Business owners aren’t usually known for turning down opportunities to save money. But if you haven’t at least considered volume software licensing, you may be doing just that.
In fact, the whole concept of software licensing is often misunderstood, even by many tech-savvy businesspeople. When you buy software, be it a boxed copy from a retailer or downloaded from the Internet, you do not own the software. Rather, you have bought a license to use it. The license sets down the terms and conditions governing how you can use the software, where you can install it, and how long the license is valid. (For more on software licenses, see Understanding Software Licenses.)
Unless stated otherwise, most software licenses are valid for only one computer. If you buy a single license and install the accompanying software on more than one machine, you may be violating the terms of the agreement and breaking the law.
Of course, you can buy individual copies for each one of your computers, but those costs can quickly mount. The alternative is to take advantage of volume licensing, where you purchase a single license for multiple users, computers, or sites.
Many software vendors offer discounted volume licenses. When people think of “volume discounts,” they may have visions of Costco-sized portions. But many vendors, including Microsoft, offer discounts for as few as five licenses. Of course, the more licenses you buy, the more you will save on each one. Upgrades and add-ons to licensed copies may also be cheaper than upgrading a boxed copy of the same title. Some vendors offer upgrade assurance, which guarantees free or discounted upgrades within specific timeframes.
One caveat: If you need copies of the software on a CD, you will generally need to purchase that in addition to your licenses.
Another benefit of volume licensing is that it can simplify managing your software rights. Rather than having a half-dozen boxed copies of software in your office, with a half-dozen different validation keys, you will have one copy of the software with a single key. This may not seem like a big deal, unless you are the person who has to keep track of your company’s software. Running down different versions of software and different keys can make your already-harried IT person’s life even more difficult.
Can your business save money with volume licensing? If your company runs a single software title on five or more different computers, it’s certainly possible, and it does not hurt to ask. All the big manufacturers — Microsoft, Symantec, Sun, and others — offer volume licensing, either directly or through value-added resellers. Even Amazon.com now facilitates volume licensing sales through a third-party vendor.
So before you write a check for multiple copies of the same software title, ask around and see if the vendor or an authorized reseller offers volume licensing. They may say no, but you will never know until you try. And who knows? You may be pleasantly surprised and wind up with some extra money in your pocket.