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Software licensing: CIOs fall behind, survey says

A new survey shows CIOs are clueless when it comes to understanding what software is licensed (or not).

A majority of IT executives and managers say they have unlicensed software deployed but are not prepared to pony up if they're tapped for a software audit by a vendor, a new survey has found.

Not that the big software vendors are knocking down every midmarket IT shop door. But the threat is there and the results of the May survey by King Research show that CIOs aren't ready.

"I don't think it's surprising that two-thirds feel they're out of compliance," said Rob Meinhardt, CEO of KACE Networks Inc., the Mountain View, Calif.-based systems management company that commissioned the survey.

"I think there is rarely malicious intent, at least in the U.S., related to this," he said. Instead, CIOs and IT leaders are just too busy to conduct regular internal audits and keep an eye on license compliance, he said.

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Still, the survey of 343 IT professionals -- about 24% were CIOs or other IT executives -- found most of them admit they've let licensing compliance go south.

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they were "not confident" that they were in compliance with software license agreements. And 67% of the IT executives and managers surveyed said their companies haven't taken steps to ensure compliance.

Those same managers said they have deployed unlicensed software (60%). Seventy-three percent of the respondents say because they are not sure about what is licensed or not, they do not feel they would be prepared to undergo an audit by a software vendor.

The survey also found that CIOs and other executives were more likely than other managers to believe they weren't in compliance or ready for an audit. Survey respondents in larger companies were also more likely to believe software compliance was in poor shape.

Meinhardt pitches his KBOX device as a way to clear it all up and automate software compliance. He said he see his competition as big-league products like Hewlett Packard Co.'s Software -- formerly HP OpenView -- and CA Inc.'s Unicenter. CA also recently released its Software Compliance Manager.

"There's a potential for penalties and fines," Meinhardt said. "You could even go to jail over some of this stuff. It even goes as far as offering incentives for whistleblowers, so a disgruntled employee could turn you in."

I think there is rarely malicious intent, at least in the U.S., related to this
Rob Meinhardt
CEOKACE Networks Inc.
Bo Vieweg, a survey respondent and director of IT at Seattle University, said he feels confident about software licensing at the school. One person on his 35-member staff is charged with monitoring licensing and Viewig conducts annual audits.

Vieweg called that process "rigid."

"We review it with folks within the university who concern themselves with compliance from an administrative perspective as well as a legal perspective," he said.

Seattle University uses a variety of technologies, including its ERP program and Active Directory, to track software deployments. Staff and faculty do not have administrative rights on their laptops, which helps cut down on illegal installation, Vieweg said.

Also simplifying matters, Vieweg said, is a trend of clearer licensing rules from Microsoft and other software vendors.

Vieweg, who came to Seattle University through IT consulting and management firm SunGard Higher Education, said not every business has its act as in shape as the school does.

"I've certainly seen examples where I've walked into companies where it hasn't been a priority," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Zach Church, News Writer

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