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New application usage analysis tool helps IT lower Office license costs

CloudIT's application usage analysis tool tracks how often users actively use apps like Office to help IT pros ditch unnecessary software licenses.

New software that measures application usage based on users' keyboard and mouse interaction can help IT pros cut down on the number of Microsoft Office licenses they need.

CloudIT, a software as a service application-usage analysis tool developed by Israel-based startup SoftWatch Technologies Ltd., uses an algorithm that captures the key clicks and mouse movements within Microsoft Office. The resulting data gives IT administrators insight into how much users actually interact with the productivity suite.

The data is particularly useful for IT shops in the midst of deciding whether they can save money by removing unused or lightly used Office applications and migrating to cheaper cloud-based alternatives such as Google Apps.

The technology is part of a class of software asset management tools that operate beyond traditional top-level licensing views. Along with SoftWatch's CloudIT, other products include London-based 1E's AppClarity, which provides visibility into unused server and endpoint software licenses.

"There is more awareness for licensing and the need to be adequately prepared for [software] auditing," said Daniel O'Connor, product manager for 1E. The AppClarity tool enables IT admins to set up rules that govern a pool of concurrent licensing so that companies do not pay for too many licenses for a particular application.

Many asset management tools cannot tell whether workers are running an application in the background or whether it's actually being used, according to licensing expert Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Pica Communications LLC in Camano Island, Wash.

"A lot of customers have no idea how much [of the applications] they use," he added.

CloudIT relies on an agent installed at the endpoint, and its patent-pending algorithm logs actual key clicks and mouse movements on Windows or Mac machines within an application -- the software can be on-premises or in the cloud.

"Our intellectual property is uncovering the real usage of a software application," said Moshe Kozlovski, co-CEO of SoftWatch.

CloudIT enables an IT admin to set the service to light versus heavy activity based on their own criteria. For example, a light PowerPoint user may be defined as one who uses the application for only 12 minutes per day compared with a heavy user who interacts with it longer.

The service allows IT to make an informed choice on whether a company should move to the cloud and which groups within an organization should do so, Kozlovski said.

SoftWatch this week released some internal benchmarks of 150,000 users showing that only 2% were heavy PowerPoint users, 9% were heavy Word users, and 19% were heavy Excel users. This view allows companies to see whether they should remain with the Microsoft Office suite or migrate to a less-expensive platform such as Google Apps.

While SoftWatch focused its benchmark on Microsoft Office use, Kozlovski noted that the technology can track usage for other software as well.

One IT administrator in the public sector who asked not to be named has used SoftWatch's technology for 18 months. His organization is moving off Windows XP, so it's a good time to deploy Google Apps, Chromebooks and virtual desktops to its 3,000 employees -- instead of relying on the full Microsoft Office suite for all its workers.

CloudIT provided an opportunity to understand the users better, the admin said, adding that his organization had limited visibility into application usage with Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager and could only see how long a user ran an app.

With CloudIT, the IT administrator said he gained insights into how much his users interacted with  applications.

There is room for improvement in the tool's data visualization and reporting capabilities, which the admin described as good, but not great. However, the captured data it delivers is more important, he said.

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What software asset management tools does your organization use to determine licensing options?