SMEs Benefit From Early IPv6 Adoption

In today’s technology driven environment, to succeed, businesses need to remain up-to-date with the latest developments. The Internet plays a critical role in business operations and as such, with the impending transition of IPv4 to IPv6, SMEs need to adopt early to meet the new challenges and reap the benefits.

So what’s the issue?

To date the Internet has been built largely on the IPv4 protocol. The finite pool of IPv4 addresses contains around four billion unique IP addresses. RIPE NCC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, Central Asia and parts of the Middle East, is expected to reach the last block of its available IPv4 address space later this year. To make sure your business remains connected to the Internet you will need to ensure you are IPv6-ready.

And what is IPv6? 

IPv6 is the next generation protocol for IP addresses. It allows for a lot more addresses than IPv4 (roughly 340 trillion trillion trillion in total) and guarantees the continued expansion of the Internet. However, IPv6 is not directly compatible with IPv4 – this means that IPv6 must be universally adopted or connectivity problems will ensue.

Websites and networks that are accessible over IPv6 are set become a more commonplace after World IPv6 Launch on 6 June 2012, when the Internet community will switch on IPv6 capabilities for good.

So what do businesses need to do?

The first step is to assess where the business is in relation to IPv6. Most SMEs rely on their Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for Internet connectivity and should check that they are able to provide access over IPv6 as a matter of urgency. In the RIPE NCC’s  service region, 47 percent of ISPs have an IPv6 allocation. Globally 70 percent of ISPs plan to adopt IPv6 by the end of 2012.

Any hardware or software that is bought off the shelf should be IPv6 ready but may need to be configured. Old office equipment such as routers may not be IPv6 compatible and may need upgrading or even replacing. As such, it is important to carry out an IT audit of the technology used in the workplace. Many vendors will be able to provide advice.

There are also many IPv6 training course options available, from online education to face-to-face training. Staff may need educating before a plan of action can be created.

One strategy is called ‘dual stacking’ and involves running IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously This method allows access via both protocols so that if there are any kinks that need to be worked out with IPv6, a website or an online service can still be accessed using IPv4 without any loss of connectivity.

IPv6 Act Now

SMEs should make it a priority to adopt IPv6. By ensuring that all devices connected to the Internet are compatible with IPv6, SMEs can ensure they stay connected and safeguard the sustainable growth of their business.

A carefully planned and strategically executed implementation of IPv6 will be far less disruptive for an organisation than a last-minute, rushed roll-out.

 By Axel Pawlik, Managing Director, RIPE NCC

Software License Optimisation For Small Firms

Software licencing is a minefield. The lack of standardisation in the industry means that businesses have to grapple with a wide variety of complexities as a result of software publishers either constantly changing their licence regulations, or integrating new licencing models due to the likes of virtualisation technology, which is revolutionising the way all sizes of organisations manage their IT estate. This complex and severe approach to licencing is also likely to be more pronounced in the current economic climate as software publishers strive to protect their revenues via their licencing agreements.

The fact remains that for businesses, software costs are unavoidable. Studies show that 30% or more of IT budgets are consumed by software licence and maintenance. With this in mind, licence optimisation should be a proactive and ongoing activity, not just a reactive and event-based one.  Going past simple software asset management, licence optimisation enables businesses to understand not just what software it has installed, but ties together information on what is actually being used, and how that usage ties back to the licence entitlements enumerated in the software license agreement.  When software assets are managed and optimised in this way, most organisations enjoy reduced licence consumption and more efficient utilisation of software assets. It provides the fastest return on a software asset management investment.

These and a few other simple guidelines will prepare an organisation for potential audits and establish a foundation for true license optimisation.

1.    Define software asset management policies

It’s critical for IT organisations to define and implement software asset and licence management policies and procedures to be followed throughout the business. ISO and ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) standards prescribe Software Asset Management (SAM) best practices to aid in this process. This means that there must be specific policies on every aspect of SAM, with an aim to reduce IT costs and limit the business and legal risk related to the ownership of software, while maximizing IT responsiveness and end user productivity.

An example of this, is the need for processes to be put place to prevent shareware and freeware installations such as Adobe Acrobat,  which can inadvertently lead to licencing liabilities, as well as to validate software installation and upgrades. In addition, educating employees on what they “may” or “may not” install will prevent rogue installations, which often jeopardise enterprises’ compliance status.

Using tools that automate licencing procedures is a good way of ensuring adherence to compliance regulation. They will help businesses understand their licencing position by matching installed versus purchased software. This will also help ascertain over-buying or under-buying and often enable re-purposing of licences – reassigning licenses from users who are not actually using the software, to those who need it but don’t have it —  resulting in cost savings.

Finally, to make sure these SAM policies are indeed effective, undertaking periodic internal audits is highly recommended. This will not only ensure that the enterprise is always “audit-ready”, but also reinforce the importance to adhering to IT policy to employees.

2.    Focus on the major software publishers

The highest value applications and the largest software publishers such as Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft, Autodesk and Symantec, pose the utmost risk of audits. These publishers represent the largest potential unbudgeted expense if businesses find themselves out of compliance, post a vendor audit.

However, at the same time, by concentrating on these large publishers, businesses will be able to optimise the use of owned licences, avoid paying for unused licences, and even place themselves in a strong negotiating position with these vendors. They will be able to re-allocate licences to other locations and departments; re-harvest licences or reclaim unused licences for use on other computers; as well as gather data of software usage prior to contract renewal to use as leverage. All these measures could potentially result in significant cost savings.

3.     Carefully monitor virtual IT environments

Virtualisation is the biggest IT trend today and is the key enabler to the Cloud, but software licencing is often forgotten or under-managed in virtualised environments. The risk of licence non-compliance is greatly increased in virtual environments for two main reasons – it’s easy to create new virtual machines running copies of operating systems and software applications; and software publishers have adopted licencing rules for virtual environments that add significant complexity to the already complicated task of managing software licences.

4.     Understand software publisher licence rules and usage rights

Usage rights of software can significantly impact an organisation’s licence position., Simply put, usage rights define what can be done with a piece of software and at what levels or numbers. Businesses should take full advantage of usage rights, including their rights to upgrade or rights of second usage where existing licences allows use of a software application on more than one machine per user, which avoids over-spending on licences and maintenance. Equally, it is crucial that licence usage restrictions are applied to stay within compliance. 

By Vincent Smyth, General Manager EMEA, Flexera Software

Does Software Piracy Matter?

Think of software piracy, and images of counterfeit goods being sold in shady establishments or downloaded from unscrupulous websites probably spring to mind. In fact, under-licensed software use is also a widespread and long-standing problem, and forms a large slice of the software piracy pie.

Under-licensed software is where software has been installed onto more PCs than the licence agreement allows. For example, a licence may support the software being installed on up to 20 personal computers (PCs), but it may end up being installed on 30 PCs. Its use is sometimes seen as acceptable due to a belief that it does not hurt Intellectual Property (IP) owners or the economy, but this could not be further from the truth.  According to the BSA’s 2010 global software piracy study conducted by IDC, under-licensed software was installed on 27 percent of PCs in the UK with a commercial value of £1.2 billion.

Software piracy also deprives the economy of much-needed revenue and jobs – an additional study by IDC found that reducing the PC software piracy rate in the UK by 10 percentage points over four years would create 13,011 high-tech jobs, £5.4bn in new economic activity and £1.5bn in additional taxes by 2013, with 87 percent of those benefits expected to remain in the local economy.

But where should the buck stop in a business in terms of handling software licensing – and why is it not treated in the same way as other business assets?

While most companies keep track of their mobile phones or car fleet, many managers either turn a blind eye to under-licensed software use, or are entirely unaware of the problem. It is generally assumed that that the IT director or the financial director is shouldering the responsibility of managing a company’s software assets. In fact, in 2011, the BSA polled 250 Financial Directors (FDs) in the UK about their attitudes towards software piracy, and found that despite 85% of FDs being responsible for their company’s software licensing, only 7% claimed to be very confident that the software was being deployed correctly, and almost 30% admitted that illegal software could be used in their organisation.

A risk to cash flow and business operations 

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), a global organisation representing the software industry, is committed to the eradication of software piracy through both education and enforcement action. Already in 2012, the BSA has taken action against companies found to be using under-licensed software. Blackpool-based building services engineering company, George Morrison, paid £10,000 in damages while Rugby-based power-conversion company, Converteam UK Limited, was made to pay £8,000 for using under-licensed software. In most cases, the price of using under-licensed software far exceeds the cost of doing things properly, and the impact on cash flow of unexpected legal costs and purchases can be very harmful to the business bottom line.

In addition, being caught using under-licensed software deeply affects brand reputation. In this increasingly competitive economy, reputation has emerged as a major differentiator between brands. Unfortunately many firms, knowingly or unknowingly, put their reputation in jeopardy by using under-licensed software. The BSA also encourages employees or members of the public to confidentially report any businesses that are breaking the law through software piracy. Reports are incentivised, and whistleblowers could receive a substantial financial reward for outing illegal software use. Incidentally, the BSA has launched a campaign in Reading this month to ensure businesses in the area hold the correct licences for all software installed on their devices. As part of this campaign, it is encouraging reports of the suspected use of under-licensed software to be made via a hotline or the BSA website, for a potential reward of up to £20,000.

While under-licensed software may appear to be of identical quality to licensed software, it carries significant potential business risks.  Firstly, businesses using under-licensed software may not have access to technical support.  Secondly, they won’t receive regular software updates, so may be giving away their competitive edge as they will not have the tools they need to do their job properly.  Thirdly, and most importantly, they may not have enhanced protection against viruses and malware, as in some cases only critical security patches will be applied to under-licensed software.

Licence to save

More positively, effective management of software licenses can provide significant savings on staff time as well as software costs. Managing IT assets correctly through an effective on-going business process, known as Software Asset Management (SAM), can identify instances of under-licensing and also when too many licenses exist.

The long game

A double-dip recession and continued exposure to wider European economic pressures dictate that UK businesses keep a close eye on their assets and software is no exception.  It is the accepted method for business interaction, crossing vertical sectors, geographic regions and business sizes, and, as such company directors must take software licensing more seriously, and audit it regularly alongside all other business assets.

By valuing the IP of software as much as other business assets, we can have a positive effect on the UK economy, as well as ensure that UK Plc is running itself on state of the art software that is legal, safe and fit for purpose.

By Julian Swan, Director of Compliance Marketing of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in EMEA

What Is Agile Computing?

Yet another term that is being used by the technology sector! Like so many other expressions generated by the ICT sector, this can leave people confused or in some instances mislead.

So what is it? What does it mean? What are the benefits?

Agile computing was a term first coined to describe a new methodology of approaching software development projects and as the name implies enables projects to be delivered in a timely and effective way by enabling the developers to be far more responsive and proactive with the needs of the organisations that they were working for.

The key issue is to be able to take advantage of any available resources required, for example where perhaps at certain times some resources are not fully utilised. Of course, there is a greater need in current economic conditions to maximise opportunities including those of resources and especially skills that might not always be readily available.

Agile computing is no longer restricted as a methodology for use by the development community or for organisations that require such methodologies, but for the computing environment in general. Companies can no longer afford to have resources sat idly by waiting for when they might be required. This is not simply about people as a resource but about networks, infrastructure and software.

The whole notion of ‘cloud computing’ is defined whereby the Internet is used as a system of delivering information, software and other services -

Being ‘agile’ means being able to use all resources as and when required and not having to use them and therefore pay for them when not being used. Cloud computing has been a major sea change within the tech sector and as a result has had a massive impact upon companies who have embraced it, whether a large enterprise or a small company.

Companies or indeed individuals no longer need to pay for services or software that they rarely use or don’t use all the time; it is a case of paying for what you use whether it might be software, hosting or other infrastructure. This ultimately means that such resources can be used and shared by others. It’s better for the environment and it’s better for the ‘bottom line’.

Quite simply it’s a far more effective way of using technology to drive your business.

By Ben Weiner, CEO, Conjungo