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It’s one of those things that you know you probably should do, but you just don’t want to, or you simply don’t think you have the time – tracking software licenses. Although establishing a good internal process for this can be time consuming and confusing, it’s still extremely important to establish and maintain a process for tracking licenses.
If you’re like most people you’re probably wondering “Okay, why is tracking them really that important?”

There are actually quite a few reasons. Tracking licenses gives you the ability to:

  • Know what software is actually on what computers
  • Know the number of licenses still available if you bought a few at a time; this will keep you from buying new ones if you already have one
  • Know the expiration/renewal dates, if any
  • Know if someone’s device has a piece of software licensed to it that they don’t need, and could be used by someone who does need it
  • Establish guidelines on what can be installed and who can install it
  • Track registration accounts that licenses are registered under
  • Avoid major problems and very heavy fines for using improperly licensed or pirated software

While all of these are good reasons, the last one is really the overarching one to take seriously—without fail, a few of our clients every year get letters from Microsoft and other big software vendors announcing that they’ll be undergoing an audit to make sure that their software is licensed properly.  And it’s really not optional unless you want the lawyers to get involved.
So, having established why this is important, now to address the issue of actually establishing a process for this. If you’re a larger business with an astronomical number of licenses, it might be worth looking into an actual inventory/license management software.

Spiceworks offers a software inventory management app that is free no matter the number of users or licenses you need to keep track of. Depending on your size and needs, this could be a good option.

If you’re more of a DIY’er when it comes to creating internal processes we have a couple ideas for you as well.

The first is pretty obvious. Create an excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet can help you keep track of currently in use licenses, and those that aren’t in use, making sure you don’t purchase unnecessary licenses.

Included in this sheet are the

  • Vendor name – For Example: Microsoft, Adobe
  • Product name/Description – For Example: Microsoft Office
  • Device serial number: This could also be called a service tag depending on your device.
    • If you need help finding this number check here for Dell, here for Mac, and here for Lenovo
  • License key  – These look different depending on the software and the vendor, and include letters, numbers, or dashes.
    • For example a SonicWall key would be in this format, using letters and numbers with no dashes: XXXXXXXX
    • As another example a Microsoft office key would be in this format, using letters, numbers and dashes: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX
  • Purchase date
  • Install date
  • Expiration/renewal date
  • Registration account – It’s helpful to keep track of which email address the key was purchased under.

Another option, and the route that one of our clients uses, is to create a physical folder for each new device that contains all licenses and software downloads. So when we order a new workstation for this client, we install all necessary software, then we create a folder with the serial number on it. Once we have finished setting it up we give them the folder along with the device and it goes into a cabinet with all their other folders, and then they are able to keep their records updated. This could also aid in keeping track of software license agreements.

For all of these recommendations it’s important to have at least one person, but not too many that they can’t effectively communicate with each other, assigned to keep track of all of these licenses. As with our client in the example above, they have three people who are in charge of the license management folders.

While it may seem like a daunting task, it really is important to keep track of all those licenses, if for no other reason than to save you money and time in the future.

If you have any other suggestions on efficient ways to keep track of software licenses let us know! We are always interested in different and new ways to do things.