INSIGHT: Hidden complexities of software licensing in the cloud

“Contrary to popular belief, moving to the cloud does not make software licensing challenges disappear…”

The cloud has made many things simpler.

From eliminating the software installation process, to enabling access of information from virtually anywhere, and allowing businesses to scale up or down quickly, the list of benefits is substantial.

Contrary to popular belief however, moving to the cloud does not make software licensing challenges disappear.

Instead, the cloud brings with it an entirely new set of complexities that may pose problems for the underprepared.

In order to ensure efficient control of what can be one of the most costly IT assets, cloud technologies need to be carefully considered by organisations considering new delivery models like Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Closer examination of the licensing rules tied to the type of cloud (public, private or hybrid) is also essential, as each has its own set of licence management ramifications.

In the popular SaaS model, an application is delivered to end users via the Internet using a web browser.

Typically, SaaS applications such as Salesforce and Dropbox use subscription-based licenses which often mean that organisations end up over-spending on licenses that are under-used, or on subscriptions with features they don’t really need.

In this way, while SaaS delivery may alleviate some compliance issues, it certainly doesn’t mean a decrease in overall costs.

To get around this, organisations need to have tools in place that help track usage per individual. One advantage of this approach is that license compliance becomes less of an issue, since each user must be authorised before logging in.

Bear in mind though, even with an SaaS model, an organisation could still be non-compliant if multiple users share a single account.

In the IaaS model, the (public) cloud service provider offers the basic server and networking infrastructure to the customer.

It is typically a virtualised server environment that may provide computing elasticity, allowing more server capacity when needed to handle peak loads, and less capacity when the load is smaller.

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