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Why homeworking adds a new layer of complexity for cloud and software asset management


Under the coronavirus-induced lockdowns, whole industries are shrinking, or coming to a halt. However, Cloud providers are seeing an unprecedented increase. Why is that?

Cloud applications have the advantage of being accessible from anywhere in the world. All you need is internet connection. This is a defining advantage compared to on-premise applications which need connectivity to a local network. As workers are no longer able of doing their daily activities from their respective offices, companies need to shift their solutions from on-premise hosted applications to cloud-hosted applications.
In fact, cloud-based applications are the main enabler for knowledge workers to continue carrying it on their work from home. This has prompted most businesses to accelerate their migration to cloud in order to continue operations and prevent losses during the quarantine.

Cloud Solutions and Their Complexity

While Cloud has some incomparable advantages, migrating to and operating cloud solutions also has significant challenges. This is especially true when migrating from on-premise to cloud and rushing through the transformation process.
The technical complexity inherited from Cloud solutions spans across multiple areas. These are security, compliance and transformation.
From a Security perspective, Cloud solutions combined with home-working have two facets which we need to address. These are:
–    Technical Security: the main security challenge from a technical point of view compared to on-premise solutions is the fact that workloads are no longer contained within the corporate network. Data is now carried over internet connections to the Cloud provider’s servers and sent back. When used in a home-working context, employees are using non-secure home broadbands to connect, which adds another point of weakness in the data transmission. However, cloud providers encrypt data at an application layer, compared to transport layer encryption used in on-premise solutions. This makes the data transmission very secure, even to eavesdropping.
–    Secure Employee Behaviours: this aspect poses more risks as employee behaviour can be unpredictable and unsafe. As businesses employ new cloud-based collaboration tools, untrained employees are susceptible to phishing attacks. Similarly, when working from home, employees can accidentally download malware on their work machines.
When looking from a Compliance point-of-view, the cloud migrations and tools used for enabling home working require IT departments to redefine and reiterate their licenses. This is because managing licenses in the Cloud is considerably more difficult than on-premise solutions.  Typical licensing challenges in the Cloud revolve around the flexible infrastructure and its usage in relation to the applications:
–    Licensing based on physical hardware: as cloud services such as Virtual Machines (VM) or Containers are based on physical hardware, vendors allow customers to license the hardware used. The issue arises when VMs or Containers use different hardware boxes and the customers only licensed a handful of these boxes. To solve this, customers should try licensing all the hardware contracted as the VMs and Containers may be created on any available resource
–    Licensing based on CPU usage: some applications use multiple virtual CPUs to run a single instance of an application. With a CPU-based license model, a single instance would use as many licenses as virtual CPUs used.
–    Software usage reporting for audits: as software usage is not tied to a single hardware resource, customers must ensure they receive comprehensive reports as records for audit purposes.
From a Transformation perspective, cloud migrations would also entail changing the licensing models to fit the cloud solution. Some common issues are:
–    Some on-premise software is not available on the Cloud. In this scenario, IT managers need to find a solution to replace the old one
–    Some licensing models are not available on the Cloud. For example, while perpetual licenses are only available for on-premise solutions, these would have to be changed to subscription-based licensing.
–    Fast transformation projects such as in the case of the COVID-19 lockdowns may have non-technical aspects, such as licensing, fall down the priority list. When the senior technical team is concerned with getting a new technology up-and-running as quickly as possible, licensing concerns would only be tackled after full deployment.
–    Licensing changes are not clearly communicated by the customer. Typically, vendors do not put a lot of effort into managing licensing changes and the responsibility falls on the customer to be as specific as possible. This requires visibility, expertise and planning.

How Software Asset Management Can Help Clear Complications

Taking all the challenges listed above into consideration, visibility, planning and management of software assets is key in mitigating any risks.
Software Asset Management can help from all these perspectives. The best practices for using SAM to clear complications related to cloud and home-working are as follows:
–    Visibility: IT managers can have a fully comprehensive picture of their IT estate. Knowing exactly what tools are deployed and in which environment is critical to ensure compliance.
–    Software Lifecycles: licensing dates, payments, auto-renewals – all can be managed through a single pane of glass
–    Licensing and forecasting: licensing when using cloud and on-premise tools can become very complicated. SAM tools enable IT managers to understand what licensing models are deployed and how they work. This is crucial for licensing optimisation and ensuring compliance.
Organisations can leverage software asset management tools to simplify their cloud management and migration, as well as tracking work-from home resources. SAM tools are a key component in IT managers’ toolset to gain visibility over their deployed solutions and minimize any compliance or security risks.

By Craig Greenhalgh, Content Analyst at Comparesoft