Software Subscriptions and Licensing: Explained

We get a lot of questions about software licensing and subscriptions from our clients. Many clients request permission to install software that we can’t confirm is properly licensed. These requests can certainly put BRITECITY in a bit of a predicament.  

If the software manufacturer were to ever discover the illegal use of their software on our clients’ machines, we could be held liable for the illegal installation. We love our clients, but we are not willing to go out a limb in these cases. 

Software licensing can be difficult to understand, which leads to why users are making the request that breaks the law. They’re not aware that what they are asking us to do is illegal and why.  

So, we’ve put together a little primer on software licensing to help you navigate: 


Types of Software Licenses: 


Individual License 

This is the licensing that most people are familiar with. You purchased a disc or a downloadable package from the store, or an online shop, and you were given a license to install the software. You run the installation on your computer, input your license key, and activate the software. 


Volume License 

A lot of our clients also have volume licenses, which allows for a single license key to be used on a specific number of installs. These generally come in packs of five, ten, or twenty. Volume licenses are transferable within the organization to new machines or users.  

Generally, individual and volume licenses do not include upgrades to the latest version but will include security updates for a limited amount of time. 



Software that is free to download and use is aptly called freeware. In many cases, it is open-source software that the creators have provided free of charge.  

As such, the saying goes “you get what you pay for” and that is very often the case with freeware. You can run some risks by installing freeware, including opening up your computer to viruses. There are some legitimate sources though, so just be very aware when downloading any type of freeware. 


Subscription License  

Many of the top software providers are moving to this model of licensing, and many more are following suit. A subscription license allows a user to use the software for only as long as the subscription is active. Upgrades and updates are generally included in the subscription, so your software will never go out of date as long as your subscription is active. 



Benefits of Subscription Licenses

As subscription licenses gain popularity, many users are complaining about the fact that they are only able to use their software for a set period of time. They are used to being able to use the software they “paid for” as long as they want.  

However, subscriptions really do benefit both the company and the user. Some users will purchase Office 2007, and then continue to install it on new computers until it just won’t install anymore. This is both extremely insecure and can cause issues with your computer. 

Software eventually reaches an end of life, meaning the software company will no longer provide security updates for that particular piece of software. Once this happens, exploits that are found in the software are utilized by malware creators to infiltrate systems that are no longer updated. Some of the most widespread virus outbreaks last year were caused by software and operating systems that were out of date. 

A huge benefit to subscription-based license models is always having the latest software and security installed.  



One Last Word about Software Purchases

There is a common misconception that you purchase the software, but that’s not technically true.  Purchasing software would be like Microsoft buying to-do list maker Wunderlist. You aren’t buying the software itself; you’re buying a license to use the software. 

Once you understand that, it’s easy to understand how the software creators are able to change their pricing structure, features, and access without consulting you first. You are just using software that they own.  

My favorite analogy to explain this is like buying a DVD copy of Man of Steel and then thinking you own Superman. As much as we’d all like to have him at our beck and call… That’s just not how it works. 




BRITECITY offers local businesses support in areas like Cyber Security, Cloud Services, Strategic IT, and Managed IT Services in Orange County.