Microsoft License Services
There are very few companies or organisations that do not have a Microsoft estate. As the estate grows, governing the deployment and accurately managing the licensing requirements becomes ever more difficult. When we combine this with changing environments, expansions, mergers, purchases and rule changes from Microsoft themselves, keeping track and overseeing compliance is a job that requires an expert eye.
Some people are of course very comfortable with managing their deployment and measuring the estate and these people we salute; most others, however, are usually too busy with the day to day operations to give this area the careful consideration it demands. It also calls for an expertise that may not be naturally part of the acquired skillset. This only becomes apparent when there’s a True Up or a Renewal; perhaps even a review or audit.
The simple and most effective message: get it right, keep it right. Avoid the unnecessary spend, waste of resources and the headache of a potential audit. Let the experts do their job so you can get on with your job.
Pre-audit Health Check
If your organization has a significant investment in Microsoft products and annual support and you are responsible for either the budget or the risks if there is a compliance gap this will be of interest to you.
You will probably have one or more tools that help you tracking usage and a Microsoft Partner you rely on for advice on licensing and from whom you also buy Microsoft products or services. If you are like many organizations we work with you still have many questions:
- Can we get more value out of the licenses we already have and avoid new purchases?
- If Microsoft or their Partners request a license review or full audit how big a financial risk do we have?
- Do we have the time, resources or best tools to prepare for any True-ups or negotiations this year?
- Can we negotiate a better deal on our Enterprise Agreement when it’s up for renewal?
- If we want to move to Office 365 how do we leverage our existing investment and avoid getting subscriptions we don’t need?
- What’s the benchmark for my industry, am I paying too much?
We can help answer these questions and more and the advice is independent as we are not a Microsoft Partner incentivized to encourage you to buy more software.
We provide a Microsoft license health check that is powered by a tool but also supported by a team of experienced license experts, some of who are ex-auditors. Our health check can quickly collect, reconcile and calculate your license position. We can:
- Take the data from your existing tools so no new technology needs to be deployed
- Provide tools to improve the quality of data collected if required.
- Automatically de-duplicates and standardizes the data collected (normalize)
- Work with the contracts and agreements in whatever format you make them available
- Provide a position for both desktop and servers, physical and virtual.
- Create an Effective License Position (ELP) that can be handed to Microsoft
- Provide expert analysis of where there are risks and what to do about reducing or removing that risk
We achieve all of this with a minimum impact on your already busy team, quickly and to a standard that will exceed Microsoft reporting standards.
- There are many benefits to carrying out a pre-audit health check for Microsoft, the most notably are:
- Finding and removing any compliance risks before Microsoft or their SAM partners do.
- Confidence that they reports will stand up to close inspection as they will have been reviewed by ex-Microsoft auditors.
- Optimal assignment of licenses so you know you are getting the most value from your existing investment.
- Exact counts should you wish need to buy additional products or cloud services e.g. Office 365.
- Expert advice on the steps to remove any compliance gaps
- Free up your team to focus on the core business.
- No fear should Microsoft or the re seller put pressure on you with a license review or full audit.
We provide our service at a fixed price based on the number of devices and covers both clients and servers.
It will probably be the best investment you’ll make this year.
If you have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) or Enterprise Subscription Agreement (ESA) you already know that every year you need to tell Microsoft which of their products you are using. You prepare and submit a workbook to Microsoft called an Effective License Position (ELP).
If you are short of licenses you buy more (true-up) and if you find you are over licensed you declare this and buy nothing (zero true-up). If you are in an EAS you have the additional option of reducing your licenses (floating down).
The challenge for many organizations is in figuring out how many of each license is needed, and doing so quickly, accurately and with minimal impact on their resources. They don’t want to buy what they don’t need while at the same time they want to be confident there are no compliance risks.
An organization can try to do it all themselves but there are many reasons why getting help makes sense.
Reduce work for your team
Your organization will need to assign 1-2 resources for a number of weeks (depending on size of organization) to collect and then prepare an ELP. This is a complex and time consuming task, even
with tools. By using a license expert the job will get done more quickly and require a minimal involvement from your team. Leaving them to focus on the core business.
More Accurate ELP leading to greater savings
When it is not your core business or your realm of expertise, preparing an ELP for Microsoft is prone to errors. The licensing rules are complex and constantly changing. Even small errors can be very expensive, especially on servers, resulting in you buying software you do not need. We not only have a lot of experience in preparing an ELP (it is our core business) but our team are also up to date on the latest license rules and changes.
Access to specialist tools
We have experience in extracting the required data for an ELP from most of the major tools on the market. Most notably Microsoft SCCM. We’re independent of any one tool vendor.
More importantly we also have access to additional tools and services that your organization might not have. These tools remove duplicates, apply down grade rights and apply other rules that can significantly reduce the counts. More importantly these tools can provide the evidence should the counts be questioned.
Most organizations will have a re seller who will offer to help them prepare their ELP. A similar service may also be offered by a Microsoft SAM partner. This is often presented as a free or low cost service but the reality is they will get a commission for any purchases your organization make so there is an incentive for a Microsoft partner or re seller to be very conservative in their counting of licenses required.
We’re not paid a commission, just a consultancy fee. We will want to reduce your license costs so that you see the value of the service and will continue to use our services in the future.
Reduce cost by better assignment
The rules around licensing are complex. The usage rights you get, especially with Software Assurance, are not always clear. Expert knowledge of how to assign these rights can dramatically reduce your license costs.
Remove Audit Risks
Our license advisors are either ex-auditors or have defended many audits. They will be more familiar than any member of your team with the contentious areas of compliance risk. They can advise your team of what needs to be corrected to avoid significant costs in future audits.
This is relevant in True-ups as Microsoft commonly request a license review (soft audit) if they think they can generate more revenue or if they want to encourage you to move to another product, for example Office 365.
In short, these are just some of the simple reasons why it makes sense for an organisation to get independent advice when preparing for a Microsoft True-up but it all comes down to the same thing. Expert assistance from a license advisor who has up to date knowledge on license rules, experience of what auditors might look for and the incentive to save your money can make all the difference.
When the cost of making a mistake in a Microsoft True-up can be significant why would you not get the savings and reassurance?
If you have received notice of an upcoming Microsoft Audit then it is now time to ensure that you get your hands on expert and independent advice to make sure that you get the best outcome.
An audit is not an experience that you want to go into without having the best defense possible; it can be a sobering and expensive lesson!
Your auditors do not arrive to your door cheaply and their job is to ensure that their investigations come up with maximum possible return for their trouble. Before you even agree to a date with them be sure to contact us. Even if the Audit has begun, your defense team can argue each point to ensure you get the most favorable possible result.
Best advice we can give: Get in our team of experts to fight your corner with you.
To get the most out of what you already have usually takes some help, usually requires a lot of knowledge and the vision to see where wastage or under usage is proving costly. This is where asset management and license optimization are key components of a well-functioning IT budget.
The software vendors do not want to make it too easy; they want to ensure their revenues remain secure and with varying technologies and licensing models across almost any estate, slippage can very easily occur. It is this exact slippage that the vendors will seek to identify in an audit situation.
Managing this license jungle requires time and knowledge. Licenses differ for applications, users, servers, desktops, virtualization, etc etc. Optimization means sweating the assets that you own before deciding to make any further purchases, maximizing the usage, un-installing the unnecessary, knowing the way to make real and consistent cost savings.
It is an area which usually needs simple changes to establish, simple guidelines to follow and a process which leads to manageable budget and estate. Take expert help to get it started in the right way and the right advice to maintain it.
As part of an ongoing worldwide campaign Microsoft is currently trying to encourage as many organizations as possible to consider a move to Office 365. They are actively targeting a cloud based, subscription paying client base and are offering various and valuable incentives to sign up your estate.
Many organizations feel that by moving to the cloud, and often based on the information that they receive, they will be able to easily maintain a fully licensed position for their Microsoft estate. However, moving to Office 365 is not the final solution to all your compliance concerns and there are a broad number of areas that you need to be aware of before, or even after, you decide to subscribe to the service.
So, what is Office 365?
At Microsoft, they describe it as follows: "Office 365" refers to subscription plans that include access to Office applications plus other productivity services that are enabled over the Internet (cloud services), such as Skype for Business web conferencing and Exchange Online hosted email for business, and additional online storage with OneDrive for Business and Skype minutes.
Office 365 – Common Areas of Risk and Concern
Our work with numerous Office 365 subscription organizations has taught us that there are several areas where we find common issue regarding licensing compliance:
Have you un-installed the old and re-installed the Office 365 version for all users. If any of your users are still running from an old Volume License (VL) version then they are out of compliance, unless you have existing VL entitlement from previous versions/editions. From the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Centre (VLSC) users can still download any product, they will even get license keys. It’s important to ensure that all installs are made via Office 365 in order to use Office 365 entitlement.
Is there 100% deployment of office Suites?
Will you / did you manage the transition? You need the information that shows you whether users have fully installed the Office 365 suite. Based on your package, you can then decide if certain users need to be downgraded or upgraded. Does everybody need E3? Do you have the option to Kiosk certain low deployment and usage employees as K1s?
Another common misconception is that an Office 365 subscription includes Windows Server CALs or SQL CALs for on premise use. The E1-E5 subscriptions do offer this benefit for certain servers, e.g. Exchange and SharePoint but not for all Servers. If you have Windows Servers you will need CALs for these.
- Windows and SQL servers are additional products that can be included in your EA but are not automatically covered by your EA. We find that most audits tend to focus closely on these servers as this is a costly area where you can very quickly move into non-compliance.
- Buying one new SQL licence will not cover all of your estate
- You get a free Active Service Directory but you must have one on premise
- Any VL installed on your on premise server is not covered.
- The Exchange Server is covered but must be running in the correct mode
- Certain adds-ons (CRM, Agresso, etc) require server upgrades and these upgrades require new licenses.
- Can you reduce Standard Enterprise as the need for it to be at any higher level is reducing? (By identifying and implementing this simple move we recently reduced the compliance cost for a client by over €200,000). A detailed analysis of your SQL estate can significantly reduce costs by reassigning and optimizing current licenses.
Office 365 EA Issues
- Microsoft now includes a license verification clause in all VL agreements and Enterprise Agreements. This means that you agree to an in-built stipulation which states that you will allow Microsoft to audit your estate.
- Your EA is a 3 year commitment and must be evaluated correctly and cost analyses to ensure that it offers the most effective route forward based on your user needs and 3-6 years technology road map.
- The EA is the hook. It offers convenience and some level of comfort per yearly true up requirement. Do not let this blind you to the longer term implications and costs.
What is Best Practice?
Things You Must Do:
- Have complete visibility of your deployment across the entire estate.
- Understand the difference between Office 365 Pro Plus and Office Professional Plus.
- Ensure all servers are covered.
- Know and analyze your purchasing road map and the future plans for your estate to ensure it will run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
- Remember that all Re-sellers and Partners each have a vested interest on behalf of the vendor. They do not offer independent advice and must share information with the vendor.
Things You Should Do:
- Commission a full Health Check across your entire Microsoft estate. Spend a little to save a lot. This will accurately establish the exact extent of your requirements, the deployment figures and give you an up to date and precise ELP.
- To avoid or handle any potential risk changes, we’d suggest that you should maintain a full independent Microsoft Managed Service. This will serve as your in-house, expert employee, running and managing your estate in the background to ensure consistent and full compliance.
SureHub for Microsoft
As an overall means of managing your Microsoft estate, SureHub offers an unmatched means of accessing and reviewing all your information across all vendors. You can then chose which area you feel needs the most pressing attention.
With full and constant visibility you can manage your entire estate from your own dashboard. This means that for you to produce an ELP becomes a far simpler task; you can take charge of the desktops and the servers; review all your SQL estate; check deployment of your Office 365; approach your True Up or renewal with confidence. You become the hands-on manager of your entire estate.
The set-up is quick and easy. SureHub is an expert, highly productive, on site, employee who is fully managing your estate and reporting constantly, without ever asking for holidays. It means that you can prevent those unplanned surprises, plan better for upcoming events and monitor it all easily.