Planning for DR? Don't forget your licenses.

Licensing issues may not be your primary concern when creating a disaster recovery plan, but you should do the research now.

Licensing issues may not be your primary concern when creating a disaster recovery plan, but you should do the research now.

Make sure you know the licensing requirements for the software you depend on in the event of a crisis, or you could end up paying the price.

Whether you choose to use host-based disaster recovery (DR) software or hardware-based systems, you will need to be sure of your software licensing on both sides of the DR plan, well ahead of an actual disaster. Failing to ensure that you have the proper licensing could result in your DR system failing to function as expected, or in significant fines and other penalties.

Three key factors come into play when discussing software for DR, which makes it an often-overlooked aspect of the DR planning process.

1. Get the appropriate licensing for backup/recovery facilities
First off, if you're using any sort of software solutions to ensure recovery, you'll need to be sure you've got the right software and licensing to use it properly. Getting the right licensing for the production facility is a no-brainer, since the tools in question wouldn't work if you didn't have the right software setup. However, many people using tape and other point-in-time technologies neglect to secure the proper licensing of these applications for the backup facility or secondary recovery area. Even if you're only in one building, the servers you plan on restoring to may require additional licensing of tape agents or snapshot-recovery tools.

Failure to procure the proper number of licenses may leave your company open to regulatory action, or at the very least, cause your DR solution to function oddly or not at all during an emergency.

2. Find out licensing requirements of "standby equipment"
Beyond the basics of having the right DR software licensing for the actual backup and/or protection solutions, you'll also need to examine the software and application on the servers themselves. Each operating system sets its own rules, for example, for how many copies you must buy. It may not be required that you have a license on servers that are designated as "standby equipment;" however, this is determined by the manufacturer of the software--not by you. If it isn't required, buying extra licensing is a costly mistake in the best of circumstances and possibly an overwhelming misuse of funds overall.

The opposite is also true. You must be able to show licensing for each server that requires it, including those for backup servers, if the manufacturer doesn't allow for extra DR copies. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but failure to properly license software can leave your company open to stiff penalties and other legal action if you don't comply with the appropriate laws and regulations.

3. Check licensing agreements for application software
Similarly, applications follow different rules when it comes to DR. Many applications--especially enterprise-class systems--allow for the use of a DR copy of the software at no additional charge. Others require that each server that has the software installed also has an individually licensed copy of the software product. This is yet another case where failure to do the proper licensing research could lead to your DR plan failing. Either the systems simply won't work and will exit with a licensing error, or you may get hit with fines and other penalties for failure to purchase the right licensing for your situation.

Keeping track of all these different licenses and requirements could become overwhelming very quickly. This is especially true if you add remote-access tools and Client Access Licensing (CALs) to the mix. Your best bet is to use a few select resellers, and relying on them to assist you in acquiring the correct licensing for the solutions you want to put into place. Going with a fewer resellers has the advantage of letting those resellers get the total picture of what you're trying to do, and also leveraging economies of scale when it comes to pricing for the total solution.

Licensing may seem like a secondary issue when it comes to DR planning--especially for software tools. However, if you don't tread carefully here you may find yourself with both an ineffective DR plan, and a lot of legal issues waiting for you down the road.

Mike Talon is an IT consultant and freelance journalist who has worked for both traditional businesses and dot-com startups.