Your company started small, and there were never any problems keeping track of computers and software.
But then the business grew, and so did the number of employees and computers. Software was transferred between machines, busy sales managers took programs home to install on their laptops, and who knows what’s on a few of the old terminals that no one uses anymore.
Therein lies the problem: You should know. All it takes is one disgruntled employee to call a hotline, and presto: a $10,000 fine for each copyright infringement. You never meant to have illegal copies of Microsoft Word, you just had sloppy bookkeeping, but the end result is the same. You get fined.
The Business Software Alliance has developed the following steps to help you determine what you have installed compared to what you have licenses for:
- Take a physical inventory of the computers in your company. Count all computers (Macs and PCs), including servers, laptops and any that are not in use. If employees have loaded company-purchased software on their home computers, this should also be included. Gather information such as serial number, model, location and regular users.
- Take inventory of all the software on all of the computers you identified in the physical inventory, including those not in use. (The BSA has a free program available on its Web site to assist in this process). Collect the following information for each copy of software installed on each computer: product name, version number and serial number. Make sure employees understand they should not add, delete or move any software from their machines during the audit.
- Take inventory of all software documentation, including all disks and CDs used to install the software on the computers; all original manuals and reference documentation; all license documentation; and invoices or other proofs of purchase for software, including invoices for computers delivered with software already loaded.
- Compare. At this point, you should have a complete picture of the software installed at your company and of the documentation demonstrating what software is legitimate. Carefully compare these two and determine how much of your software is actually licensed. Take into account whether there are multiple users of a single product and whether any associated license permits such use. Delete all copies of software for which you were unable to locate a license or other documentation supporting its legitimacy.
Once this is completed, set up a policy or procedure to make sure your company remains in compliance. One person should be in charge of this function, and after the initial inventory, should keep all data up to date for new purchases or licenses.
How to reach: Business Software Alliance, www.bsa.org
Todd Shryock (firstname.lastname@example.org) is SBN’s special reports editor.