Have your business faced issues related to license compliance and software security? If yes, then it might be because you are not prioritizing the software audit process. As various types of software continue to be developed in the industry and be used in every field, we, as software developers, cannot afford to leave any room for error.
This is where software audits play a major role in identifying the gaps and errors during software development. Once identified on time, these shortcomings can be dealt with effectively. This article provides information about software audits, their benefits, and tips on preparing for a software audit.
What is a software audit?
Like humans who need timely health checks to ensure everything is working as it needs to, software systems also require health checks. In technical terms, these checks are collectively referred to as a software audit, which is a process of evaluating apps and systems to ensure they meet industry standards and comply with legal requirements.
A software audit proves invaluable by pinpointing vulnerabilities or errors in software that might cause issues down the line. Additionally, it aids businesses in reevaluating and redesigning their strategies for improved outcomes. So, it is safe to say that regular software audits not only save money in the long run but also enhance user satisfaction.
Now, who performs these audits? A software audit can be conducted by a team member or someone from the organization, which is classified as an internal audit, or you may hire a third-party vendor to do the job for you, which is classified as an external audit. Every audit has the same goal, which is to assess the system’s performance by comparing it to a set of requirements.
Why is it performed?
As discussed above, software audits are crucial in developing a flawless system. One primary reason for conducting a software audit is to ensure the currency and accuracy of licenses held. This helps in maximizing the utilization of current licenses while minimizing the presence of inactive or underutilized ones.
Additionally, software audits are invaluable in identifying and managing unused or underutilized software within an organization. They serve as a cost-saving mechanism by enabling the identification and removal of software that is no longer in use or necessary for operations. The process allows organizations to determine patterns and make informed decisions, which in turn reduces resource consumption and expenses.
What are the benefits of a software audit?
Organizations choose to audit their software for the many benefits it entails, such as reduced cost and expenses, improved compliance with legal requirements, and in-depth insight into their products. A few of the benefits of software audit are described below:
Software audit helps you identify those tools and software components that are sitting on the shelf, collecting dust while you continue to pay the yearly or monthly subscription charges. These things mainly go unnoticed as it’s hard to keep up with past technologies when new ones are introduced.
Identifying these inactive resources allows businesses to cut unnecessary expenses by removing unused licenses. Moreover, audits enable the exploration of more cost-effective technology alternatives available in the market.
Updates and improvements
Audit processes such as code audit and security compliance identify software tools and components that need improvement or a better alternative. One critical aspect facilitated by audits is patch management. By identifying outdated or vulnerable software versions, audits prompt timely updates and patches, fortifying system security and reliability. Moreover, audits unearth inefficiencies in codes and workflows, paving the way for process optimization and refinement through software enhancements.
Prevent license compliance gaps
We discussed above how software audits help save costs by identifying unnecessary license expenses. Apart from that, it can also prevent legal issues associated with outdated software licenses. You might find yourself paying subscription fees for software that no longer provides services but requires you to pay due to the contract.
Regular software audits review contracts and keep you updated on industry standards and legal changes. This ensures you understand your obligations to your software provider and prevent compliance gaps.
What are the different types of software audits?
Software audits can be classified into various categories, including code reviews, software quality audits, and process reviews. The few major ones are discussed below:
Software/code quality reviews
The software and code quality audits involve analyzing the overall quality of the product and its internal mechanisms. In some instances, the system appears to be working optimally, but the internal code quality may not be up to the mark, which could lead to potential errors and information leaks.
Code quality reviews are essential for mitigating the risk of poorly managed and low-quality code. Auditing specialists examine both your internal code and review any open-source components you’ve utilized to maximize efficiency. Moreover, auditors also verify that all of the programs and apps you use are up-to-date and functional.
During the audit process, suggestions for enhancing your current system or integrating it with cost-effective alternatives are also provided. Given the rapid evolution of apps and systems, staying updated with these changes is crucial, making software quality audits a necessity to remain in the loop.
Security audits carefully examine an organization’s security policies, networks, hardware, and software. Their primary goal is to unveil vulnerabilities, potential risks, and compliance gaps that could compromise data integrity, confidentiality, and availability.
These audits encompass various types, including network, application, and physical security evaluations, each targeting specific aspects of an organization’s infrastructure. The process includes careful planning, gathering information, thorough assessments (including vulnerability scans and penetration tests), and producing comprehensive reports with recommendations ranked in order of importance.
Security audits are essential as they fortify an organization’s security posture by identifying weaknesses, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards like GDPR and HIPAA, and reducing the risk of security breaches or data loss. Moreover, these audits pave the way for enhanced incident response strategies and ongoing risk mitigation efforts.
In an ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, regular security audits prove indispensable. They empower organizations to proactively tackle emerging threats and safeguard sensitive information, thereby ensuring a resilient and secure operational environment.
Usability and accessibility audits
Usability and accessibility audits prioritize the user’s interaction with a system. Often, the success of software hinges on how easily users can navigate it, that is, how little learning users need to do in order to interact with it efficiently. The simpler the interaction and the less effort users need to invest in understanding the software, the more likely they are to prefer and embrace it.
For instance, if your system or website takes a long time to load or doesn’t have a conventional navigation bar where the user expects it to be, then the user may get annoyed and form a negative view of your product. The same is true for mobile applications, which face similar problems related to UI/UX.
To avoid this, usability and accessibility audits are conducted. It involves software auditing specialists testing the overall experience of the system from the user’s standpoint. Relevant adjustments in code and other components are made after judging what initially caused the problem. The final result is a system with improved user interaction and better experience.
Consider a software development company that consistently faces issues with the timely delivery and quality of their applications. Despite having skilled developers, projects frequently exceed deadlines, and the final products often contain numerous bugs and errors.
Upon conducting a process audit within this software company, it becomes evident that the root cause of these issues lies in the development processes rather than the individual capabilities of the team. The audit reveals that there’s a lack of defined and standardized procedures for code review and testing.
It is because developers often skip or rush the processes to meet deadlines, undermining the protocols in place, which leads to an unoptimized final product. By conducting a process audit, the software company gains crucial insights into these operational shortcomings. It enables them to revamp their development methodologies, prioritize process over end product, and implement robust code review and testing protocols.
Tips to prepare for a software audit
- Organize your documents, including licenses and agreements, and if you have documentation from previous audits, then gather those as well.
- You should know how many licenses you are using across the many products and subscriptions your team probably uses, even if there isn’t any illegally installed software on the system.
- Create a comprehensive inventory of all installed software across the organization. Document details like versions, editions, and the number of licenses owned for each software.
- Review license agreements to ensure compliance with terms and conditions.
- Familiarize yourself with the auditing process and requirements by understanding its scope and expectations from the result.
How to conduct a software audit?
Conducting a software audit does not follow a streamlined path, as the process varies depending on your business goals, the type and purpose of the system, and the software tools used for auditing. However, there are a few basic steps that are a part of any software audit process, which include:
Planning: Define the audit’s purpose, considering various aspects like security, performance, expenses, legal requirements, and risks. Prioritize concerns and outline hardware, software, and virtual technology to be audited. Incorporate previous internal audit documentation and phase-wise project planning.
Technology infrastructure assessment: Evaluate the hardware used and assess virtual technology such as servers and environments, ensuring documentation and analysis by an experienced team.
Software Inventory: Document a comprehensive list of software tools, systems, and products utilized, including specifics like provider details, versions, and editions.
Data Audit: Review data security and confidentiality within the software systems. Ensure compliance with industry standards, analyzing software publisher data policies to protect user data and mitigate potential risks, considering the escalating frequency of data breaches.
Analysis and Reporting: Organize collected data, metrics, and results into insightful reports, facilitating easy comprehension and swift reference for the team. Leverage these reports to drive positive changes within the organization, such as exploring better software options, upgrading tools, or arranging employee training on new features.
Software audits play a significant role in ensuring the efficiency, security, and compliance of businesses in the ever-evolving tech landscape. These audits are essential as they serve multiple purposes: identifying and eliminating unused licenses to cut costs, fortifying security measures, optimizing the user experience, and uncovering process inefficiencies for continual improvement.
By meticulously reviewing software systems and licenses, audits help organizations maximize their resources, ensuring that every license in use aligns with actual requirements, thereby reducing unnecessary expenses. Moreover, audits bolster security by identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring adherence to compliance standards, safeguarding sensitive data, and mitigating risks.
Embracing software audits isn’t just a best practice; it’s a necessity for businesses aiming for operational efficiency and sustained growth in today’s competitive market.