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Use software license optimization tools to get your money's worth out of SaaS

Vincent Brasseur, Director of Product Management, Flexera Software | April 6, 2015
Software as a Service (SaaS) breaks the shackles of traditional software licensing approaches, but savvy users still optimize their SaaS environments to avoid undue costs.

Software license optimization for SaaS

In the SaaS world, compliance is generally ensured by the SaaS provider. Enforcement mechanisms, such as active accounts having access to the SaaS applications, are controlled by the provider and used as the basis for monthly invoices.

However, ensuring that every employee that has been given a license is actually using the SaaS solution is much more difficult, and most organizations don't monitor for this. This means that organizations are likely paying for more licenses than they're actually using, and hence wasting money. Optimization techniques similar to those used for on-premises software can and should be performed on SaaS software to monitor usage, ensuring the organization's subscribed licenses match the use of the product.

Moreover, over-licensed situations for SaaS products may occur in a couple of ways. The first occurs when resources counted toward the SaaS license do not match the actual use. The most common example is found when SaaS products use the number of end users (i.e employees or contractors) as the licensing metric. Enterprises can easily drift to an over-licensed situation when end users leave the organization or simply no longer require use of the product.

In these scenarios, the license should be reclaimed for use by another employee that does need it and, if permitted, the corresponding subscription terminated for the prior user. Without proper processes and usage monitoring, organizations will keep paying for end user subscriptions that are no longer being used, or in some instances, for employees who have never used the product.

The second over licensed situation can occur when the license type assigned to an end user does not match his or her actual use of the product. SaaS product subscriptions are generally offered at different price levels depending on the scope of features that can be accessed. It is common for end users to be over-licensed because they are not using all the features made available to them at that licensing level, and should instead be assigned to a less expensive subscription. Here again Software License Optimization can lead to significant savings.

Monitoring SaaS product usage is more challenging than traditional desktop software, however. For instance, on-premises software products can be monitored through an "agent" on the local device. This agent tracks when the executable file corresponding to the product is running or not. Advanced monitoring techniques can also be applied, such as tracking if the window hosting the application is the active (front) window. Other techniques can be used for optimization purposes, such as monitoring keystrokes and mouse clicks, which are good indicators of whether the software is being used.

Similar techniques can be applied to optimizing SaaS applications. Internet browsers and URLs corresponding to each SaaS product can be monitored though doing so is more complex. For instance, different browsers might be used to access the SaaS product, each requiring a specific plug-in to track the end user activity. In addition, URLs need to be matched against a valid SaaS product.


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