Vendors Provide Trial Software Licenses for Clients to ‘Try Before They Buy’

Utilizing those licenses in another manner could create a non-compliant situation for a client, even if the vendor has not clearly defined strict limitations regarding trial use.

Something that is often misunderstood is testing a trial version of a product that is already owned and being used elsewhere in the environment. If it’s the same version as what’s in the production, there’s no need to try it out – it’s now test/dev. However if it’s a new version of the same title, let’s say you’re on Microsoft Server 2008 R2 and want to try 2012, Microsoft does allow 10 copies of a software title for a 60-day evaluation. Or if you want to talk Oracle, let’s say you have a production environment with Oracle Database Enterprise Edition with Diagnostics and Tuning. An acceptable 30-day trial on a test server would be all right if you want to try out a new-to-you management pack such as Active Data Guard.

Some vendors have built-in safeguards such as a temporary product key that expires after a period of time, like IBM SPSS has a 14-day trial. If a new key code is not entered at expiration, the software stops functioning.

Other vendors allow their clients more leeway to test and don’t shut down the test product so abruptly. However in a compliance situation or audit, a client cannot play the ‘trial license’ card easily if use is in excess of the vendor’s expectation.

Before you end up in this situation and paying for it, do a self-audit and look at all products labeled as trial. Most vendors have applicable rules, but if not you can use some common sense –

• How long has the trial product been installed? Has it been long enough to make a purchase decision?
• When was the last time the trial product was accessed? If it’s been a significant period of time, why isn’t it deinstalled?
• Where is the product installed?
• How is the trial product used? (Hint: it better not be production)

Also be aware that there may be some record of install or usage. If you’re an IBM sub-capacity customer, you may have two years of ILMT reports kept on file per your contract; or if you’re using Oracle Virtual Compute Device, it may phone home.