License management is one aspect of asset management that many administrators tend to overlook. That's a shame,
because properly applied license management can keep you out of trouble with software vendors and can also save you money. Licensing software can not only tell you what you own, it can tell you what your users use – and don't use. And, if they don't use it, you don't need to buy it. Some software can not only track usage, but control usage as well.
There are many products in the category for you to consider. Most are single platform products, but some like Keyserver can be used with several platforms (OS's). There are both passive software metering products as well as active ones. A passive product tracks software usage, while an active one can control usage. You'll find that many of these tools can dump their data into products like Microsoft SMS; and many others are meant to snap into enterprise framework products like HP's OpenView and CA's Unicenter. All these vendors list third party products of this type on their Web sites, as well as sell ones of their own.
Whatever tool you choose you should make sure that it is transparent to your users, and that it only adds a very minimal network overhead. You'll also want to make sure that the tool can export its data in a form that is open and can be analyzed in the spreadsheet, database, or management tool of your choice. It is also important that the program proactively inform you when your software licensing is no longer covering your usage. In instances when important software that you run allows you to have a certain number of concurrent users, it is valuable to have an active management package that can rotate licenses based on a hierarchy, a time limit, or a policy or rule that you specify.
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.