IT Trends: Software licencing guidance revisited


Clients are continuing to have issues with the free upgrade to Microsoft Windows 10. Note that this free offer ends in July 2016. Once again, software piracy is the topic of this column, as this upgrade is highlighting the existence of illegal software on many devices.

A serious warning to clients – it is you or your company that is liable for any compliance action by the software owners for illegal software used on your network or machines. Blaming the vendor or the user does not get you off the hook. It is you that is benefitting from the use of the software. Note also that there is no guarantee offered by proprietary software vendors that their software will work properly on a machine running pirated software. Therefore, there is no guarantee that your anti-virus or financial solution – for that matter – will work correctly.

If in doubt about the licencing on your network – contact us, visit, or commission an IT audit. Ask your IT service provider to show you proof that the licences you are purchasing are legal.


At the end of the day, use your common sense. If you were offered a new Apple IPhone, for example, at less than half the price in the shops, wouldn’t you be suspicious? Too good to be true pricing is usually just that – and a quick check on the internet will provide a clear idea of actual costs.

All proprietary software is sold with an EULA (end user licence agreement) which requires the user to confirm that many rights on this software will be retained by the software owner. Therefore, purchasing this software only gives the client a right to use this software.

There are generally two types of this licencing – perpetual and subscription. Perpetual licencing gives the user the right to use this software for as long as s/he wants. If you purchase a full copy of Microsoft Office 2016, for example – you are able to use this for as long as you want – and usually on any single machine that you wish. Pay particular attention to the type of licence that you purchase – some licence types do not allow you to transfer the licence to another machine at any time.


Subscription licencinglimits the usage of the software for a defined period of time. At the end of this period, the user is required to pay to renew the licence for a further period. Microsoft Office 365 is such a product, and the general trend in the market now with major software vendors is to only offer this option. Corel. SAGE, Adobe and most anti-virus solutions are based on this principle. Renewal is normally due annually, failing which the software will lock, or the anti-virus will stop updating itself and protecting your machine. Lower cost subscription volume licencing is also available for all Microsoft products – and this may be more cost effective for short term projects. Therefore, you are able to lease Microsoft server products (minimum 5 users) – for a set period of time.

Finally, users are not allowed to use a single licence on more than one machine (except for Cloud Services licencing models). Therefore, if you have 50 users requiring Microsoft Office – you need to purchase 50 licences. Not just one! Most modern software products require you to activate the product online – and you will soon find out if your purchase was incorrect. Earlier versions of Office can be loaded on numerous devices without online activation. This is piracy – so beware.

If you need more than 5 Microsoft user licences, or server products – ask your Microsoft partner for volume licencing options which should reduce costs. With anti-virus solutions – more than 10 users will benefit from a corporate solution, which centrally and intelligently manages your users and reduces the bandwidth drain required by using individual copies of an anti-virus.

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