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Study: Microsoft Is Most 'Aggressive' Software Auditor

Microsoft issues more software audits than any other software vendor, according to a recent Flexera Software study.

Annual software "true-ups," during which companies account for the software they license, are standard practice. Companies also face software audits, however. In its survey of 1,828 software and enterprise executives, Flexera, in conjunction with research and consulting firm IDC, found that 58 percent of respondents reported getting audits from Microsoft within the last year.

Microsoft's 58 percent audit frequency was about double the rate of the second most-active auditor, according to the survey. Respondents said they had been audited in the last year by Adobe (29 percent), "other" (27 percent), IBM (23 percent), Oracle (21 percent), SAP (12 percent) and Symantec (8 percent).

Software audits within the last year. (Source: "2013-14 Key Trends in Software Pricing and Licensing Survey," Flexera Software.)

Microsoft is now the top issuer of software audits for the second year in a row. In the 2012 survey, 51 percent of respondents had said they were audited by Microsoft during the previous year.

The prospect of getting audited is likely, especially for larger organizations. Per the survey results, 63 percent of respondents reported receiving audits in the last 18 to 24 months. Only 17 percent of the total respondents indicated that they had "never been audited." Some respondents received multiple audits, with around 37 percent saying they got audited two or more times in the last 18 to 24 months. The larger the companies were in terms of revenues, the more targeted they were for software audits.

Organizations faced substantial costs in meeting true-up costs from software audits. Most organizations (56 percent) reported audit fees of $100,000 or more. For 21 percent of organizations, the true-up costs were $1 million or greater. The study concluded that "six or seven-figure true ups (or higher)" were normal for the organizations surveyed. The study included participants from Europe and Australia, but most (56 percent) were from North America.

Just 36 percent of the respondents used automation software to track their commercial software use. About 25 percent used manual methods, such as spreadsheets, to track the licenses, while 18 percent used tracking software provided by software vendors themselves. Satisfaction with tracking software was highest (54 percent) for those respondents using automation software and lowest (6 percent) for the manual methods. This question was of particular interest, no doubt, to the survey's sponsor, Flexera, since Flexera sells a solution to track software licensing.

The survey, "2013-14 Key Trends in Software Pricing and Licensing Survey -- Software License Audits: Costs and Risks to Enterprises," is the ninth-annual survey conducted by Flexera. It can be downloaded at the company's site here (requires sign-up). Flexera also posted a blog item describing the survey's results.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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