It’s the dread of every IT manager in the world — a big vendor waltzes into the office prepared to conduct a licensing audit. Actually, they send a heads-up letter first, but everyone (in their nightmares) pictures an army of suits marching in with earpieces and side arms, kind of like the Secret Service, only more sinister. Knowing what types of licenses are out there and having a capable IT asset management system will help you stay on top of this issue. Your dreams will be sweeter.
Device licensing is based on the hardware. Typically (unless the hardware is rented), if you buy the hardware, the license to use it, along with any associated drivers and software, is implied. Tagging hardware and keeping it logged properly in your asset management software will help you manage the device’s lifecycle.
This licensing requires the name of a specific person. Usually applied to software, user licensing gives a particular user the right to use the software. Generally, this licensing is indefinite.
Network licensing applies to your WAN or LAN connectivity. It covers the use of all of the connected devices within the network supported, or rather the infrastructure of the network supported by the connection service. Generally, these licenses go into effect upon initialization of service and last until cancelled, so long as the bill is paid.
Subscription licensing can cover a specific device or a particular user. It lasts from the time of purchase throughout the duration of the contract. Usually, subscriptions are renewable upon the end of the contract. These subscriptions are most often annually renewed.
Cloud services work much like a subscription. You pay for the service, and the subscription is good for the duration of the contract you paid for. Like subscriptions, cloud licenses are usually renewable at the end of the contract.
General Public Licensing (GPL)
GPL is also called open source code, and it is different from freeware in an important legal respect: GPL licensing involved the developer allowing for free distribution of both the software and its source code. Users can share it, copy it, and modify it without violating the licensing agreement.
Client-Access Licensing (CAL)
CAL covers both a device and the user with licensing protection. In this type of license, users must connect to a server to use the features of the software. Like cloud-based licensing, all of the software and associated files reside on the server and the license is only good for the length of the contract purchased by the user.
Capacity-based licensing involves using a certain capacity of processing power, hard drive space, or other hardware configuration. This, too, is much like cloud-based licensing.
Fonts that are obtained separately from font-containing software (such as MS Office) can also be licensed. Sometimes the fonts are licensed for internal use, and other times fonts can be licensed for online use.
Freeware, like GPL, is free for distribution. However, unlike GPL, the developer or license owner of freeware does not distribute the source code. So, it is free to use, copy, and share, but the developer can later sell the software to another entity. It also cannot be modified, because the source code is not distributed.