To make your software asset management really count, follow these best practices on everything from lifecycle management to software inventory.
Software has become an integral part of everyday business. In 2021, the market for enterprise software and services in the United States alone was valued at nearly $78 billion, per data compiled by Grand View Research. The firm projects that the global market will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% through 2030.
While the rise of software usage has no end in sight, many organizations lack visibility into these applications and their underlying implications. Such a limited outlook is concerning from both a security and operational standpoint.
In this article, we will explore the role software asset management (SAM) plays in controlling security risks, improving productivity, and maximizing your overall investment in software products.
What Is Software Asset Management?
Software asset management is a set of processes and policies designed to effectively manage the software estate that exists across IT environments. A subset of IT asset management (ITAM), it aims to optimize the investment in software from acquisition and deployment to app utilization and everyday maintenance.
SAM has become a big business in its own right. In fact, IBM and other providers have capitalized on the trend by offering high-end SAM tools designed to help companies automate and streamline various aspects of software asset management. A report by The Insight Partners estimates that the global SAM market will reach approximately $5.15 billion by 2028, a massive leap from the $2.25 billion reported in 2021.
How Can Software Asset Management Help Your Business?
Most companies have adopted SAM in some shape or form. Let’s take a look at the advantages of formally embracing the concept at full-scale adoption:
Traditional on-premises software and SaaS apps make up as much as 34% of enterprise IT budgets. That's according to the 2021 edition of Flexera's State of Tech Spend: IT Spending Benchmark and Trends report.
The most important aspect of SAM is limiting software spend to specific business requirements. Purchases from unapproved shadow IT initiatives are eliminated. Every acquisition is planned and accounted for. This straightforward premise allows companies to spend wisely by anticipating costs for new software, upgrades, training, and ongoing maintenance.
Optimal Software Usage
More efficient utilization is the direct result of smarter spending. With this, license management is suddenly easier to track. The network runs smoother as there are no non-essential apps competing for resources. Employees can work more effectively, driving higher productivity and profitability over time.
When it comes to software licenses, compliance takes on a whole new meaning. Each licensed application has its own set of terms and conditions. Any violation of license agreements can result in legal repercussions for the organization, company owners, and possibly its customers as well.
A commitment to SAM means gaining a better understanding of every software deployment and how it is used across the organization. This visibility helps companies achieve software compliance by ensuring that the nuanced terms and conditions are consistently met. Moreover, it can reduce the likelihood of vendors requiring software audits to investigate potential licensing violations.
Software, both approved and unapproved, can expose your organization to plenty of security risks. All it takes is a weak password, missed update, or misconfigured setting to open a backdoor hackers can exploit and use to wreak havoc.
SAM puts cybersecurity squarely into focus. The infrastructure is thoroughly inspected for unauthorized applications as well as valid software that demands immediate attention. Done right, it keeps IT managers aware of all software components that require updates, patching, or elimination altogether.
Software Asset Management Best Practices
If you consider software a vital cog in your day to day operations, it is past time to implement a capable asset management program. Use these tips to make the most of your SAM strategy:
Run Software Inventory
An effective SAM program starts with laying your cards on the table. You need a clear understanding of all the software estate across the entirety of your business. This goes for desktops and servers as well as virtual machines and mobile devices. Basically, you want to account for all platforms capable of running any type of software — robust applications and lightweight utilities alike.
You can streamline the process by documenting your software inventory in a database. Catalog each item with applicable purchase invoices, registration documentation, licensing information, and other related details. This level of organization will be handy when you need upgrades, support, and other vendor services.
Address Application Security
Cybersecurity is a vital component in any IT asset management program. Here is a list of protective recommendations:
Base defenses: Basic cybersecurity tools like anti-virus software and firewalls can stop cyber attacks dead in their tracks. Make sure your security tools are configured to receive automatic updates that provide continuous protection against the latest threats.
Password management: Never underestimate the power of a good password. Sound password management means creating passwords that are made from a mix of alphanumeric characters and symbols, unique to each application, and never shared with others.
Authenticated access: Authentication provides a layer of protection beyond strong passwords. Multi-factor authentication (MFA), for example, requires users to pass at least two forms of identity validation before gaining access to a given application.
Authorized software: You can avoid some of the nastiest cybersecurity threats by simply sticking to legitimate software. Create a list of the publishers and retailers trusted to provide applications for your business.
Cybersecurity awareness: Employee awareness can make or break SAM. Educate staff on using built-in software-related safeguards. Further, make sure end-users are trained to identify threats and respond to security incidents.
Outline Acquisition and Operation Requirements
Software comes in many forms. Some are commercially available. Some are open-source. Some are totally free to use. No matter how capable, companies must create and enforce hard guidelines around software acquisition. That means designating marketplaces, vendors, and security features among specific procurement criteria.
A comprehensive acquisition strategy requires coordination across the board. Company leaders and IT managers brainstorming to hash out policies to ensure that procurement aligns with business objectives. IT managers and end-users in each department work to maintain system updates, licensing compliance, and security functions — all while minimizing gaps that may be introduced as new software is incorporated.
Adopt a Lifecycle Management Strategy
Nothing lasts forever, and software is no exception. Every licensed program in your ecosystem has an end of life (EOL) that indicates when a vendor will officially end support. That means no more updates, patches, or ongoing maintenance to ensure compatibility with current technology.
Running an application past its EOL opens your organization up to security risks as well as legal liabilities that may result from the inability to meet the demands of software compliance. For this reason, it is key to phase out aging software in a way that preserves productivity, data security, and business continuity.
Marry Software Asset Management and Corporate Culture
SAM does its best work when it's stitched into the foundational fabric of the organization. The importance of proper software asset management must be understood at the top executive level down to the customer service department.
Create a policy that clearly defines the company's procedures for obtaining authorized software, processes that encourage maximum utilization, and protocols that ensure the utmost security.
Software Asset Management Security Specialists on Duty
The most underrated layer in a SAM program is the human component — the expertise that pilots the ship as smoothly as possible. If you're going to make the commitment, you'll need an experienced team dedicated to the ongoing monitoring and management the program requires.
At ThreatKey, our staff is made up of IT professionals with extensive backgrounds in applications distributed by software vendors such as Google, Microsoft, and Okta. We perform a deep scan across your entire infrastructure, then identify vulnerabilities and pass on recommendations that help resolve issues in a timely fashion. Offering seamless integration with the apps you're already using, ThreatKey can be a valuable addition to the security arm of your SAM strategy.
Manage Your Software Security and Strengthen Your Business
Software is arguably the most complex asset in the modern IT environment. The reality of licensing obligations, security threats, and ongoing management challenges makes it every bit as difficult as it is beneficial. Adding SAM to the mix requires time, effort, and precise execution. However, approaching it with a winning game plan can pay huge dividends by unlocking recurring benefits that strengthen your overall business posture.
Rich contextual insight into your software estate is just a click away. Contact us to learn how ThreatKey takes the hassle out of maintaining a secure app ecosystem.