Guys – it’s almost 2020 and I still hear people complaining almost weekly about how inconvenient iLok licenses are. You sound like a broken record.
For those of you unfamiliar with the iLok system – it’s an industry-standard way of protecting the software you’ve purchased from being pirated and ripped off by other engineers that take less pride in their work. iLoks have been widely accepted as the go-to solution for this problem, with companies like DigiDesign (the original name for Avid and the creators of Pro Tools) using iLoks for nearly two decades now.
Simply put – the technology isn’t new and isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon. And if I had to venture a guess, everyone who’s still complaining about them has either a) never used one, or b) isn’t using theirs correctly.
Today, there’s plenty of flexibility with the system to where you can use your iLok account however you best see fit.
If you’re someone who had to adopt the iLok system early on, you’ve probably seen all of the revisions made over the years. We’re on the third generation of iLok at this point, which given how long the technology has been around is pretty impressive. It’s not like Apple releasing a new iPhone every year with the latest and greatest features – they’re just releasing new ones when major security (and storage) enhancements are available. Where the original iLok was bulky and could only hold 120 licenses, the new iLok 3 is slim, sleek, and capable of holding 1,500 licenses.
Unlike DAWs that change their compatibility specs over time to only support the latest VST format, or in some cases switch up their supported format altogether (a fresh wound for anyone that’s still got RTAS plugins they can’t use), licenses don’t really change their compatibility over time. Newer plugins may require more recent versions of iLok, but when you do eventually need to upgrade your hardware, transferring all of your licenses from the original iLok or iLok 2 is a simple process that takes just minutes.
In the event that something terrible happens, iLok has a process to deactivate those licenses from a lost or non-functioning iLok and makes them available in your web account for re-activation on a new dongle.
iLok was originally built to be as modular as possible – allowing you to take your licenses with you from studio to studio for use anywhere. As long as the software was installed, your iLok was the key to using your favorite plugins on any machine.
Realizing that there was a subset of the user base that didn’t need this kind of portability, the iLok team introduced the concept of a Host Machine for those of us with home studios or a single computer that we’re using constantly for audio production. With software that supports local licenses (all JST Products that use iLok do), you can load your licenses directly onto the machine you’re using from your iLok account – no hardware required.
This has been a game changer for me and my home studio, personally. I don’t have to ever worry about upgrading my iLok again if there’s a newer version with better encryption released – the software will always have the latest security updates. Best of all – it’s free.
If you’ve only got a handful of licenses and they all support the Host Machine feature (most new plugins do) and you’re not bouncing between computers, put that money toward better use elsewhere in your studio. Only buy a physical iLok if it makes sense for your situation!
Focus On Flexibility
If there’s one takeaway you should have after reading this, it’s that there IS a solution available that works seamlessly with your workflow and keeps the software you’ve purchased protected. Without some type of licensing process, piracy takes a huge toll on developers, costing them money, which in turn raises software prices for those actually purchasing our plugins and slows us down in the development of more.
We went with iLok because of the improvements they’ve made and continue to make with their system. There are other companies out there offering similar licensing, but why add another dongle or software to your system when 9 out of 10 are already on iLok?
iLok accounts are easy to use and continue to add more flexibility and ways for you to use their licenses the way you want to without having to jump through a bunch of hoops. It’s a win-win that will surely continue to grow and improve as we’ve seen them do time and time again over the past decade.
Using Your iLok Licenses
Once your licenses are added to your Host Machine or dongle, the process of authentication happens automatically on the backend of your plugins. Simply launch your DAW, load up your plugin, and get to mixing.
This is how simple licensing should be. You should be focused on learning how your plugins work, not wasting time and effort figuring out how to get them to work in the first place. If you’re ready to start digging into the power behind your plugins, come check out the tutorials we’ve got in the JST VIP section of the site – all geared toward getting the most out of your plugins.