The last thing anyone wants during an audit is a surprise.
Simple mistakes, like using technologies without a full understanding of how they affect licensing, can result in unintended consequences and unforeseen costs.
What many fail to anticipate is how changes to their environment, even those not directly related to licensing, can have a major impact. Turning on high availability, backing up systems to the cloud or even moving workloads to the cloud could have consequences many are unaware of until an audit is conducted.
Proactively self-auditing beforehand goes a long way in avoiding or mitigating unforeseen costs. Here are four best practices that will help keep you prepared.
Using a self-assessment tool to determine where you stand
The first thing you need is a tool that can produce the necessary data points that would be required in the event of an audit. Software inventory or asset management tools will give you insight into what is currently running in your environment.
These tools provide you with information such as:
- The number of instances of software/applications installed and installation date
- Types of software installed or deployed within the IT environment
- License expiry and license renewal dates
While this information is great, someone still needs to compile, analyze and understand the implications. You also need to be careful and ensure the outputs from these tools accurately reflect what is going on in your environment. Something as simple as confirming that naming conventions are correct is critical in identifying gaps between what you are entitled to and what you have installed. Make sure you’re able to distinguish between physical and virtual machines since each has a different licensing impact. For the same reason, you also need to understand whether a server is active or passive, production or backup.
A comprehensive inventory of existing assets
The second step is a summary of what you have actually paid to use. You should have the most recent version of your Microsoft License Statement (MLS) report or volume licensing inventory. Make sure that it is inclusive of acquisitions, licenses inherited from other companies such as OEM licenses, full package product, and non-contractual volume licenses. This can be obtained by asking your License Service Provider (LSP) to request it from Microsoft.
Proper proof of purchase for anything obtained outside of volume licensing, such as retail and OEM licenses, is also important to have.
Building a coalition of experts to help navigate all the moving pieces
What surprises customers most during an audit is often the extent of expertise required. The reality is that you’ll likely need access to functional experts to explain how each technology is being used. For example, if you’ve got a large SQL environment, you may need to bring in a SQL developer to explain exactly how the SQL servers are being used or accessed, since this affects the type of license required.
Make sure you know who is knowledgeable in each area of your environment. Also, take the time to know how the technologies on end-user devices are being leveraged.
Including a qualified, trusted licensing partner in your audit coalition
Once you’ve got these pieces in place, it’s time to determine who will actually help explain the licensing rules and how they apply to your organization’s requirements. Most companies don’t have licensing expertise internally, which is where a trusted partner comes in. Leaning on the vendor is a critical mistake since they are deeply partial. The better approach is to use a trusted partner who can provide the objectivity necessary to right-size your licensing to minimize cost and compliance risk. Finding a partner that can also make technology recommendations alongside licensing considerations is critical.
See what 5 qualities we think are most important when evaluating a partner in our article “The 5 Most Important Things to Expect From Your Microsoft Licensing Provider“.