User Based Licensing: The Challenges and The Solutions

User based licensing. Sounds straightforward, yes? Well, without the right tools in place it can be impossible to accurately manage active and inactive users across your software estate.

A recent survey of the ITAM community conducted by License Dashboard revealed that a large proportion of organizations still do not have a dynamic ITAM solution to help them identify active and inactive assets and users in their IT estate. The results showed that 43% of respondents are not tracking the primary users of assets, and of those who are, 71% do not track their users more than once per month.

The challenge when managing User Based Licenses

“I’m using my SAM solution to inventory the installed software on each device, and I am keeping an inventory of all software purchases, so feel I have a good handle on keeping our company compliant. Recently some departments are now signing up for Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions, which permit the installation of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2016 on up to five PCs or MACs, five tablets and five phones.

“All our devices are assigned to a specific user, but some of them can be used by other users also. How do I track which instances of Microsoft Office are covered by the Microsoft Office 365 subscription, and how do I know how many separate Microsoft Office device licences are needed?”

So why is this such a pain? Well, let’s say you have a user with an Office 365 subscription; they have the equivalent version of Office installed three times – once on their laptop, once on their workstation, and a final time on their tablet. The O365 admin portal reports the subscription, but your network discovery tool is asking for three licenses, one for each install – that’s the challenge, particularly in mixed environments of usage.

It gets more confusing with MSDN. A developer can deploy a whole raft of products under their subscriptions to multiple devices, of course with certain access restrictions, but to your discovery tool these look like full blown deployments of SQL, Exchange, Windows Server and so on.

How do you track which user is accessing which device? Also, whilst it should be straightforward, can you readily associate your primary username with their presented subscription username? It’s key to differentiate the primary user description with the description of the user in the software subscription as they aren’t necessarily the same.

User Based Licensing Solutions

To be able to solve this challenge, ITAM Managers must:

  • Identify all the users within an organization, and note which user is the primary user for each device.
  • Name all other users on each device.
  • Distinguish between users who have an Office 365 (for example) subscription, and those who do not.
  • List each device’s users, and whether or not they have an Office 365 subscription.
  • If they do, the local install of Office Professional Plus 2016 does not require a separate device licence.
  • If an older version of Office Professional Plus is installed (and it is six months after the release of Office Professional Plus 2016), then a separate device license is required.
  • If an office edition other than Office Professional Plus 2016 is installed, then a separate device license is required.
  • Only five PC/MAC installs per user subscription is permitted, so if a user is using Office Professional Plus on more than five, additional device licenses are required.

As discussed, there are similar challenges with other user based subscriptions, including Microsoft MSDN and Adobe Creative Cloud licensing.

But Wait…

Once you have overcome the challenge of tracking the users of assets there is still a final hurdle for many to overcome: You have a primary user alias, but is that user known by that exact and unique alias in their subscription? Or do you still have to resolve additional aliases to the primary user?

User User Account
Joe Bloggs [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

The user you see here is a simple Joe Bloggs, and you have him as the primary user of devices A, B and C. Unfortunately, your subscriptions do not always come with this simple naming convention (as you can see) and so to manage user based licensing you need to also be able to resolve Joe Bloggs with his multiple aliases.

This is further exacerbated if Joe has aliases with multiple vendors – it becomes more difficult to associate multiple accounts per user to their devices.

Managing User Based Licenses with License Manager 11

License Manager 11 is designed specifically to solve these challenges. New features include;

  • The importing of users and user attributes from sources such as Active Directory and personnel systems.
  • The ability to associate users and their user accounts, automated for most account types, with a facility for the user to amend associations as necessary.
  • The collection of user login history to automatically determine which users have used each device.
  • The automatic determination of which user is the primary user of each device
  • The ability to record which subscriptions each user has and what they entitle the user to use, with imports from systems such as the Office 365 Admin Portal.
  • An intelligent liability calculation system that implements vendor specific rules based on the software installed on each device, the type of device, and who the primary and secondary users are.

License Manager 11 can achieve in minutes what would otherwise be a hugely painful, arduous task that is difficult to dynamically maintain. If you are facing User Based Licensing challenges in your own organization, License Dashboard would be happy to help.


Ben Eagling

Ben Eagling

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