10 steps to network compliance

Network compliance may seem like a chore, but it is a chore that will help companies know their IT structure more intimately, as well as better deploy and upgrade its IT systems.

Network compliance is a major issue facing companies, and Information Technology (IT) managers are increasingly concerned about software management and the risks of software piracy. While a company may want to demonstrate its commitment to maintaining software compliance, many are misguided into thinking that maintaining network compliance is too daunting a task and therefore delay the process. They could not be doing a bigger disservice to themselves.

Apart from cost-effectively deploying software within an organization, network compliance helps companies determine what software is installed throughout their organization and save money on software purchases. Additionally, by maintaining network compliance, a company limits its potential liability for copyright violations resulting from installation of unlicensed software.

Regardless of the size of an organization, there are some easy-to-follow steps that will help a company maintain a healthy software environment. Implementation and maintenance is easy as long as you get your fundamentals right. Understanding what you have will help you identify unwanted elements lurking in the background.

Step 1: Conduct Hardware Inventory
An understanding of personal computers and servers is the starting point that can help IT managers better understand the extent of the problem. Managers should aim to find out specific information on the hardware their company possesses including location, owner, model and hardware specifications such as Central Processing Unit (CPU), Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Random Access Memory (RAM).

Step 2: Conduct Installed Software Inventory
This step can be done as part of the hardware inventory. Organize information on the software installed in your hardware by listing and summarizing details including your software vendor, product type, version and release date.

Step 3: Conduct Software License Inventory
Collect all software license proofs of purchase and summarize the information for your records. Include information regarding the software vendor, product name, type, version, release, language, quantity and serial number in your records.

Step 4: Identify relevant license agreements
In addition to basic information on the software license your company possess, include in your records detailed information on all product terms and conditions and licensing models. Different software licenses carry different terms and conditions so while your operating procedures may be adhering to the conditions of one of your software licenses, it may not be doing so for a number of other software licenses.

Step 5: Identify and chart network topology
Apart from knowing what you have, you should also know where it’s being used. By preparing a network topology chart, you will be better able to understand the inter-relationships between the different servers and services provided. You will also find out accessibility avenues such as where end user personal computers can access the server resources and where client access licenses are usually required.


Step 6: Summarize Network Server Users
This step can generally be done by quantifying the number of users who are granted access to specific server software.

Step 7: Reconciliation
Once you have collated and summarized all the personal computer software information, compare the installed software information against the software license information. For server software, compare the user information and network topology against server and client access license quantities. Where differences are identified, you have either over or under licensed for a specific product.

Step 8: Re-deploy Software Assets
If you have identified any shortfalls, you can work on purchasing outstanding software licenses. It is common to find a product type or version mismatch at this time. In this scenario, you can always seek to purchase upgrades that are cheaper but just as effective or find out more about volume licensing schemes that can help you save money while providing you with what you need.

If you have more licenses than software installations, you may wish to identify which areas of the organization can take benefit from the additional software licenses, and “re-deploy the software assets.

Step 9: Define Software Management Policies
All the work you’ve done is useless if it’s not communicated to your audience. An effective IT manager must ensure all employees understand the seriousness and the repercussions of software license infringement. By defining software management policies that clearly state what employees can or cannot do as well as penalties for infringement, you ensure protection for the company’s property. Once you have defined your policies, embark on a communication strategy to ensure clear understanding among the organization.

Step 10: Conduct Internal Software Audits
As part of your regular maintenance, conduct internal software audits on a regular basis to ensure the policies have been adhered to and identify infringements in a timely basis.

Once you have put these systems in place, you can be rest assured that you are doing all you can to maintain a healthy network in your organization with the least possible risk of inadvertently infringing software copyright laws.

Jimmy Wu is the senior manager, Enterprise Risk Services, Deloitte & Touche

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