some restrictions. You may be able to install a copy of the software on a home computer or laptop, as long as it’s not used at the same time as the software on your primary computer. Those rights will all be highlighted in the EULA.
  • Keep your documents safe. Things such as product names and serial numbers, version numbers, installation disks, manuals, proof of purchase and the licence key will all be required at some point, so it’s wise to keep them together, somewhere safe.
  • Larger vendors generally offer bulk purchasing and volume licensing options too. If you order enough software to qualify, volume licensing can be cheaper and more convenient. It gives businesses a central place to manage all licences and can make installation easier with a single, business-wide activation code for a specific product.

How can help with Software Licensing?

We’re authorised resellers, so we can sell software licences on behalf of big players such as Adobe, Cisco and Google. We’ve a wealth of knowledge too, so we work with clients to ensure they’re smart with their budget and look for opportunities to save them money while also improving their IT infrastructure.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you find the right software for your business at the right price, get in touch.

We can also assess your current network and infrastructure to reveal the IT support you need to help your business grow.

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