O'Neill said that the survey also found that, on average, 15% of corporate software maintenance payments are for licensed shelfware.
"At the end of the day, I'd say almost every company ... [has] shelfware," said O'Neill, who is based in Germany. "I've seen it in Europe even more dramatically. Many companies have no comprehensive, well-documented end-of-life program for hardware and software."
He called the lack of such programs "a business oversight now coming to light as the recession deepens."
Seattle Lighting, which has retail stores in nine locations in the Pacific Northwest, has just begun to look at how it will implement an end-of-life policy for hardware, according to Beemer.
Most of the company's sensitive data resides on centralized servers, and for hardware without a home, "most likely, we'll run an eraser tool on hard drives," he said.
O'Neill suggested that companies may have an easier time solving the software licensing problem, because vendors that would never have considered renegotiating a software contract two years ago have softened and are now likely to rework deals to keep customers.
"This year especially, [software vendors] are highly dependent on maintenance ... and that's dependent on the relationship with customers," he said. "Even Microsoft these days probably doesn't feel that safe."
Beemer said that hundreds of Seattle Lighting's software licenses have been orphaned because of the layoffs there.
"We're aggressively asking our vendors for renegotiations," he said. "In some cases they do, but others won't. That goes across the board for the enterprise in general, including lease negotiations."
Simson Garfinkel, an associate computer science professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., suggested that a long-term solution to the licensing issue would be to start migrating to open-source software. Open-source software would "render this issue moot," he said.