Over the last six months, Microsoft’s Volume Licensing Division has enlarged its software audit selection from large businesses with 200 or more users to businesses in the 25-250 employee range.  As a result of this change, thousands of small and medium businesses have received letters, emails and phone calls regarding an upcoming audit.  If your business did not already receive an audit request last year, it is likely that you will receive one in the first half of 2015.

Actual self-audit letter received by a client.  Click to view readable version.

Actual self-audit letter received by a client. Click to view readable version.

Smaller businesses will receive a Microsoft self-audit letter, the most lenient audit type Microsoft employs. Microsoft asks companies to verify their compliance by executing a self-audit by a specific date.  A sample audit letter will look something like this,

“Following the internal self-audit, please deliver to Microsoft a written statement signed by an officer of your company, certifying that (Your Company) has sufficient licenses to permit all usage disclosed by the audit or that (Your Company) has ordered sufficient licenses to permit all usage disclosed by the audit….Please be advised, that any removal of Microsoft Software currently in use across your enterprise will be considered a violation of the terms of the Agreement.”

A Microsoft Self-Audit is worded as a voluntary process; however, ignoring the process can result in worse unwanted attention.  Failure to submit to a self-audit for too long and Microsoft may investigate your account record.  If Microsoft discovers any inconsistencies in your purchase record, they may request a legally binding Compliance Audit.

If a full scale audit is conducted, your business can expect to pay out between 30,000 to 40,000 dollars per 100 computers.  However, these costs are only the start.  If an organization demonstrates flagrant ignorance or deliberate avoidance of licensing rules, it could become the subject of a further legal audit. Software manufacturers, such as Microsoft, employ and authorize the Business Software Association (BSA) to pursue copyright infringement, conduct formal audits and file lawsuits on their behalf. Penalties assessed by the BSA can theoretically amount to as much as $1,000 per instance of copyright infringement–that is $1,000 for each unlicensed, installed piece of software.

In a related development, certain groups have now begun to capitalize on other businesses software audits.  A recent batch of Facebook and LinkedIn advertisements have promoted the idea of “Snitching for Dollars”, the basic idea of reporting a business to software manufacturers for monetary gain.  If the trend continues, even if your business does not receive an audit request directly, you could face unwanted attention from leaked internal sources.

The cost of non-compliance is high and whether your company has already received a self-audit letter, or has to the potential to receive, it is important that you take steps ahead of time to protect your business.  IT Computer Support of New York has experience guiding businesses through a software audit and can assist you in the matter.  Call us today at 212-242-2949 to get started or visit our website for more information.