How to Avoid a Software Audit—And What to Do if it Happens

It was hard enough to manage IT infrastructures when everything was on-premise only. But today, with combined on-premise and multi-cloud deployments, say Michael Corey, co-founder, LicenseFortress, and Don Sullivan, system engineer database specialist, VMWare.

In their Data Summit 2019 presentation, “Straight Talk on the Cloud License Landscape,” Corey and Sullivan walked attendees through the steps to take to help stay compliance with software licensing rules, how to avoid and audit, and what to do if it happens.

“Customer goals to keep costs down are in direct conflict with software vendors’ desire to protect their revenue stream,” said Corey, noting that there are many ways to get into licensing trouble, including users downloading software with the organization being unaware, upgrades turning on features that the organization does not want, and third party software also turning on features the organization does not know are being used.

The session covered current software licensing trends, important lessons learned from the real world, and the steps every organization should take now to avoid becoming a victim of a software license audit whose real purpose is to generate revenue.

According to Corey and Sullivan, there are licensing best practices that can help you avoid an audit.

Licensing Best Practices

  • Obtain an independent review of your environment annually
    • Continuous monitoring “real-time” is optimal
    • Access to license experts as needed is optimal
  • Review of existing contracts
    • Make sure you have copy of all contracts
  • Inventory of all installations & options used
  • Look for shelfware (software you are paying for and not using)
  • Try to get a credit for shelfware when making a strategic purchase from vendor
    • If purchasing an engineered system from Oracle (I.e.,  Exadata) shelfware credits can be negotiated
  • Take advantage of lower-cost maintenance & support offering from incumbent vendors as your internal knowledge of product increases and needs decrease
    • Do you still need highest support offering
    • Is there a third-party option available
  • Optimize existing license usage
  • When making a strategic purchase, negotiate price protection/price hold
  • 1-3 years protection to add licenses at discounted price
  • Timing of maintenance cancellations is critical
    • Many automatically renew
    • May require 60/90-day notice
  • Budget for vendors software reinstatement penalties if you must return to vendors support
  • Consider architecture review
  • Implement license management process
    •  Manual/Reactive/Proactive
  • Timing of when you purchase matters
  • When vendor contacts you
    •  Dont panic
    •  Seek help from an expert before it’s too late

If a Software Audit Happens:

  • Halt any intended or in-process purchases (unless it impact the business)
  • Review your vendor audit and compliance provisions
  • Don’t let a vendor circumvent an advance notice requirement
  • Negotiate audit scope & approach
  • Limit scope to the vendor software make sure you are comfortable with the audit pace
  • Limit where vendor gets their information from
  • Seek professional help “it’s about revenue”

Corey and Sullivan and many other presenters are making their slide decks available on the Data Summit 2019 website at