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In this case study Linn Software show how the Nalpeiron Licensing system can be used to solve complex licensing issues and drive a range of business benefits.
Linnsoft make market analysis software for traders and active investors. The company was founded in 1989 by Dr. William Linn.
Bill Linn started his career at the highly successful software company Cullinet, which was the first pure software company to go through successful public floatation and the first software company to get a $billion valuation. Introduced in 1996, Linnsoft’s current product, Investor/RT was the first product of its kind developed with cross-platform software engineering tools and a high performance cross-platform embedded database system. Investor/RT also incorporates a "data feed independent" architecture that has enabled the company to expand the market for its products and provide its clients great flexibility in the choice of data services to meet a wide range of trading requirements. Linnsoft now serves customers from over 35 countries around the world, focusing on the retail market, whilst its sister company Market Delta uses the Linnsoft product to service the corporate sector.
As a start up Linnsoft had developed their own copy protection. Bill Linn explains:
"Like many ISV’s in the early days we decided to develop our own solution. I have a Ph.D. in computer science, so I dusted off my cryptography books, picked the brains of a few ex-classmates who had gone on to specialize in the field and came up with a solution that was good enough for us at the time. Our software is an analysis tool and our customers will also have a subscription to a data service, with a unique password, so we piggy-backed our copy protection on to that password. This worked well enough for us for a time."
Fighting Software Piracy
Linnsoft became aware that their software had been cracked by a pirate ring in Russia, where financial software is a key target.
"With pirated versions of our software available on the internet for a fraction of the cost of the genuine article we knew we needed stronger copy protection so we took the decision to lock the software to a physical machine."
Moving on from the in house Licensing Solution
Linnsoft quickly saw that attempting to develop their own licensing solutions to meet the new challenges would not be the best course of action:
"Our clients work in a very fast moving world. Our software helps them to make better trading decisions and for it to do that we have to remain focused on constant development and improvement. Attempting to re-develop our own licensing solution would have been a distraction from our core business."
Licensing Management for a Subscription Sales Model
Linnsoft were also moving away from selling lifetime licenses of their software, to a monthly subscription or SaaS sales model. This move proved to be a strong driver for sales as it created a far lower entry level price point for customers, allowed them to dip in and out of the service and also re-enforced the constantly developing nature of the software.
But from a licensing point of view the move to SaaS presented a whole new set of challenges. The in-house licensing system offered very little control over license de-activation and re-activation around payment issues. In addition Linnsoft were looking for a solution which would integrate both easily and deeply with their own software, offered a low cost of entry, offered cross platform functionality and also worked for their sister company Market Delta.
They selected the Nalpeiron Licensing System
Moving Forward with Nalpeiron Linnsoft have been working with Nalpeiron for 3 years now and have the licensing solution fully integrated into their own software.
Bill Linn explains:"NLS offers 100 modules, so there is something for pretty much every eventuality..."
Enhanced Copy Protection Drives Sales. With each software license locked to an individual machine Linnsoft’s product is now much more crack resistant. But there have been added bonuses. Bill Linn explains:
"Many of our customers like to move their license between home and work machines. This is fine, but they need to remember to deactivate the license on their second machine before returning to work on the first. Many customers forget to do this, so we have introduced a supplementary license, for a nominal charge of $20 per month which saves customers from having to do the daily license shuffle.
"The annual revenue we now derive just from these additional licenses covers our NLS expenses many times over on an ongoing basis. Before Nalpeiron we had no ability to control multiple machine usage by the same client, we are now extracting more revenue from customers who need multiple licenses."
Managing Subscription Licensing
Running a monthly subscription SaaS sales model in a small business can be an administration nightmare. Using the Nalpeiron Licensing System Linnsoft are able to effectively manage subscriptions with minimal administrative intervention.
The system works by getting each licensed machine to check in monthly with Linnsoft’s own web server to validate that the account is in good standing and marking modules in the license if there is a payment problem. The application must momentarily internet deactivate the license before it checks in each month, reactivating the license when it gets an okay back from the server. Those users with a payment issue are flagged in the license itself. This triggers notification to the customer within the software and a daily check-in by the product until the billing issue is resolved.
If there is no resolution, Linnsoft mark the user as having cancelled on their web server database so the next daily check in will simply mark the license as INACTIVE. If the user later clears the problem, they can revise the license code back to active so the user can then activate it.
This system also revises the expiration date of the license to keep it at least 60 days out to avoid any built-in expiry so long as the client is billed successfully each month.
"The system has generally worked well for us, with maybe a 95% reliability factor. We have not had NLS server availability issues at all."
In a similar way the system allows Linnsoft to get new customers up and running with the software before payment is received, keeping a daily check on the license to ensure that the account is paid up in good time.
Enhanced Customer Service
A few hours downtime can be a huge deal financially for one of Linnsoft’s trader clients. So the company are keen to do everything they can to keep their software operational. As a small business Linnsoft don’t operate 24/7 telephone tech support. So the client who finds himself "locked out" of his software for whatever reason, out of office hours could face big problems, with potentially significant financial repercussions, particularly if that client happens to be trading in a different time zone.
To alleviate this potential problem Linnsoft are looking in to using the license tracking and activation capabilities of the Nalpeiron Licensing System to give customers with accounts in good standing internet access to short term "emergency" license to get them over any temporary problems at times when they may not be able to access human support.
Linnsoft provide software in a complex and demanding marketplace. By fully integrating the Nalpeiron Licensing System into their product they have achieved the enhanced copy protection they needed.
The system has also allowed them to generate additional revenue by controlling license overuse and driving multiple user license sales. Linnsoft have used the Nalpeiron system effectively manage a monthly subscription sales model whose profitability could otherwise have been undermined by administrative costs and lack of license control.
As a small company Linnsoft can also see the potential to use the Nalpeiron system to offer enhanced customer support to bona fide customers.
Overall, Linnsoft show, how using the Nalpeiron licensing system to its full potential can not only provide strong IP protection but can also drive a whole range of business benefits.
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