Software Licensing

We still occasionally get a business asking us to install software from existing CD's onto new machines without considering or simply ignoring license implications.

Software licensing is a very important issue today and companies need to understand how software licenses work as they are not as simple as buying a lawn-mower or a loaf of bread. runPCrun will not install software if we consider it unlicensed, so please do not ask us to do so.

Software licensing is based on the number of users who have access to the software or the number of computers it is installed upon. So for example, a 10-user license based on users means that up to 10 users have access to the program.

Another example is if you have one copy of Photoshop and install it on 10 more PC's (without the correct licensing) you are committing copyright infringement to the value of approx. £4500. The Federation against Software Theft (FAST) and Business Software Alliance (BSA) kind of take a dim view of this and a business could face serious fines.

I recommend people read this article on Computer Software: The Basics if you need more information on this subject as well as Copyright Law from FAST and finally this FAST Press release.

Client Access Licenses

Some software requires Client Access Licenses as well as buying the product itself. Windows is a prime example of this. You may buy 10 workstations with licensed Windows XP on each and also a server with Windows 2003 Server edition on it. however Windows 2003 Server only comes with 5 CAL's out of the box, so if you want 10 PC's to be able to use it (for example for file access) then you have to buy another 5 CAL's on top of your original purchase. There is more on Windows Server 2003 Client Access Licensing at the Microsoft website.

OEM licensing

We have also come to notice that many people misunderstand what OEM licensing is about. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) licenses are for software placed on PC when the PC is purchased. OEM are much cheaper than Retail licenses, but OEM licenses cannot be transferred to a new PC when replacing hardware and you must buy the product (or it's latest incarnation) again. Retail versions of software generally allow you to install on a new PC if you remove the product from your old one, but check the license terms and conditions (generally referred to as a "EULA" (End User License Agreement) before doing so.

Home & Student and 'Free for Non-commercial use' licenses in a commercial setting

Something else that we have noticed in recent months is the prevelance of people buying and installing Microsoft Office Home/Student version for PC's in a business environment. By doing this you are not licensed.

Please be aware that some free software has a "Free for Non-commercial use only" clause, and so by using this software in a business setting you are breaking thelicense agreement.

Free software

Lastly there are often high quality Free and Open Source alternatives to a lot of software packages, which can avoid a lot of these license issues. Check out my list of free software on this page or my newer IT Support Engineers Toolkit article.

Are you risking everything to save a few pounds?

With the Federation Against Software Theft pushing for jail sentences for company directors that 'mis-use software', all it takes is a random audit or a disgruntled employee to ruin your business, reputation and cost you, perhaps in more than money. Is it really worth it?