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Slaying the dragon and saving the princess – audit style

We all love stories.  All of us. We love to hear about good overcoming evil – the prince saving the princess, the bad guy that's captured by the good guy.  In short, what we love are fairy tales.  The reality is we do not live in a world of fairy tales and sometimes, yeah, the bad guys do win. The prince, admired by many, is not such a good prince after all.  We trust without knowing they can be trusted.  So, what does this have to do with audits?

Businesses are built based on one concept – to solve a customer's problem.  You are their hero to save whatever pain they have or problem they can't seem to overcome.  You, are (as the story goes) their knight in shining armour.  Your customer needs someone to deliver a solution, you are just the good guy to do it.

Fast forward a couple years, your business is booming, your customers are happy, and in walks every IT nightmare…the auditor.  Eye glasses the size of saucers, a necktie tied just a shade too short, and a laugh that is about as annoying as a nail on a chalkboard; you are succumbed to a software audit.

How do you defend such evil?  The biggest mistake a hosting partner (or enterprise's in general) often makes is being fearful.  They give the auditors everything they ask.  That's not always bad, but if you don't understand why they are asking for certain things or feel they are painting you in a corner, take a step back.  Don't give in without understanding what they are asking and why.  Why do they want to know who your customers are?  Why do they ask about customer owned licenses?  Software Assurance? Historical information?  If you can't answer "why" maybe you need help.  In walks SPLA Man.  Nah, in walks Mrs. SPLA Man, every auditor's worst nightmare.  She put together the following list on how to better prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Mrs. SPLA Man's List

  1. Don't be fearful – no matter what, it's your business and YOUR customers.
  2. Have a plan.  Know what's in your customer agreements.  If you need to refresh your agreement language, do it.  Software licensing rules change daily, if you have not updated your contracts on license mobility or datacenter outsourcing, update it now.
  3. Don't bring unwanted attention to your organization.  Always report usage on time and pay on time.  80% of all delinquent reporting has nothing to do with the reseller or Microsoft.  It has everything to do with a SPLA partner's account payable dept.
  4. Don't have one person manage your usage reporting.  In a lot of cases, a person leaves a company who was the only one who worked with the reseller directly.  When that person leaves, who is responsible for reporting?
  5. Don't be pressured.  Audits can take up a lot of resources.  Don't give up customer engagements to satisfy an auditor.  Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, don't delay meetings with your clients.
  6. The publisher needs you.  You are their sales arm.  You bring the hybrid cloud to life.
  7. Find out from the publisher who manages your account.  When was the last time you spoke to them about strategy or best practices?
  8. Relax.  It's not the IRS auditing you (yet)
  9. Don't settle just to settle.  You didn't grow your business to the magnitude you've grown it without having negotiating skills (and guts).
  10. Don't be scared to ask for help.   Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

Thanks for reading,

Mrs. SPLA Man

PS – Slay that dragon!

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Compliance

 

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Top 5 Licensing Questions….Answered

You have questions…We have answers.  Another month, and another list of licensing questions asked by the hosting community.

  1. I have a small hosting company that runs primarily Linux machines with a few Windows VM’s mixed in.  The only thing we do customer facing with Windows systems is a small number of users access our application via a published app over RDP Web.  Do I need SPLA?

Yes.  You have Windows running in your cloud environment.  It does not matter how small or large the environment is.  One thing you might want to check out is the Cloud Platform Suite.  You must run Hyper-V and System Center but it could lower your costs. 

  1. I get CSP from one reseller and SPLA from another.  Do I qualify for the new QMTH addendum or do I need to get it all from one source?  Totally confused.

In QMTH, you are the CSP partner, not someone else.  I am guessing you are using the CSP reseller to go indirect.  If that is the case, you must become CSP Direct authorized.  Purchasing CSP from a third-party does not qualify you for QMH.  That being said, your customer can purchase CSP from any organization and you can host it for them (if you are QMH authorized).

  1. The audit bug got me. I think it’s because my reseller refuses to submit my usage report even though I sent it to them several times.  Any advice?

Microsoft can audit any partner they choose.  There’s not one factor that triggers an audit.  More eyes will be watching if you are continually delinquent on your monthly report.  The biggest reason why a reseller does not submit a usage report is because the provider is delinquent on their payments. Are you up to date? All payments paid to the reseller?

  1. Can I rent a PC using the QMTH addendum? I know in the past I could rent a Windows desktop license in SPLA.  Can I do it now?

I think it makes sense to do so but unfortunately it is not part of the addendum.  I would love feedback here.  Section C of the QMTH addendum states” “This Amendment does not authorize Customer to resell, distribute, or otherwise provide End User or CSP Licensees direct access to Windows 10 Software” In order to lease a PC to a third-party you need to follow the Microsoft Leasing Agreement. 

  1. I report Office, Exchange, SharePoint and Skype. I heard rumors of a price increase coming in the pipeline from various resellers that I reached out to.  Any truth?

Let me put it to you this way – The products you just mentioned happen to be part of Office 365.  I don’t foresee Microsoft lowering pricing in SPLA for the same products offered by Microsoft.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

PS – What was the SPLA partner’s response to my answer for question 5?  “That’s BS Mate!”  My response?  “Don’t shoot the messenger.”  Have a question?  Email info@splalicensing.com

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions

 

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Details of the Qualified Multitenant Addendum

There’s been a lot of talk as of late about the new QMTH addendum.  I’ve written a couple of articles on the topic here  In this article, we will summarize what is written in the addendum so there’s no surprises.  I listed some (not all) of terms and conditions to ensure you are up to speed on the latest developments.

  • CSP Membership – You (or affiliates) must be a Direct CSP partner.  This means you cannot leverage an Indirect CSP partner for this program.  In other words, if you receive CSP licensing from Ingram Micro or SherWeb (as an example) your partnership with those distributors/partner does not qualify for QMTH.  Your organization must be CSP Direct authorized, not your partner.
  • Must meet the system requirements – System Requirements can be found here
  • Have an active SPLA agreement.
  • Reporting Requirements – You will always need to report underlying licenses in SPLA.  Those underlying licenses could be any software to deploy a VDI solution – (Windows Server and RDS).   In addition, you must report (by the last calendar day of each month) the Windows 10/O365 licenses deployed.  This is manual, meaning you will send an email to the QMTH alias for submission.  Once automated reporting is available, you must enable Microsoft’s automated reporting tool.  Microsoft will use the tool to collect your customer’s organization ID and tenant ID as well as the total number of users accessing the software.
  • As the provider, you must report to your SPLA Reseller the program administrative fee.  If you are currently in the SCA program, you will be familiar with this SKU.
  • As the provider, you must make all education materials publicly available.  You cannot just sign up for CSP, the education material should be like what’s on the QMH website.
  • For each per user subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise, the end-user can only access up to four (4) instances of Windows 10 either on Azure or you, the QMTH hoster.  This is like the SCA program in which the end user has five (5) instances of Office Pro Plus, Windows 10 works the same way.

Listed above is a summary.  I encourage you to reach out to your Microsoft rep for additional information.  I am happy to review it further, it’s a new program with pluses and minuses.  Be sure to understand the minuses first 🙂

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Office 365

 

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Deep thoughts with SPLA Man

As we enter the new FY at Microsoft, I thought I would put together a list of topics that’s on everyone’s mind.

  • SPLA going away?  I don’t think so.  There’s too many SPLA partners to make an entire program disappear.  I also think this is one of the benefits Microsoft has over all it’s competitors.  If a customer wants to have an application hosted in one datacenter and use Azure for disaster recovery – Microsoft wins.  If Amazon is running Windows workloads (which they are) they must pay Microsoft for that usage through SPLA.  I also think SPLA is a way to move customers to Azure.  If you are a SPLA customer who just went through an audit, the SPLA customer might ask themselves why they continue to host at all?  Let’s use Azure and my compliance problems go away.  (they don’t but that’s for another article).
  • Is CSP/QMH really a must?   I guess the jury is still out (it hasn’t even launched yet for the partner community – September 2017).  There are a lot of restrictions to this program to consider – underlying Windows Pro licenses, becoming CSP direct authorized, not using CSP Indirect, RDS licenses when deploying VDI, etc.  If you decide to go down this route, pay close attention to what you can and cannot do.
  • Will SPLA pricing increase?  Yes.  No doubt about it.  Nothing stays the same for too long.
  • How can AWS win the cloud war?   Amazon has a revenue first, profit second mentality in my opinion.  Just look at their last earnings report (2017).  They can buy their way into the SaaS market at any cost.  They are not just a cloud company, they are an everything company.  They have the leverage to really get creative with their marketing and win businesses over.
  • How can Google beat AWS and Microsoft?  Google hasn’t scratched the surface with their footprint in the enterprise space.  One slip up by the other cloud powerhouses and Google becomes a very attractive offering.  Google has the power, the money, and the brand to make headway. Like AWS, they are not just a cloud/software company, they are an everything company.  I really think Google will surprise a lot of analyst in the near future with their cloud growth.
  • How can Microsoft beat them all?  Any organization that uses Microsoft software in a hosted environment must pay Microsoft for that luxury.  They already have a large footprint and very large customer base to move to Azure.  They also have 30k + SPLA partners (estimate) that are being used to sell their solution.
  • Will SPLA Man be able to afford a nice piece of jewelry for Mrs. SPLA Man?  For all the single women who read SPLAlicensing.com, don’t make the same mistake Mrs. SPLA Man made.  Poor Mrs. SPLA Man, when I first met her at the bar, she thought SPLA was something I created for the space station. Space Program Living Association.  S.P.L.A. – kind of like a home owner’s association but for space.  (I am not sure where she got that idea).  I do have a cool blog??!

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2017 in In My Opinion

 

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Don’t be Jimbo

Jimbo had a small IT firm for which he provided backup, security, and hosting for two clients.  He also purchased Office 365 licenses for a handful of users directly from the Microsoft Office 365 website and would bill them accordingly.  Jimbo also had an application he tried to develop to help end users better communicate with one another. It was similar to SharePoint, but more seamless and had better integration with third-party applications.  He had a SPLA, and had one person who submitted their usage report to their reseller.  Unfortunately, that person got sick and passed away.  Jimbo was sad and so was the rest of the staff.

To put his mind at ease, he spent every waking hour improving his application.  He thought it was going to be the next best thing.  I experienced the application firsthand myself, and found it to be a powerful tool.  I even asked to invest in it, but without any money, (Mrs. SPLA Man spent it all at Target), I had nothing to invest with.

Fast forward a year later.  Jimbo is still working on improving the application, and he's still hosting.  One day, Jimbo received an email from Microsoft.  It was titled “Self-Audit”, Jimbo was getting audited.  One thing left unmentioned, Jimbo is the nicest guy on the planet. He replied to Microsoft and in the end, provided them with everything.  All his server information, customer name, and reporting history.  It was an auditor’s dream.

Several weeks later, Microsoft provided Jimbo with the findings.  He owed $450,000 in unreported licensing fees.  Why so high?  No usage was being reported since the lady who reported SPLA passed away.  When she was reporting, she reported the wrong thing.  Instead of licensing Windows Datacenter, she reported Standard.  Instead of reporting physical processors and/or cores, she reported per VM.  Everything was a mess.  Jimbo, who neglected his hosting practice for months to focus on his application, was left feeling very uncertain about his future.  He did not have the funds to pay for licenses.

It’s unfortunate, but Jimbo had to shut down his hosting business.  The application he built?  Stopped.  He tried to sell it, and last I heard very few were interested.

Why such a depressing story and was it true?  Yes, the story is true (although slightly embellished).  Why share it?  I am telling you the story because there are too many organizations doing the same thing.  They have one person who manages the licenses, one person who was in contact with the reseller, and one person who knew what they were reporting.  What happens if that person leaves?  Too many organizations are also buying Office 365, but not getting the best discount.

Licensing is challenging, and in the case of Jimbo, his love wasn’t reporting usage, it was developing an application.  He should have had allocated resources to help manage his SPLA, so he could focus on what he knows best, the technology.

I am always asked why I created splalicensing.com and what's so different about SPLA Man than other blogs.  I think the main difference is honesty.  I am your licensing Siri or Alexa.  I am SPLAlexa. (that was bad).  Don’t be Jimbo.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man/SPLAlexa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Compliance

 

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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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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 

We also created a new website called MSCloudlicensing to help SPLA and CSP partners understand the different program options and use rights available to them. The new website is www.mscloudlicensing.com it’s designed to be a collaborative platform that includes a forum to ask and answer licensing questions, document library, and licensing articles.  Check it out, it’s free.

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@splalicensing.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 QMTH 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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Top 5 Questions…Answered

Where can I get my license keys for CRM?  My Microsoft contact can’t seem to find the answer and my reseller doesn’t know either.  Any ideas?

For CRM and D365 you can download them directly from the VLSC website.  All other Dynamics products need to go through the License Key Creator Tool.

If I am a CSP Tier 1/direct provider, can I sell CSP to another CSP Tier 1 provider? 

Yes. There are no limitations as to who you can sell to.  Good luck!

Is CSP replacing SPLA?

Not entirely.  I am not Microsoft but I can see the similarities.  In the end, they are both Microsoft programs, how they consume it doesn’t really matter.  The only drawback to SPLA (In Microsoft’s eyes) is the service provider has the option of offering other software outside of Microsoft.  Exchange as an example, could technically be replaced with Zimbra.  If they use Office 365, the customer is using Office 365.

I offer desktop as a service.  When can we expect VDI to be available in SPLA?

Never.

Will I get audited?

Yes.  Make sure to read the MBSA agreement that you signed.

Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Top 5 Licensing Questions

 

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The Cloud Insider Times

In this edition of The Cloud Insider Times, you will find articles on the likes of Google, Amazon, IBM, Veeam, and the infamous Shared Computer Activation (among others) If your company would like to be included in future articles, please email info@splalicensing.com
Computer Business Review – Three Private Cloud Myths Busted!
 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in The Cloud Insider Times

 

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