By Karl Young, special to Overdrive
Did you know Microsoft, IBM, Apple and Adobe are closely monitoring the usage of their programs, and collaborating to do so? The Business Software Alliance (BSA) is the self-proclaimed voice of the world’s commercial software, and as the economy struggles and piracy rates climb, they are doing everything they can to claw back valuable revenue. This is most commonly done by conducting software audits at large organisations to ensure that they are not mismanaging their software or infringing the license purchased.
The alliance describes piracy as the practice of “copying, downloading, sharing, selling or installing multiple copies onto personal or work computers,” and according to new findings, it is believed that more than one in two (52%) small businesses in the United Kingdom have either bought or downloaded illegal software. The overall frequency of audits is already up by 4% in the past year, and it’s strongly believed that due to the research carried out by Vanson Bourne, greater focus is going to be put on auditing SMEs.
If you receive an audit request from a vendor or trade organisation, you can take this as an indication that they suspect you might be pirating (unwittingly or not); so there’s never been a better time to seek advice from a software management expert. Although it’s quite common practice that software will be initially bought with every intention of using it within legal boundaries, piracy can still occur due to a poor software management process and the owner not having been made aware that the license has expired. However it’s safe to assume that whichever way you managed to break the licensing regulations, you can expect to face financial penalties and or restrictions. This has been evidenced recently when the BSA slapped a £10,000 penalty on a Lancashire-based engineering company for using un-licenced software.
Businesses can avoid the risk of financial penalty by ensuring that they’re compliant with licensing laws by using software asset management (SAM) software. SAM software can sometimes be seen as an unnecessary expense, and is often avoided in an effort to cut cost; however, it can be argued that maximizing the use of software is essential and can actually save you money in the long run. Any well-established SAM program should give a comprehensive breakdown of all of the licenses currently owned in the business, where they are currently in use and whether the licenses are expiring or expired. It should also highlight areas of overspend, allowing a business to compare its current software usage with potential usage requirements, with plenty of time to make a switch before an existing license runs out, making your organisation run more efficiently.
The necessity of SAM software is often overlooked due to the lack of knowledge around the topic of piracy. According to the study by BSA, 78% of SMEs feel that they need further education on the matter in order to ensure they are not unintentionally breaking the law. This confusion is made evident when looking at the growth of cloud computing in the business sector. A study into this growth has shown that around the world, 42% of those who say they use cloud services for business also say that they share their login credentials inside their organizations, showing a clear lack of software licensing knowledge.
One of the main advantages of cloud computing is the ability to make certain software and operating systems available to anyone with an internet connection. This means a large amount of users using the same software, which usually requires a new type of license. It’s important to understand that when you purchase software, you are purchasing the permission to use it and not the actual software itself. Therefore, when details are shared and multiple people operate under the same account, a new license may be required, causing the simple action of sharing login details to be classed as committing software piracy.
Cloud computing is not the only complex issue which may require expert SAM advice; this further emphasizes the need to invest in a SAM system if your company lacks the technical knowledge to handle these matters. This common disregard of not investing in such solutions could be one of the reasons as to why audits have risen 4% in the past year, making penalising current customers potentially easier than finding new customers. With the cost of software piracy constantly on the rise, it seems easy to predict that the law will retaliate with new measures to try and claw back part of the £$64.4 billion lost every year in the industry. So watch out, you could be audited next!
Karl Young is a business and software blogger currently writing around on behalf of License Dashboard.