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Breaking down Microsoft’s Q4 and what it means for your business.

Microsoft reported earnings last night that surpassed expectations and gave us insight into their cloud business. I am not a stock analysts, but I thought I would spend some time reviewing some of the highlights and my opinion for what’s next for the software (I mean cloud, actually, no -I meant Intelligent Cloud) giant.

Azure – Microsoft did not provide specific revenue numbers for Azure, but did say revenue grew 97% y/y.  Although exact numbers for Azure revenue is not specified, Azure is part of the all-important commercial space, which includes Dynamics 365, Azure, and a little program called Office 365.  That revenue number combined was over 18B which more than doubled last year’s number.

Office/Dynamics and Competition – Office 365 subscription business just surpassed the traditional Office model with revenue up 43%.  When was the last time you went to a box retailer and purchased software?  That’s a telling sign that more and more organizations prefer subscription pricing over box products.   Dynamics 365 was up 74%, probably because Dynamics in SPLA is about as complex as it can possibly get.  Need help with a Dynamics licensing question?  Ask your reseller.  The reseller will ask Microsoft – and then it goes into a big, dark, black hole until someone loses their mind.  Nothing happens.  Microsoft also revamped Dynamics in SPLA to make it very difficult to compete.  The same can be said for Office.  Where I see concern for Microsoft is with Google, who is just getting their foot in the door in the enterprise space.  If they make traction (and they will) it will be interesting to see the two giants go at it.  Google’s cloud platform is growing exponentially as well.

Surface Sales – I guess you can say is one of the low points of the conference call.  Surface revenue dropped 2%.  Xbox sales also dropped and became less profitable with price drops and competition.  That’s the bad news – the good news?  Maybe with the new CSP Windows 10 thing Microsoft will include Surface as part of the program.  Rental PC in SPLA is yesterday’s news.  Customer’s want the latest and greatest but don’t have the resources to upgrade the hardware.  Adding Surface to the subscription model makes sense.  Although the new CSP Qualified Multitenant Hosting addendum is great, not everyone wants VDI.  Give end customers, partners, and your Surface sales a boost by adding it to subscription services.   I think making Surface part of CSP would make sense.  What do I know?

LinkedIN – Only Microsoft can spend over 26B for an acquisition and investors are still wondering what it is they bought; and more importantly, not hurt their quarterly earnings.  Yeah, they can tie it in for Dynamics and Yammer/Teams with all those users.   They also have a pretty impressive data list of users to sell additional collaboration products and services to.  I guess the jury is still out on this.

Opinion – Microsoft recently announced a major change in their sales organization. Their sales teams that were focused on the enterprise need to focus more on solution type selling.  A lot of organizations in the industry are going through the same transformation.  It’s also not an easy thing to do.  Time will tell.

I wrote an entire article without mentioning Amazon, they report earnings next week.  It will be interesting to see how they compare to Microsoft and how much they grew year of year in comparison.  Lots of analysis say Microsoft will surpass AWS as the king of the cloud.  I still think Google is lurking in the background and might surprise some people as well.

What does all this mean for SPLA?  In my humble opinion, I think Microsoft better be careful with the way they are handling their third-party hosters.  Those numbers they threw out yesterday were great, but they can get even better.

Microsoft built a program for partners who have their own datacenters, relationships, and sales resources to promote Microsoft products and technology.   There are close to 30,000 SPLA partners (rough estimate) that have datacenters spread throughout the globe.  Nobody, can have the reach like your SPLA partners.  Google and Amazon do not have 30,000 datacenters, why disrupt it?  Don’t audit them, partner with them and help grow this business to build a true hybrid cloud ecosystem.  The strategy should be their cloud – our cloud, and customers will thank you.  Teaming with Walmart makes sense too.  Say what!

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in In My Opinion, Uncategorized

 

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Opinion – Microsoft audits will skyrocket in 2018

Microsoft compliance programs are not going away and will increase significantly in the coming years.  Why such a doom and gloom outlook?  In this article, I will highlight some of the reasons but more importantly the ways to stay ahead of the game before Mr. Audit comes knocking on your door.

This past week, most of my articles had to do with CSP, Azure, and more CSP.   To no surprise, CSP is the direction Microsoft is moving towards for the partner community.  Check out my friend www.csplicensing.com 🙂 Licensing is not getting easier, in fact it’s getting harder.  Check out my Azure Stack article if you don’t believe me.  That article will either put you to sleep or give you a headache.

In today’s world, a service provider is not just licensing SPLA, they are combining on premise licenses, different cloud vendors, and hybrid licenses.   Unless you focus full-time on licensing, one misstep can ruin an organization.  In the coming weeks and months, I will focus heavily on all the cloud transitions and as the title of this blog site states ‘uncover the complexities of SPLA licensing.”

So why will audits rise?   There’s two reasons: 1) Licensing is confusing.  Publishers know there’s no “one-size fits all” solution to solving all licensing complexities and scenarios.  2).  With the push towards the public cloud (such as Azure), CFO’s and owners will start to wonder why they mess with the licensing at all, especially after a large compliance settlement  from an audit.  The goal will be to move to AWS or move to Azure and let them deal with the complexities licensing.

What do you do?   Throw in the towel and say, “they win” or develop a strategy to maintain compliance and create a solution to help your customers?  My advice? Don’t throw in the towel.

  1. Develop a license management practice.  Licensing is a full-time commitment (Full-time job).
  2. Don’t cave in.  I get it, that’s easier said than done – even for SPLA Man.  I HATE confrontation in all areas of my life but compliance.  I always like to see the underdog win the audit battles.  When SPLA started, I felt it was the rest of the world v. the SPLA community.  ABS – Anything But SPLA.  I still feel that way today (even stronger).  When was the last time you talked to a representative or were offered advice to help grow your business?  I am an advocate for the hosting community and the primary reason I started this blog in the first place.  Checkout my “About” section written over 4 years ago.  Don’t get bullied into the tricks of the audit.  If you need help, ask.
  3. Eliminate risk before it becomes a risk during the audit.  Going back to point #1, create a practice, understand the areas of concern, and correct it before the auditors force you to.  The time is now.
  4. I promote 3rd party advocacy for support.  I like to say, “there’s the publisher’s way and then there’s the real way” both are compliant, but one will cost you a lot more than the other.

Will audits be on the rise in 2018?  Yes. And 2019, 2020, and 2021.  After that who knows, we might be flying around the moon and vacationing on Mars.  Licensing is a dangerous game but everyone can win – if they have the right strategy in place.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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What is a Service Provider?

The year 2017 has brought on A LOT of change for the hosting community.  A hosting company used to be an organization that hosted Exchange – fast forward to today and a service provider takes on a whole new meaning.  In this article, we will take a look at defining a service provider and how it applies to licensing.   Let’s play a little game called “Do they qualify”  Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

An organization that provides or extends  litigation software (that they leased from the publisher) to law firms and other legal entities who are not wholly owned by the organization providing the solution. Does this organization qualify for SPLA?

Yes.  If you are an avid reader of splalciensing.com, you probably read my article on EMR Software The same holds true for any software (not just EMR) that runs on Microsoft technology that you do not own, but lease from a third-party.   Remember “AS”  If you are providing software AS a service that’s hosted from your datacenter environment,  SPLA must be part of the equation.  Why does this solution qualify for SPLA?

#1 they don’t own the software they are hosting

#2 they do not own the organization(s) who are consuming (using) the software for their benefit.

An organization who sells a product on a website to external users –   do they qualify for SPLA?

No.  Although they are selling something to consumers via the internet, the software used to deploy the solution benefits the e-commerce company, not the end-user.   Where SPLA does fit is if the web company decides to host a website on behalf of another organization.  The web company would fall under the SPLA rules.  Who benefits from the access is a key question to ask yourself.  Second question – is the access used to run their business or my own?

An organization who provides SharePoint to end users to share information.  Do they qualify?

No.  Simply sharing information does not qualify.  If the organization was hosting SharePoint on behalf of another organization, that’s SPLA.

A company hosts Exchange on behalf of another organization but does not charge for this access.  Does this qualify for SPLA?

Yes.  Microsoft doesn’t care how much money you make from the solution.  The question remains – are you providing this “as a service” for a third-party?

A company decides to use AWS as their datacenter provider to host an application they use internally.  Do they need SPLA?

No.  In this example, you are the end-user.  AWS has a SPLA to cover all infrastructure products they host on your behalf.  If you were to use AWS as a datacenter provider to host SharePoint to your end customers employees; you would pay AWS for Windows and SQL and report on your SPLA SharePoint SAL licenses.

 

I have 25 Linux machines that I host for my customers.   Do I need SPLA? 

No.  You have 25 Linux machines.  If you had 24 Linux machines and 1 Windows VM, you would have to license the host machine to cover that Windows VM through SPLA.

My reseller told me I didn’t need SPLA because the access qualifies for Self-Hosted.  The auditors told me it does not qualify.  Why?

All software used to deploy the solution has to be self-hosted eligible.  I bet you are running an application that does not qualify as part of your solution.  This would be SPLA.  Secondly, if you did not buy the software with software assurance, that is out of compliant.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Compliance, Uncategorized

 

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Top 5 CSP Questions….Answered!

  1. Is the SCA addendum removed now that Microsoft announced the Qualified Multitenant Hoster addendum?  Yes.  SCA has been removed and replaced with the QMH addendum.
  2. If I have a CSP Indirect/Tier 1 authorization, can I resell Azure Stack but license Windows Server through SPLA?  Yes.  You will pay the base consumption rate because you A) Purchased the hardware through an authorized dealer and 2) paid for the Windows license through SPLA.
  3. If I am not authorized for CSP, can I still sell Office 365 to my end users?  Not in the general sense.  What you can do is resell CSP through a distributor or authorized CSP Indirect/Tier 2 partner. You can also partner with a CSP Direct partner to offer the solution.  They would resell the actual license but you can provide services on top of it.
  4. I am a SPLA partner who wants to resell Office to my end users.  What are my options?  You can sell Office through SPLA and include RDS and Windows.  You can become CSP Direct authorized and use the QMH addendum mentioned above.  You can also use end customer owned Office licenses and host it in a dedicated environment.
  5. Will Microsoft offer QMH for Indirect partners as well?  Not at this time.  You must be CSP Direct to qualify, not Indirect.

Lots more on this.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Office 365

 

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How to Report SPLA Usage to be Compliant

The biggest benefit to SPLA is the month-month licensing rules.   The biggest downfall to SPLA (and CSP for that matter)  is its month-month licensing rules.  What’s a benefit to some is a nightmare for others.  In this article, we will review the tips and tricks to properly report Microsoft SPLA usage on a monthly basis and break it down using a fictitious scenario using my friend Joe Hosting.

Scenario  – The under licensing but also over paying SPLA reporter.

Joe’s Hosting  reports to his Reseller SharePoint Standard, Exchange Standard, Windows Standard, and SQL Standard every month.  They installed Exchange Enterprise and Windows Standard.    For simplicity, let’s say he has 8 VM’s on a host, and licenses SQL per instance on a VM, they also have 100 mailboxes he supports.

The Problem

Each month Joe had (key word) his employee Julie place their SPLA order each month to the Reseller.  One day, Joe accidentally backed his Porsche 911 into Julie’s car.  Furious, Joe yelled at Julie for parking near his precious Porsche and blamed her for the damage.  Julie got upset, and quit on the spot.

Julie was a dedicated employee.  Each month she would report to the Reseller almost the exact same thing (with minor fluctuations) – 100 Exchange Standard licenses, 16 Windows Standard processor licenses, 100 SharePoint Standard licenses, and 40 cores of SQL Standard.  Sometimes, she would change the counts based on customer’s coming and going but for the most part the report was stagnant.  The Reseller, happily placed the order without ever asking about their business.   Now that she left, what will Joe do?

Joe is a busy man.  He would never make time or the effort to learn how to submit SPLA usage or understand the licensing rules.   Once Julie left, his workload increased ten fold because not only did Julie report SPLA, but she was responsible for HR, scheduling, customer satisfaction, and making sure the annual company picnic went on without a glitch.  Joe was busy to say the least.  To make matters worse, Julie was the only person in the company to interact with their SPLA Reseller.

Several months went by and no usage was being submitted.  Sure the Reseller would send reminder emails to Julie, but there was no response.  Finally, Microsoft took notice, and started digging into Joe’s reporting.  Now Joe’s problems suddenly took a turn for the worse.

The Audit

It was a cold, rainy Monday, and Joe was really upset – not only did he have a ton of email to go through from the weekend, but his Porsche was getting wet.  He kept staring out his office window at his precious fire engine red baby; soaking wet, with streaks down the windshield.  The site made him sick,  he couldn’t bare to watch anymore.  He took to his email and noticed immediately – Microsoft Self-Audit Review in the subject line.  Joe opened it without hesitation.

The email thanked Joe for his partnership, but informed him that from time to time Microsoft will provide a self-audit compliance check to ensure accurate reporting.  From the email, Joe was to download the MAP toolkit (Check it out here) and provide the data back to Microsoft within 10 business days.  Joe surprisingly cancelled all his meetings that day and proceeded to download the tool.   Once the data was collected, he was to send the data to Microsoft and set up a call to review.  What happened next shocked even the Microsoft compliance guy.

Conference Call with Microsoft

Microsoft:  Good Morning Joe, after some analysis I have a few questions about the data you sent over.

Joe:  Absolutely Mr. Softy.  

Microsoft:  Umm…Say again?

Joe: C’mon man.  Mr. Softy…Microsoft???

Microsoft:  Whatever.  Let’s get to the data, ok?  In my analysis, I noticed you haven’t reported usage in 3 months.  Why?  Are you not providing commercial hosted services?  Your website indicates you are.  Just wondering why you haven’t reported?

Joe:  We had an employee leave the company who was responsible for reporting.  We did everything we can to retain her but she was simply out of control.  

Microsoft:  I don’t really care about why she left, but more concerned about why you didn’t report after she left. 

Joe: Sorry.  I don’t have an answer for that.  I was busy and forgot.

Microsoft:  I noticed you reported essentially the same thing every month which tells me you did not grow or shrink your business.  I did see on your website a press release that mentioned how excited you were to host email for Oil Tankers Inc, one of the largest Oil transportation services company’s in the US.  

Joe:  Yes. It was one of my finest sales calls.  

Microsoft:  I’m sure it was.  That being said, I noticed in the data you sent that over 5,000 users have access to Exchange Server but you were only reporting 100.  Why?

Joe:  I wish I knew.  That darn admin had no idea what she was doing.  I am sorry.  

Microsoft:  Apology accepted.  Now, back to Exchange.  You have 5,000 active users but you only report 100.  There is a license gap of 4,900 licenses.  It looks like they were active six months ago.  That total comes to roughly $50,000 in underreporting.

Joe:  Chuckles.  Yes, but I just sold them the licenses last month.  So really, I only have 1 month of underreporting.  Besides, Exchange is licensed per mailbox. 

Microsoft:  Try again. I just said they were active six months ago.  In addition, I find it hard to believe you just sold the licenses last month when your very own press release matches this date as well.  Last, Exchange is licensed per user, not per mailbox.  Even if it was, the mailbox number and actual users are almost the same.  

Joe:  Ok.  Well sorry.  I will correct it moving forward.

Microsoft:  (Ignores Joes’ comment).  Let’s move on to Windows Server.  You have an ESX host with two processors each.  You are running 8 VM’s on that host.  You are actually over reporting here sir.  Why are you not reporting Datacenter?

Joe:  Because Standard is installed. 

Microsoft:  Actually, you can report the higher edition.  What you cannot do is install Datacenter and report Standard.  Datacenter allows unlimited virtualization.  You could of saved money here.

Joe:  Wow. I had no idea.  I can run Standard but report Datacenter?

Microsoft:  Sighs.  That is exactly what I just said.  Let’s move on to SQL.  You are reporting 40 cores but only have one VM of SQL Server running.  Why so many cores?

Joe:  Because we have over 10 instances running on that VM.  We report 4 cores per instance running on that VM.  

Microsoft:  Yes, but you can run unlimited instances on a VM.  You should really be reporting 4 cores, not 40.

Joe: What!  I am looking at a BIG pay day from Microsoft.

Microsoft:  (Again, ignores the comment).  Let’s move on to SharePoint.  SharePoint, it looks like you have Enterprise installed.  From the data you sent over, it also looks like you provide only Standard features to your clients.  Is that accurate?

Joe:  Yep. Only Standard.

Microsoft:  I can’t believe it.  You are actually reporting SharePoint correct.  Did you know SharePoint and Exchange is licensed by the features accessed not what is actually installed?  

Joe:  No I did not.  The darn admin should’ve told me that.  When can I expect my check from Microsoft for the over reporting of SQL and Windows?

Microsoft:  Well.  Let me think about that.  Never.  

Joe:  Fine!

Conclusion

Throughout my twelve years of managing SPLA, I have had similar conversations and heard scenarios similar to the fictitious story mentioned.  In a lot of compliance situations, a SPLA customer has one person who reports usage.  If that person leaves the company without telling anybody how to report usage or what data is used to collect it, the organization can quickly get of compliance.

In reading the above, you might think that ole Joe came out ahead.  Yes, he did not report accurately or in the most cost effective manner, but he did come out of the audit unscathed.  I would argue that he wasted more money, should have invested in the right resources, and ultimately could have saved his customers money by licensing in the right  manner.  I highlighted below some of the ways Joe could’ve licensed to reduce his exposure and reduce his monthly spend.

  1. Report Windows Datacenter.  If you have more than 7 VM’s on a host, it is more economical to license Datacenter than Standard.
  2. Report the Productivity Suite which bundles Exchange Standard and SharePoint Standard.
  3. SQL Instances – you can run unlimited instances on a VM as long as the VM is properly licensed.
  4. Report USERS not mailboxes when it comes to Exchange
  5. Remember with Exchange and SharePoint, you report the features they have access to not what is technically installed.  Most hosters install Exchange Enterprise (Standard only supports a small number of mailboxes) but report Standard because users only have access to the Standard features.
  6. Reporting usage and stopping will get flagged for compliance.
  7. Stagnant reporting will get you flagged for compliance.
  8. Not reporting what you are advertising.  “I don’t host anymore” when your website says your are is difficult fact to overcome.
  9. Self-audits are exactly what it means “Self”  and “Audit”  The vendor is dependent on the data you provide them.
  10. If you report usage, build a team to make sure it gets reported correctly.  Most compliance gaps happen when an employee leaves the company.  Don’t be dependent on one employee.  If you are dependent on one employee, treat them right!  Poor Julie!
  11. Report on time.  The SPLA agreement says you must report by the 10th for the previous months usage.

Have a question?  Contact info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2017 in Compliance

 

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VDI Under SPLA? Maybe it’s possible after all – Multitenant Hosting Rights for Windows 10

Good news for those who have customers who want you to host Windows 10 in your shared cloud environment –  they might now have that as an option.  Microsoft recently announced “Multitenant Hosting Rights for Windows 10.  You can read the announcement here

What is it?

Allows customers who purchased qualified Windows 10 licenses the ability transfer those licenses over to a Qualified Multi-Tenant Hoster shared datacenter environment.

Why is this important?

For years SPLA partners have asked for VDI in SPLA.  Although this is not technically VDI in SPLA, is does provide an avenue to implement a virtual desktop session from your shared server environment.  At the end of the day, it gives your end customers deployment options.

Can I still license Windows Desktop in SPLA?

No.  Windows desktop licenses were removed last year.  You can read/download the lease agreement that outlines the details here

What are the requirements?

To no surprise, the SPLA partner must be CSP Tier 1 authorized.  They must also sign the Qualified Multitenant Hoster addendum and have an active SPLA with Microsoft.  To get the QMH (another Microsoft acronym) you can contact info@splalciensing.com or your Microsoft Reseller.

What happens if I offer dedicated environments?  Do I still need the addendum?

No.  If it is 100% dedicated (isolated hardware) you can always transfer end customer  licenses over to your datacenter environment.  Whenever it is shared – VM or hardware, you must consider SPLA or in this case the QMH addendum)

When is it available?

Program will be available August 1, 2017 for VL and September 6, 2017 to transact in CSP.

Can I bundle my customers Office solution they purchased as well as Windows 10 to offer a complete VDI experience?

Yes.  This is a great way to bundle different desktop applications.

Conclusion 

If you provide IaaS to your customers, this is definitely something you should consider.  Any time you can offer your customers the ability to leverage existing investments the better.  Azure is not going away.  In fact, you don’t have to be QMH authorized to leverage Azure as your datacenter provider.  Please review the announcement, there will be a lot more information on this in the coming days.  I will also write out several scenarios to make this more simple.  As always, you can email me at info@splalciensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Office 365

 

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Top 5 Compliance Trends for MSP’s and SPLA

There are so many license changes and gotchas with SPLA, Azure, AWS, and all the others that I thought I would highlight for you some of the trends we see when it comes to compliance.

  1. Licensing Office Standard when Office Professional is installed.  In many cases, an IT administrator will inadvertently install Office Pro, report Office Standard to their procurement team who in return reports it to the reseller.  The IT admin will leave the company, and the procurement team continues to report Standard not knowing Pro is installed until audit time.  In this situation, Microsoft will check when Office was installed, and take the delta of what was reported (STD) v. what should be reported (Pro).  Don’t make this mistake.  Many partners are only charging their customers for Standard pricing!
  2. Not reporting SPLA at all.  Sounds silly, but many providers focus on developing software and not on the licensing.  We have found instances in which the procurement manager (who was in charge of reporting SPLA) left the organization and no one else took over their responsibility.   The reseller continues to email the procurement manager but obviously the email goes unnoticed.  After many months, their SPLA will be terminated and all licenses will have to be trued up.  The problem with this scenario is not just unexpected licensing expense, but when your SPLA terminates, you must sign a new one.  When you sign a new SPLA, you must adhere to the latest SPUR use rights.  As an example, if you had a SPLA prior to the Windows core licensing change, you could continue to report processors.  If your SPLA terminates, you would be forced to license by core now instead of later when your previous agreement (that is now terminated) expired.
  3. Using a VL copy of Office to deploy Shared Computer Activation (SCA).   SCA is specific to Office 365.  If you install Office Pro Plus VL, it goes against the product use rights in which Office (without SCA) cannot be installed on shared hardware.  It takes a lot of negotiation power and time to prove you are SCA eligible, the customer purchased Office 365, and you inadvertently installed the wrong product.
  4. Using License Mobility without License Mobility.  This is by far the most popular compliance trend.  Many organizations do not know what is installed in their datacenter when it comes to customer owned licenses.  Be sure to have the right documentation, addendum, and licensing to ensure compliance.
  5. Leasing an application, hosting the application, and purchasing volume licensing agreement to offer software as a service.   A healthcare company may lease an EMR application, host the application to other healthcare organizations, and license the infrastructure through volume licensing.  If your organization does not own the application you are hosting, you must license it through SPLA.  Self-Hosted for ISV is only eligible for providers who develop and own the application.  This means the code, the rights, everything must be owned by the organization.  Leasing the application and using other plugins you may have developed does not qualify.

I hope this provides you a little insight into the world of compliance.  If you find yourself out of compliant, let us know and we can connect you to the right resource.  info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Compliance

 

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