The risks of software licensing compliance aren’t new. But the move to remote working has shown an increase in unauthorized software use.

Not every industry or culture responds well to remote working. So, when a global pandemic forces businesses to change, compliance cracks start to appear. Over the past six months, our team has seen a growing trend in our client’s software use.

Event types by monthRemote Working Poses Greater Software Licensing RisksLicensed usage is down, while unauthorized use is up. We believe this is due, in part, to remote working and businesses not having the policies and sufficient oversight to manage software usage effectively.

Interested in improving software compliance in your organization?

Defining personal and professional use

Let’s pose a simple question: How do you know that your remote employees are using their software for work purposes?

It’s common for software vendors to license and price their software based on usage. Take Office 365, for instance – it has 3 license tiers.

  • Personal
  • Business
  • Enterprise

Within each tier is a suite of options designed for specific use cases. They are priced according to the number of users you can add and the features they have access to. This makes it very possible that an employee’s work software is more feature-rich than the version on their home PC. A situation like this increases the temptation to use the software for personal use, potentially against the terms of the license.

In an on-premise work environment, it’s easy manage and monitor activity that’s being done under that license. But, take your staff out of your network and oversight becomes much harder. Businesses become less able to measure personal and professional use of software.

This issue is further exacerbated for global enterprises. When remote working leads to employees returning to home countries with different piracy laws, the challenge of both defining use cases and enforcing infringement becomes so much harder.

Monitoring user behaviour

The second risk to remote working is staff using cracked software licenses to maintain business continuity. To help them work more effectively, a remote worker may acquire a cracked license for a piece of software they need to do their job without telling their employer.

In a world where cutbacks and furloughing are causing employees to push to show their value, the temptation to take advantage of cracked software has never been higher.

This may be part of the reason why we’ve seen an increase in unauthorized usage: reasonable users are justifying the short-term advantage for this activity against the need to keep the business going.

Sometimes, the use of unlicensed software could be inadvertent. A WFH employee needs a vital software tool and pulls it off the web without realizing it is a hacked or illegal copy.

How to reduce software compliance risk

These issues are not new to the world of software license compliance. But more users and more businesses are being exposed to these risks, thanks in part to remote working. Fortunately, it’s possible to reduce your license compliance risk.

  • Update your infrastructure
  • Improve BYOD policies and awareness
  • Monitor remote worker activity
  • Switch to the latest software license management solutions

Update your infrastructure

Many companies are in a hybrid world, part based on the cloud where everything is easily accessed from all kinds of devices, and part based on traditional business networks with servers, locally installed software, and desktop PCs. The licensing model for these two types of environment is different, with the traditional environment being pushed to the limit by a sudden demand in remote working. Put simply: the licensing model isn’t up to the task.

Taking your business-critical software to the cloud unlocks simpler, yet more dynamic licensing models better suited to today’s remote workplace.

Improve BYOD policies and awareness

By necessity, most businesses will have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. Make sure your policy includes directives for the use of existing software and downloading new software onto personal work devices. Include a whitelist of approved device software to help guide your employees.

Run training to educate your teams and raise awareness of software license compliance, to reinforce your policies. Like cybersecurity, software license compliance should be at the front of people’s minds when they’re working with technology.

Once signed and made available, you create a clear liability divide in the event of a breach. This makes the process much smoother and can go a long way towards protecting your operation.

Monitor remote worker activity

One of the many challenges with remote working is keeping an eye on how your employees are using your devices. Monitoring device activity allows you to enforce technology policies and gives you advanced notice if software licenses are being breached.

Using a VPN is a natural first step when setting up remote working. This will also help you manage remote worker activity. Another way to support monitoring is to set up a UEM (User Endpoint Management) solution. This gives you greater control over your employees’ devices, ensuring that software is used compliantly.

Switch to the latest software license management solutions

Software vendors can help reduce the risk too. Cloud-based software licence management solutions are a dynamic answer for a dynamic challenge. It’s not just about coming down hard on every infringement. Getting zealous with software security alienates legitimate licensed users, which runs the risk of losing customer advocacy and potential revenue streams.

The latest solutions offer a range of license models including subscription, floating, consumption, and feature-based. This gives software vendors better tools to manage an ever-changing user landscape.

Be in no doubt that unauthorized software use is on the rise. The Software Alliance (BSA), research shows nearly 40% of all software used worldwide is not properly licensed and software companies are losing nearly US$46 billion a year due to unlicensed use.

So, whether you’re a software vendor, or a business who’s operation relies on key software, having the policies and support to ensure software licence compliance is critical.

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