What is Cloud computing?
Cloud computing entails the use of computing resources as services which are provided remotely over a network (typically, the internet). Traditionally those responsible for software asset management have only had to focus on desktop management, i.e. software installed and operating on each individual PC in use.
What are the advantages?
In practical terms, shifting to cloud computing means migrating software and data to a remote server, which can then be accessed by “thin clients”. As thin client machines simply access required information and software from the server, rather than needing to store data or run applications themselves, they can be more basic and therefore potentially cheaper to buy and operate. Furthermore, cloud computing is greatly advantageous to people who wish to access their data remotely, for example while working away from their desks, or whilst travelling.
What are the risks?
Despite its advantages, there are also potential challenges raised by the use of cloud computing, in particular the issue of software licensing. There are legal obligations to obtain adequate licensing for all software in use, and failure to comply with these obligations can equate to software piracy. Businesses are subject to auditing in this respect, which could expose such failures and leave them subject to legal repercussions. It is therefore very important to ensure compliance with licensing regulations.
The crux of the issue is that switching to cloud computing can change the way that software is installed and used, which could potentially have an effect on ensuring compliance with licensing regulations. If software is provided as a service over a network, without actually having to be installed on each PC, true usage can be hard to track.
However there are solutions available to help you manage these risks.
Managing the risks of moving to a Cloud environment
Firstly it is recommended that a business considering switching to cloud computing should conduct a thorough audit of the software it currently uses. Assessing software usage can help a business to correctly establish its virtualised environment in accordance with the needs of the business. As software licences will usually still need to be purchased for every device that the software is operated on (you should always check the terms of the software license), it makes good economic sense to establish how many users require the software, rather than operating on the basis that it will be used by all. Few businesses can afford to waste resources, and purchasing only the necessary amount of software (and corresponding licences) can be a straightforward way to save money.
Further to this auditing process, it is recommended that steps are taken to control the use of software on certain devices. Products such as AppSense Application Manager are capable of limiting the devices that software can be operated from, so that only those which have been given permission to run the software can do so. Through this kind of control, applications like this are able to help organisations meet their compliance requirements for software licensing within server-based environments.
About the Author: Lucy Hunt is a technology and business blogger, currently writing on behalf of Licence Dashboard, a software asset management and software management solutions vendor. She has a keen interest in cloud computing and software licensing.