Every business is on an unprecedented quest to expedite productivity and operational efficiencies. Today, deriving the greatest value from all investments from people to facilities and technology is more than a best practice, its a requirement.
Evidence of that was recently reported in a Kansas City Star article highlighting U.S. Labor Department findings that, proportionately, companies realized more output from employees while spending less on overall labor costs in 2010.
The departments report also concluded that businesses might need to invest in an expanded work force to realize growth and meet slowly increasing demand.
These findings illustrate a purposeful effort by U.S. businesses to find balance between what they pay for and what they receive in return. In another key area of investment, businesses are striving to balance the need for contemporary business technology infrastructure and information systems with the investment needed to acquire and maintain them.
Software that enables optimal productivity is often the subject of these investment decisions, and businesses exploring their options should seek to understand what they get for their investment. For the same reasons, its helpful to understand how counterfeit and pirated software can be mistaken for the real thing and introduce a host of unwanted problems.
Even businesses with sophisticated purchasing operations can hamper productivity by unintentionally buying counterfeit or pirated software, so its valuable to know the tell-tale signs. With unauthorized software, a company will often encounter a range of problems. Data created in these programs can be at a greater risk to corruption and loss because illegitimate software is often compromised in some way and can contaminate business networks with malware, potentially leading to prolonged downtime.
Shopping around for a deal on software makes good business sense on the surface, but if youre in the market to upgrade software, recognize the red flags that indicate the software might be counterfeit or pirated:
The seller cannot confirm that the software will pass Windows activation. Even if you believe you have purchased genuine software, immediately upon receipt try to activate the software and if it doesnt activate, you should seek recourse.
The software is offered on common gateways to illegal software, including sites that go by names such as cheap software that offer to sell software by download; online auction sites where links to download sites offering counterfeit software can be found; and peer-to-peer networks or other file-sharing technologies.
A software seller with a questionable history. Before buying online, buyers should research unfamiliar vendors to identify any history of satisfied or dissatisfied customers based on previous transactions.
Too-good-to-be-true pricing. Buyers should avoid software priced substantially below the same software offered by trusted resellers, and should be wary of a seller advertising free software.
No proof of authenticity. For example, a hologram CD or DVD, recovery media, manuals and Microsoft certificate of authenticity all authenticate Microsoft software.
A reseller offering backup copies or several programs in a bundle. This software is likely to be low-quality, counterfeit product.
Buyers are part of the solution to the counterfeit and pirated software problem when they educate themselves, buy from a reputable reseller, use common sense when weighing purchasing decisions, and familiarize themselves with information provided on software publishers website, including www.microsoft.com/piracy. With these steps, businesses can buy software that actually improves, not threatens, productivity.
Mary Jo Schrade is a senior attorney at Microsoft Corp.