Business Software

Save Money With Alternative Software Licenses

One of your biggest per-employee infrastructure costs comes from money tied up in software licenses. If you add new people, you could cough up thousands of dollars right then. And that money you paid stops working for you as soon as you lose employees, as those licenses sit unused.

Depending on your software, you can address both issues by buying subscriptions, in bulk, choosing used licenses, or selling full licenses when no longer needed. Keep these options in mind, especially if you're scaling temporary workers.

Pay Monthly For Software
Many companies offer monthly subscriptions for software licenses. On the server side, for example, this model can save a big, single fee for per-user Exchange licenses. But a monthly plan for workstations can also help you save.

Microsoft offers these options for much of its software, including Office and Windows itself. If your business has five or more workstations, you can use the Open Value option to save. You'll choose between a subscription fee or a bulk-rate, up-front perpetual license, letting you choose to save in the short term or long term.

Microsoft, like other companies I contacted for this article, didn't quote specific cost numbers since they vary with company needs. You'll have to get a quote for your business to get a direct sense of savings. You'll also agree to a three-year commitment for Microsoft's subscription plan. However, you can scale the number of licenses during that time.

Contact your other software companies to see what kinds of licensing options they offer. Adobe, for example, doesn't yet sell a subscription license. However, the company recently tested subscriptions in Australia and is currently evaluating its results.

But like Microsoft and most other companies, Adobe still offers volume licensing discounts. Depending on your needs and volume, you could save between about 5-20% over buying individual copies of software. Contact Adobe for a specific quote for your business.

Buy and Sell Unused Licenses
If you bought full licenses up-front but no longer need some, sell them. Your specific rights can vary. Adobe, for example, has no problem with you selling unused licenses, just as long as you don't sell volume-discount licenses to individual customers. (You'd have to sell those to a volume customer.)

Microsoft doesn't allow customers to sell licenses. Consult your software vendors--or a legal professional--to determine your rights.

Regardless of Microsoft's dislike, some companies, including Discount Licensing, offer ways to facilitate these sales. Depending on the product and customer, they'll either act as a matchmaker, brokering a deal between two parties, or buy your licenses outright.

And these companies offer a cheaper alternative to buying new licenses. If brokering, a deal could take a few months to come together. However, if the company is holding a license you need, you could buy it that day. Discount Licensing says you'll save about 10-15% off normal license costs.

Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco.

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