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Ask the majority of business owners whether they’d be happy to stick a family holiday through the business as “business travel expenses.” Most would say no with a horrified look on their face. Yet ask them if they have one license of Microsoft Office per person/computer in the business. Most will either not know (or care), or worse still smirk and say something along the lines of “we bought one with a recent new PC and used the DVD to install on another computer, and then a few years back we bought a copy from PC World and used that a few times”. It’s something I have heard too many times and the quote above is from a prospect I was speaking to this week.
if you want to use a piece of software, you pay for it. If someone else wants to use it, they pay for it. 10 staff? 10 licenses. (Ok, sometimes software vendors have multi-user licenses or licensing schemes based on concurrent users not physical users, but you get the general idea). Yet so many businesses flaunt these rules and often aren’t even shy about it. Running a support business for 10 years I have lost count of the number of times my staff have been asked to install unlicensed software – businesses brazenly asking “can you install from the CD that came with another PC so I don’t have to pay for it again?” or “don’t you have a special copy in your car?”.
Auditing software is one of the key tasks that we like to perform with any business we begin working with. We find it gives me an early indication of how seriously a company takes it’s IT. It also often throws up a number of surprises – a recent audit we did for a group of consultancy businesses highlighted an issue with licensing, yet fixing the issue would save them 17% of their annual software costs as well as make sure they were fully compliant.
So what are the risks if you aren’t fully licensed? A British property security firm was fined £18,000 in 2012 for using unlicensed software by Microsoft, Adobe and Symantec, and were further required to spend £81,000 to become compliant. The licensing authorities were tipped off by a whistleblower – perhaps a disgruntled member of staff or customer? In 2011 a firm of architects were hit with a fine of £33,000. The total fines handed out to UK businesses in 2010 were £2.2million! Think it won’t happen to you? The British Software Alliance offers a £10,000 reward to anyone offering information about software crime that leads to an enforcement case. That’s a big incentive to a departing employee or contractor! With ever increasing fines and even prison sentences for license infringements, it really is time to stop smirking and get legal!
The message is simple – stay legal and stay in control. Maintain a current software license audit, updated regularly, and work with your IT team to ensure you stay on the right side of the law. If you’d like more information, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today.