How To Track Levels of Per User SAL Licensing with SPL Tracker

When we brought our Service Provider Licensing Tracker – SPL Tracker – to market in the middle of 2014, we focused first on two of the most common per user Subscription Access Licenses (SALs) that Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have to track – Remote Desktop Services SALs and Microsoft Office SALs.

Comparing Actual Usage and Allocated Usage

Since our companion Remote Desktop Reporter utility continually stores session activity metrics from server-based computing platforms like Microsoft RDS and Citrix XenApp, the SPL Tracker is able to compare actual usage to allocated usage for RDS SALs and Office SALs.

Screenshot of SPL Tracker tracking license usage.
Tracking SAL usage with SPL Tracker.

This capability demonstrates for MSPs the amount of licensing waste for these classes of licenses. It also provides a mechanism to de-allocate inactive users by removing them as a member from domain access control groups.

However, there are many different types of per user SAL licensing that must be accounted for in the Microsoft SPLA program, including those licenses that are not “used” within a server-based computing session. Perhaps the most prominent example is Exchange SALs.

Sometimes You Want to Track Usage, Sometimes You Don’t

Therefore, in version 3.0 and later of our SPL Tracker, we have a new definable license type that does not attempt to track usage of this kind of license.

Screenshot from SPL Tracker 3.0 showing per user SAL licensing capabilities.
Tracking per user SAL licensing with SPL Tracker 3.0.

With this new definition type, MSPs can create additional license types for per user SAL licensing they must report to Microsoft, and then pair up each license type with the Active Directory group that controls access to that class of license.  Even though actual usage will not be tracked, as long as the MSP takes steps during their user provisioning process to add them to the correct AD groups according to the licensed services they will be using, our SPL Tracker will show the allocated usage in its automated monthly reports.

Easy Per User Licensing for Tracking Per User SAL Licensing and More

With extremely affordable monthly subscription per user licensing plans, it’s easy to deploy Remote Desktop Reporter with the SPL Tracker in a managed services environment.  And, with the money saved by 1) automating license tracking and 2) recapturing license waste, this solution pays for itself in short order.

Want to talk tech on how you can leverage SPL Tracker in your environment?  Contact us now and we’ll be happy to discuss the possibilities.

Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting With SPL Tracker – Part 4

In the final post of our series on automating Microsoft SPLA reporting, it’s time to show how reports get automated and how you gather in-depth analysis from the usage and inactive user data generated by SPL Tracker in Steps 3 and 4.

Automating Microsoft SPLA ReportingThree Different Report Types for Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting

When you build reports with SPL Tracker, whether they are run manually, or on a scheduled basis, you can create up to three different report types.

Concurrent License Assessment

The Current License Assessment Report is always generated by SPL Tracker. This report details the specific users who had access to particular license types in the preceding reporting period (e.g. prior month), and is suitable for sending to your licensing authority.

SPL Tracker's Current License Assessment Report helps in automating Microsoft SPLA reporting.
The Current License Assessment Report in SPL Tracker.

License Utilization Report

The License Utilization Report is an optional report for internal use, which contrasts the number of users with access to a certain license type, versus those who actually used a particular class of license in the preceding reporting period.

This report is excellent at displaying waste percentages per license type, and then showing you in detail the particular inactive users who represent the waste.

The Current License Utilization Report in SPL Tracker by RDPSoft
The Current License Utilization Report in SPL Tracker can solves a huge part of the problem in automating Microsoft SPLA reporting.

License Control Adjustment Report

Finally, if you decided back in Step 4 that you wanted to remove some inactive users representing waste for the upcoming reporting period, you can elect to generate a License Access Control Adjustment Report. This report documents the group membership adjustments you made to remove access to one or more license types for a specific set of users.

License Access Control Adjustment Report in RDPSoft's SPL Tracker
Don’t forget those inactive users. The License Access Control Adjustment Report in RDPSoft’s SPL Tracker.

In addition to selecting the reports you want to build, the SPL Tracker has numerous adjustable preferences so you can tune it for the specific needs of your environment.

For instance, you can have SPL Tracker create and email the reports to you on a scheduled basis, and you can distinguish those emailed reports by the domain they originate from (which is very useful for MSPs with multiple client domains).

And, yes, you can also personalize the logo used in the reports.

Running a Report in SPL Tracker
Time to confirm and finish your plan for automating Microsoft SPLA reporting with SPL Tracker.

A Master Report For Automating Microsoft SPLA Report Needs

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Current License Assessment Report is always generated in CSV format (as well as the other formats like PDF, Microsoft Word, or Excel). The CSV format allows you to combine all of your different domains’ license assessments into one master report you can submit to your licensing authority.

We’ll take a look at how to set this up in our upcoming “SPLA Reporting Tips and Tricks” blog posts.

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Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting With SPL Tracker – Part 3

We’ve covered a bit of ground in this blog series on Microsoft SPLA reporting with SPL Tracker. We’ll get into more nitty gritty details below, but first, a review . . .

The Need for Microsoft SPLA Reporting

Automate Microsoft SPLA ReportingBack in Part 1 of this blog series, we explored how SPL Tracker targets the widely recognized need for more effective tracking of Microsoft SPLA – and related – licensing.

In Part 2 of our blog series, we reviewed how to associate defined license types with Active Directory groups using SPL Tracker.

Now, in Part 3 of this series, you will witness firsthand the power of correlating actual license usage with the groups that control access to the license types.

Looking Back at Actual Licensing Usage

Once you have associated license types with groups in the Associate Groups section of the SPL Tracker, click on Step 3 – Assess Actual Usage.

In this section, you will need to define the activity lookback period that SPL Tracker uses to determine whether or not specific accounts have been actively using certain license types, such as Remote Desktop Services SALs or Microsoft Office SALs. Typically, this is 30, 45, or 60 days. Enter your preferred lookback period, and then click “Fetch/Refetch Usage Data.”

Effective Microsoft SPLA Tracking Requires That You Assess Actual License Usage - Shown Here in SPL Tracker
Assessing actual license usage over a period of days in SPL Tracker. At this stage, you’re well on your way to automating your Microsoft SPLA usage reports.

Active Users vs. Inactive Users

Once the SPL Tracker consults Remote Desktop Reporter’s database to determine usage for all license types, it will display the active users and inactive users for each type in a list. Inactive users are defined as the user accounts which had permission to use the license type (via membership in the associated Active Directory group), but for whatever reason did not use that class of license within the lookback period.

Managing Inactive Users in SPL Tracker and Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting
Inactive users are users that had permission to use a certain license type but didn’t. Recognizing trends among active and inactive users can translate into significant savings in a Microsoft SPLA situation.

Moving on to Step 4 – Restrict Access, you can determine which inactive users will be denied access moving forward, by removing them from the corresponding Active Directory group. Even more importantly, you can determine how the user has access to the particular license type, via direct group membership, or via a nested group relationship.

In the next blog article in this series, we’ll see how you can automate this process so that “auto pruning” of inactive users takes place automatically on a monthly basis. Those removed users, if access is not restored during the next monthly reporting period, will result in an ongoing cost savings to your organization. Watch for our next blog article in this series.

And remember, SPL Tracker is downloaded with RDPSoft’s Remote Desktop Reporter. You can download a free 30 day trial today.

Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting With SPL Tracker – Part 2

Automate SPLA ReportingIn Part 1 of our blog series “Automating SPLA Reporting With SPL Tracker,” we discussed the challenges inherent in SPLA monthly reporting requirements faced by MSPs and how to define classes of license usage in SPL Tracker.

Now we’re going to show how you can pair these license types with the Active Directory or local machine groups which serve as the gatekeepers for accessing these types of licensed applications or services.

Associating Groups in SPL Tracker

Once you have defined the license types for which the Service Provider Licensing Tracker (SPL Tracker) will track usage in Step 1 of the program, click on Step 2 – Associate Groups. Here you will be able to associate the license types you specified in Step 1 with one or more Active Directory groups in a particular client domain.

If you are an MSP or SaaS provider using workgroups instead of domains for your client networks, you can just as easily specify local machine groups in this program area. Just select “Computer” instead of “Domain”, and enter the name of the Remote Desktop or Citrix XenApp server that hosts the groups which control access to your license types.

Once you enter a computer name or domain name, you can click “Fetch Groups” to retrieve a list of all groups on a computer or in an Active Directory.

SPL Tracker Configuration Files Across Client Domains or Workgroups

It’s very easy to create template configuration files which you can reuse across all of your many client domains or workgroups. If each of your clients has their own domain, enter %MACHINEDOMAIN% for the name of the domain, or if each client has their own single server workgroup, enter LOCALHOST for the name of the computer.

SPL Tracker Screenshot Showing Adding of Associations
Adding new associations in SPL Tracker.

Then, provided your group names are standardized across all client domains and/or client servers, you can use the same configuration file for all instances of SPL Tracker – greatly simplifying deployment. We’ll have more on this subject in an upcoming post in this blog series.

You can create as many group/license type associations as needed – just click the “Add New Association” button to create each additional one required in Step 2.

In the upcoming Part 3 blog post in this series, we will review how SPL Tracker assesses the variance between actual license usage and allowed license usage. This can have a huge positive effect on your bottom line over time – so please stay tuned!

SPL Tracker is downloaded with RDPSoft’s Remote Desktop Reporter. You can download a free 30 day trial today.

Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting With SPL Tracker – Part 1

Automate SPLA ReportingSPLA reporting is an expanding and increasingly complicated need as cloud and subscription-based solutions become more prevalent in Microsoft Windows environments.

And Really, It Isn’t Just About SPLA Reporting

In addition to Microsoft’s Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA), there is the Citrix Service Provider licensing program as well. Those aren’t the only two examples where subscription-based license reporting is necessary – more and more software vendors that cater to the Managed Service Provider (MSP) community are also offering this form of licensing.

As a result, one of the monthly chores that can considerably complicate the life of an MSP is recurring, subscription-based license reporting.

While monthly subcription based licensing greatly reduces startup costs and large, capitalized expenses, the reporting requirements can be challenging. Every month, the MSP must provide a report to various licensing authorities based on the number of users who used, or more frequently, had the ability to use specific classes of software.

This gets very tedious and labor intensive for MSPs. Some will attempt to script a solution, others will do simple counts based on AD membership or equivalent. However, both of these approaches are problematic, and they do not reflect total costs or utilization rates over time.

SPL Tracker for SPLA Reporting and More . . .

Our new Service Provider Licensing Tracker (SPL Tracker) is a powerful and cost-saving solution for this specific challenge. Leveraging the software usage history and RDS/ICA usage history collected by our Remote Desktop Reporter tool, the SPL Tracker can analyze the difference between actual usage and ability to use certain classes of licenses.

Best of all, it only takes a few steps to configure, and once configured, can completely automate your SPLA reporting and similar MSP license reporting requirements.

 

Two classes of license types are shown in this screenshot from SPL Tracker, an SPLA reporting software.
SPL Tracker targets the increasing need for SPLA reporting. Above, two classes of license types are shown – Microsoft Office Users and Remote Desktop Users.

Step 1: Defining License Types

By default, two of the most common license classes are defined for you automatically in the software – Microsoft Office Users, and Remote Desktop Users.

Microsoft Office Users

This class represents all users who have accessed Office components (e.g. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc) in your shared computing environment, based on Remote Desktop Reporter’s usage history.

Remote Desktop Users

Similarly, the Remote Desktop Users class represents all users who established an RDS or Citrix XenApp session in a given time period.

Additional Definitions / Classes

You can create additional definitions to track the usage of other applications – those that access SQL Server, for example. Simply create a new license type definition, select the processes that reflect the usage, and save it for later use.

Keep in mind that you can automatically omit disabled user accounts from reports. And, you can also prevent the SPL Tracker from marking newly on-boarded user accounts in a client’s Active Directory as inactive.

Upcoming Insights on SPLA Reporting and More . . .

In Part 2 of our Service Provider Licensing Tracker series, we will demonstrate how to correlate historical license usage with the Active Directory groups that control access to those license types.

Do you have questions about what you’ve read here? Respond below!