What you need to know about licensing software on a cloud server

By Mike Wozniak | General Licensing Tips

Nov 02

If your software is deployed to run on your customer’s IT infrastructure, chances are you have run across a customer wanting to deploy your software on a cloud server. According to techopedia.com, a cloud server is a “logical server that is built, hosted and delivered through a cloud computing platform over the Internet. A cloud server may also be called a virtual server or virtual private server.

Within a few minutes of accessing a cloud hosting provider, an IT administrator can deploy a brand new cloud server ready to install your software.

Cloud servers create licensing challenges

Cloud servers are powered by virtual machine technology. Virtual environments are both a blessing and a curse. They make life for IT administrators easier through several features that improve the availability of operating systems and applications, but they also make it difficult to fingerprint a virtual machine and detect/prevent cloning. Issuing a single license for one computer could potentially result in many virtualized computers using your software with that single license.

How should I handle the challenges of licensing on cloud servers?

There are several approaches to take in order to minimize the risk of allowing your software to run on cloud servers:

  1. The best course of action is often to detect and prevent customers from running your software in a virtual environment. For customers who require running your software on a cloud server, you can create a special build of the software that allows it at a higher price point to offset the risk of the users cloning the virtual machines.
  2. When a virtual environment is detected, use Network Floating Licensing features to track the number of concurrent users of an activated software license. This would at least require each of the virtual machines to communicate with a central licensing server to make sure the software is not being run at the same time on separate computers.
  3. In addition to automating online software activation, require periodic license validation with a central license server to allow license transfer and revocation.

Conclusion

These approaches (to an extent) limit practical abuse of your software license. Although the nature of cloud servers and virtualization presents challenges to enforcing license compliance, it is important that you address the potential risks by selecting a licensing solution with the functionality you will need.

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About the Author

Mike Wozniak is one of the co-founders of SoftwareKey.com and responsible for marketing, content and product strategy. When he isn't plotting new ways to help customers solve licensing and business automation challenges, he likes to travel and entertain guests who come to visit the Orlando area. He also writes most of the licensing tips here.