Users need multiple applications to do their jobs in today's corporate world. Unfortunately, keeping track of all these software application licenses is usually left up to a network manager. Luckily, there are many tools available for monitoring software licenses. Some are passive monitors, working in the background to determine when an application is opened, by whom, for how long, and so forth. The best of these tools also will monitor real usage so that if an application is opened but isn't in active use, the usage time is adjusted accordingly. Sometimes packages of this type provide a metering function so that only a certain number of copies of a program may run on a network at any given time; something that is meant to satisfy a connection-based licensing model. Active license management software runs upon command to see what applications are installed on which computers – whether they are used or not.
However you slice it, license management is a time consuming, complex, and often frustrating task. As licensing schemes become more Byzantine there's more to know about your vendors' requirements – something that seems to change from version to version. License management is an expertise that will cost your company a significant amount of money to establish, and perhaps even more when the management is not done properly. For most companies this function is a distraction from the other important IT functions that support and grow a business.
Given that this expertise is rather specialized, you might want to consider outsourcing your license management needs to an outside vendor. Two companies that offer these kinds of services are ASAP Software and Softchoice. Both of these vendors offer Web based services that can track both software and hardware assets. In both instances you install an agent on each workstation, and that agent reports its activity to a hosted Web site. This very specialized expertise and outsider's point of view could be a real benefit to you and your company.
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.