By Lane Sorgen, General Manager, South Central District, Microsoft Corp.
Few business owners and IT professionals have the luxury of making investments without a high level of confidence that those purchases will deliver a return. And while this compels most businesses to conduct research before deciding where to spend their dollars, an expenditure on business productivity software is an increasingly complex decision requiring a significant amount of upfront knowledge.
And knowledge of the signs and repercussions related to non-genuine software is, indeed, power. While the right software can drive significant improvements in business efficiency and effectiveness, non-genuine software not only delivers no return, it can rob a business of data, time, money and its reputation. These are risks that the average business simply can’t afford to take.
Consider how valuable every moment of time you and your co-workers spend on the clock is. Then consider this: A Harrison Group study investigating the impact of unlicensed software on small- to mid-sized companies found that companies using unlicensed and/or counterfeit software were 73 percent more likely to have loss or damage of sensitive data, and 43 percent more likely to have critical computer failures lasting 24 hours or more than those using fully and properly licensed genuine software.
Pirated and counterfeit software, usually purchased without knowledge of its illegality, exposes businesses to layers upon layers of problems. Users running pirated, unlicensed software typically cannot access essential patches and updates to guard their systems against security threats such as trojans and worms like Conficker, a leading cyber risk outlined in Microsoft’s recently published Security Intelligence Report (SIRv12). In the 12th edition of this report, SIRv12 analyzed more than 600 million systems worldwide. Among many findings, the report found that the Conficker worm was detected approximately 20 million times worldwide in the past two and a half years.
The study also revealed the worm continues to spread because of weak or stolen passwords and vulnerabilities for which a security update exists. Identifying these gaps in business security processes is incredibly powerful. With this information, Microsoft suggests businesses implement computing best practices to protect themselves:
- • Use strong passwords
- • Keep systems up to date by regularly applying available updates for all products
- • Use antivirus software from a trusted source
- • Invest in newer products with a higher quality of software protection
Fortunately, there are many tell-tale signs that software may do more harm than good, which can halt the purchase and implementation of an illegal software product in the first place. Microsoft offers numerous guidelines for the criteria to use when buying productivity software at www.howtotell.com, and a few “non negotiables” that verify Microsoft products are genuine include:
- A Certificate of Authenticity
- A hologram CD, DVD, or recovery media
- High-quality product packing and documentation
- An End-User Agreement
Take steps to protect your business from cyber threats so that nothing stands between you and success. Many resources are available to help businesses protect themselves from the threats outlined here, and more: Microsoft tips on how to avoid purchasing non-genuine software and Microsoft’s anti-piracy website are all tremendous resources to help you utilize productivity software to move your business forward, despite cyber criminals’ best efforts to hold you back.