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What are the different types of software licences?

In the rapidly moving world of digital transformation, it's crucial for education institutions to have detailed knowledge of the software titles being used on their estate. A key part of this is understanding the different types of licence agreement that exist between the owner / creator of the software and its end user. 

This blog post explores different types of software licences and considers how education institutions can optimise their licence allocation processes.


What is a software licence?

A software licence is a legal agreement between the software owner (licensor) and the user (licencee) that defines the terms and conditions for using the software. It outlines the rights and obligations of both parties, including the permitted uses, restrictions and ownership of the software. 

Such licences form the basis for accessing and using digital tools in educational institutions. Understanding the terms of a licence is essential in helping institutions make informed decisions about how, where and when they can legally use the software. And also, when giving access to software tools to their staff and students.


Understanding software licences

Let's now explore the various licence types commonly found in the educational landscape. 

Perpetual licence: Grants the licencee the right to use the software indefinitely for one upfront fee. 

Subscription licence: Requires regular payments (usually annually or monthly) to maintain access to the software and receive updates. 

Per-user licence: Allows a specific number of users to access the software. 

Site licences: These are a widely used licence type that allows the use of a digital tool on many devices or by many different users within an education institution. They typically involve a volume licensing key that can be used on multiple devices. The pricing for volume licences is decided by factors such as licence type, quantity and subscription term. 

Named user licences: Named user licences provide a predefined number of registered users with the right to access a digital tool using individual licence keys. Such licences require periodic internet connectivity, as devices must connect to the vendor’s server for activation and regular verification.  

Timebomb licences:  Issued for a specific time period, access to the software is revoked when the timebomb expires. Many software vendors, such as SketchUp and SPSS, offer these licences to provide temporary access to software tools. They can be a cost-effective choice for short-term projects or specific academic requirements. 

Product-key licences: Product-key licences are individual licences associated with specific software products. Examples of software using product-based licences include Windows 10/11, SPSS, SketchUp, Visual Studio, and MATLAB. 

Licence dongles or USB keys: Licence dongles or USB keys are electronic devices that provide copy protection and confirm the authenticity of licenced applications.  

Floating or concurrent licences: Floating or concurrent licences are hosted on a licence server and allow multiple devices to access the software tool simultaneously. When a device wants to use the application, it connects to the licence server to gain access. Upon usage, licences are "borrowed" and returned to the server, ensuring efficient resource allocation. Floating licences require careful management to prevent over-usage. 


The role of Academic Software in licence management

With institutions often having hundreds of different licences for various products, their careful management is essential to ensure legal and appropriate use. The Academic Software platform streamlines this work for educational institutions in three main ways. 

Licence allocation and provisioning: The Academic Software platform enables education institutions to automate the allocation and provisioning of licences. It ensures that licences are assigned to users who request them by using extended user information during log-on. Whether that’s via Single Sign-On (SSO) or through custom integrations with the institution’s Student Administration System. This automated process eliminates the manual effort involved in licence distribution, allowing institutions to optimise resource allocation and ensure efficient licence utilisation. 

Automated licence attribution: When end-users access web-based applications through the Academic Software platform, licences can be automatically assigned, granting seamless access to the digital tools without additional authentication steps. This eliminates the need for manual intervention by IT staff, reducing their workload and enabling them to focus on more strategic work tasks. 

LMS integration: Seamlessly integrated with all leading LMS platforms, the Academic Software platform synchronises student data, course information and other relevant user details. This enables smooth licence allocation based on group membership, which delivers a simple UX for students, who can access everything they need through a single online platform.  


The challenges of licence deprovisioning

When users no longer require access to particular tools because, for example, they have graduated or changed courses, it is important to deprovision their licences promptly. Without doing so, institutions continue to incur costs for materials that are not being used. The Academic Software platform makes light work of these tasks and helps optimise resource allocation and safeguard security.  

To learn more about revoking or deprovisioning licences, see this blog.

To take control of your institution’s software licences, schedule a demo with Academic Software today!