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Audit tool works in harmony with SMS

System Audit Manager, a tool that acts as a front end for Microsoft's Systems Management Server, helps companies reconcile software licenses ahead of a software audit.

Until recently, administrators using Microsoft's Systems Management Server to prepare for a software audit also had to run comprehensive third-party management software if they wanted to collect license information off their servers.

A few years ago, Robert Mahle was in such a position. The independent software consultant and developer from Williamsburg, Va., was consulting for a company that was undergoing

License compliance is one of the outstanding items on the IT manager's list -- and also the one that the finance department gets worked up about.

David Friedlander, Forrester Research

its second audit by the Business Software Alliance. As he prepared reports on how many copies of Microsoft SMS were installed there, it occurred to him that there had to be a better way to collect that information.

Thus System Audit Manager was born. For $179 per server license, SAM provides a front end to SMS that helps IT administrators reconcile the number of software licenses they actually have with the number they think they have. The tool creates reports by pulling information from the add/removes and executables and compares them to a database.

The latest release of SAM offers administrators with SMS 2003 a low-cost alternative to purchasing a full-featured asset management software package, which is useful as supplement to SMS, but may offer more than a customer needs, said David Friedlander, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.

"License compliance is one of the outstanding items on the IT manager's list -- and also the one that the finance department gets worked up about because they don't know if everything out there is legit or if they are paying too much," Friedlander said.

The trick in counting software licenses is that users may have many versions of a program on their computer that are all included in one license. If a company owns 50 licenses for Microsoft Office, for example, SMS can tell you how many you have installed, but there is no place to find out how many you own, Mahle said. "[SAM] can help you see if you

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are short on licenses."

Customers who bought earlier versions of SAM will receive the software as a free upgrade, Mahle said. SAM can either reside on an SMS server or on its own server.

Lane Kochert, an SMS administrator at a large South Carolina utility company, said her company used SAM and SMS together to run reports in advance of an audit. "The auditors were picky, but everything was in the report," she said.

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