Considerations If You Are Ever Contacted for a Software Audit

Microsoft Software Audits – Reality, Risk, and Readiness

The Reality of Software Audits – They Are Becoming Routine and Frequent

There are organizations whose business it is to protect the intellectual property of software manufacturers. Organizations such as the Federation of Software Theft (FAST) and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) receive contracts from software vendors to investigate and detect non-compliance of software use. In other words, they are looking for companies – small or large – who are breaking federal copyright and/or other intellectual property laws. These “watchdog” organizations give little warning and catch companies out of compliance every working day.

Here at Garner IT Consulting, we’ve recently had two clients contacted by Microsoft with requests to audit their software. That’s why we want to provide you with several useful tips to prepare your business should it receive an audit request. From wherever a software audit might originate, we want to help your business be ready to avoid difficulties and unnecessary expenses.

The Business Risk of Software Non-compliance

The reality is that if any business is found out of compliance with federal software (intellectual property) laws it can be expensive, embarrassing, and disruptive.

Sadly, non-compliance is not a simple “parking ticket.” There can be fines for infringement plus four times the cost of the software found to be unlicensed. In addition, the cost of obtaining proper software licenses after-the-fact can be significantly above the normal licensing fees. And being audited by one software company can catalyze more audits for other software products by other vendors. Finally, and most significant, publicity and public perception of impropriety can ruin a business and cost jobs.

Being Prepared for a Software Audit

Because we have personal knowledge of Microsoft software audits, we’ll focus on that vendor. In addition, the reality is that Microsoft Office products are used by almost all businesses. These software products are of significant business value and high national visibility. So here are some basic facts and quick tips to prepare you for an audit should it occur.

First, let’s explain a few basic types of acquisition of Microsoft licenses associated with their most common software products: Windows and Office.

  1. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) – This software is “bundled” with the computer purchase, so the license is less expensive. However, the license cannot be moved from the purchased computer.
  2. Retail – This software is purchased from a “big box store” or online vendor. Examples include Office Depot and Best Buy.
  3. Volume Licensing – This software is purchased from a wholesaler and is a digital agreement with Microsoft for the software you need for your business.

Second, let’s discuss what happens during an audit. What information will you need to provide?

Microsoft will ask you for the following information during their audit:

  1. Quantities of each type, version, and edition of Microsoft software.
  2. A sample of Product Keys for each type, version, and edition of Microsoft software.
  3. Proof of Purchase. Ideally, this is the Certificate of Authenticity: the sticker with the software Product Key stuck on the side of your computer or on the retail packaging. Proof of purchase could also be a valid invoice of the purchase that clearly provides the details and statement of the purchase of the software.

Realistically, if your business uses more than five computer stations, it can be difficult to keep track of the acquisition information for each OEM or retail software purchase. For most growing companies it is simpler and more straightforward to track the purchase of Volume Licenses.

Microsoft will also want to know about their other software product licenses. With that in mind, you will also need to have the above information ready for your copies of Remote Desktop Services Exchange, Structured Query Language (SQL), SharePoint, etc.

At Garner IT Consulting We Keep You Prepared and Productive

We hope the above information has been of value to you and your business. For software audit preparation or any of the other myriad needs involving IT, we hope you will keep us in mind. Our goal is simply to help your business succeed and prosper.

Contact us today for a consultation at


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