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Asset Management vs License Management

I’ve been reviewing help desk products for a client the past couple weeks and it (continues to) surprise me that vendors don’t recognize a difference between asset management and license management.  A couple years ago, when evaluating MSP software, I went through the same frustration (and pulled lots of hair out). 

Most help desk products focus solely on asset management.  They claim they manage software as well, but what they’re really doing is listing what software is installed on a computer, not what’s licensed for the computer. That’s only half of the job.  When it comes time to self-assessment of computers (you should be spot-checking/auditing on a regular basis) or when Microsoft comes a’knocking, you need record of what’s in use (installed) and what you legally own. 

Diving into my third Microsoft audit (for 3 different customers) in the past couple years, the fact that most companies don’t recognize the need for proper license management is painfully clear.  There are many specialized products out there that do both asset and license management well, but for most SMB’s, those simply are not a financially viable option. 

If you’re using an asset management system without actual license management (or not doing license management at all), it’s very important that you develop a proper license management process.  This can be as simple as a spreadsheet with license information linked to an asset (computer name) and an organized repository of proof of licenses (CoA, Invoices …). 

It would be very simple for help desk systems which already have asset management (scanning computers to see what software is installed) to include a few simple fields for license type (ie. OEM, Volume, Retail), status, and some notes (ie. location of the license document/invoice).  Additional features, such as a full license management cycle (receiving, pooling, retiring) would be fantastic. 

Of all the help desk products we’ve been looking at, only ManageEngine has some of this built-in.  It also has some basic contract management (reminders for contract expiry and budgeting). While these seem like small features, they’re extremely important for the smooth management of your IT organization.   

After all, when Microsoft does come a’knocking, do you want to spend weeks doing an audit and hoping you’re compliant, or do you want to be able to give them the answer on the spot, because you’ve done a little ongoing work and organized yourself well?

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