Microsoft & SPLA audit; What is it, and how do you prepare for it?

What is a Microsoft SPLA Audit?     

An SPLA audit is a process where Microsoft examines the licensing of its Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) customers. Typically, the audit involves a review of the licensing information provided by the customer to ensure it is compliant with the terms of the agreement and the usage rights.    

Most of the time SPLA Audit is initiated by Microsoft or the BSA and conducted by a Microsoft partner. Any organization that has purchased Microsoft software licenses should be aware of what it entails.    

In this article, we’ll cover when an SPLA audit is done, why it’s important, who gets selected for an SPLA audit and how you can prepare for one.   

What is the main reason for an SPLA audit?  

We can only give you one answer; more revenue for Microsoft and their partners! Microsoft has two sources of income. Selling software and auditing their customers. SPLA audit can be triggered at any time. It will typically occur when Microsoft suspects that there may be non-compliance with its license agreements or if your account has been flagged for review. There are periods of the year when Microsoft is on an SPLA audit tour.  

During an SPLA audit, Microsoft verifies the actual usage of software products, licenses, and access devices against what was previously reported. Microsoft can send auditors to the SPLA customer’s site to inspect the software environment and take inventory of your software licenses and usage. The goal of an SPLA audit is to ensure that all organizations are in good standing with their Microsoft licensing agreements.   

How to cooperate with Microsoft during an SPLA audit  

Microsoft SPLA contracts require customers to provide assistance and access to resources during an SPLA audit. Not doing so may cause legal disputes and cancellation of licenses. SPLA providers and users should not dismiss Microsoft SPLA audits, as they are formal Microsoft procedures all Microsoft customers must comply with.  In general, Microsoft SPLA Audits can be delayed if needed in order to put all ducks in a row, but we always recommend customers cooperate.  

When is an SPLA audit successful 

A successful completion of an audit ensures that any organization using Microsoft software is compliant with their licensing agreement and has paid all related fees associated with their usage. If you are found to be in violation of the terms and conditions of your license agreement, Microsoft reserves the right to take corrective action which may include suspending or terminating your license rights until you become compliant again.   

It is important for SPLA customers to be always prepared for an audit, as non-compliance can result in hefty fines and penalties. This means having proper documentation in place to support the licensing information provided to Microsoft, as well as ensuring that all software used is within the scope of the SPLA license agreement. You do not need to be afraid of any audit. This means you know what you have and what you pay for.    

Who is Selected for an SPLA Audit?   

Any organization that has purchased Microsoft software can potentially be selected for an SPLA audit.   

The selection process also considers other factors such as Microsoft’s financial situation, industry size, market share and customer loyalty.   

How to prepare for a SPLA Audit   

Whiles preparing for a Microsoft SPLA audit, you should ensure that the services you provide with Microsoft software are compliant with SPLA terms and conditions and the Microsoft licensing usage rights. This includes making sure you have the correct licenses, that all users, servers and customers have accepted the relevant licensing agreements, and that you have accurate records of usage for reporting and tracking purposes.    

Additionally, it is important to verify that all installed software is authentic, up-to-date, and in line with your company’s policies. To further minimize the financial risk of an audit and always be ready for one, create processes that ensure compliance is maintained throughout the organization and regularly review them for effectiveness.  A good SAM program helps but is not assuring anything inclusive of how enough preparation can be made by your organization. 

Furthermore, ensure that any third-party providers are also compliant with SPLA terms by verifying their licenses.    

You can engage external SPLA & SAM experts to conduct regular audits of your SPLA IT environment to identify potential areas where compliance may be lacking before they become problematic during a Microsoft official audit.   

How is an SPLA Audit initiated by Microsoft? 

SPLA Audits are initiated by Microsoft when a customer’s usage of Microsoft products is reported by the Service Provider or Microsoft suspects it to be in violation of the Microsoft Services Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA).  

To initiate the audit, Microsoft contacts the Service Provider and requests audited data for a specific period of time. The Service Provider must provide accurate and complete usage data for the specified period, including details about which products were used, how many times each product was used, and who accessed each product.   

Once Microsoft has received the requested data, its auditing agents review it for compliance with the usage rights and terms of SPLA. If any discrepancies are discovered during this process, the Service Provider may be required to take corrective action or face potential legal action from Microsoft.  

Can you do a SPLA Audit alone?

Some Microsoft customers think they can manage the SPLA audit.  They have all the tools and assume they understand the licensing rules. Don’t assume that you can manage an audit by yourself if you don’t do an SPLA audit on a daily basis. An SPLA audit will swallow all your time whilst trying to understand the process. Having SAM tools in place and an IT department isn’t enough to get it done. Microsoft SPLA software licensing is very complex and documents are involved, exposing unnecessary risks. Independent Microsoft SPLA experts are available to protect your interests in case of an audit.  

You have received a Microsoft SPLA letter; what next?   

Ask for help! An SPLA audit should not take you by surprise as per the agreement, it is a checkup by Microsoft to ensure that its customer’s licensing is in line with the terms of their agreement. Be ready! It is imperative that SPLA customers are prepared for these audits to avoid any potential penalties or fines.    

As an SPLA customer, you should proactively manage the SPLA environment to avoid unexpected costs.  In the event of an SPLA audit letter, independent Microsoft SPLA experts can help save time, risk and money.  The Q-Advise experts give assistance at every step of the SPLA audit process.  

Ask for help! We saved 105+ million Euros with our proven SPLA audit service program.  

Would you like to check how compliant your current IT environment is or begin preparation for a future SPLA Audit in order to avoid compliance issues? We can assist you put together all you need and help you avoid fines and rather save. Contact us today.

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