I recently received a call from a small business that needed to replace a failed hard drive in their server. Sure, this can be easily done, we just need to put a new hard drive in and reload the operating system (luckily, they had all their data backed up). “Do you have all the license keys for your operating system?” I asked. The dreaded “oh no” intake of air, and then, “No, should we?” It turned out that their original server had been installed by their IT Professional, who installed an operating system that the customer didn’t own. Not only were they unable to work, but they now had to purchase software they thought they already bought.
Over the years, I have come across many small businesses that unknowingly had less-than-legal software installed. Their IT Professional installed and configured the software they assumed they owned, but in reality, wasn’t legitimately purchased in the first place.
Yes, licensing costs money, and I know we all want to save a few bucks wherever possible, but choosing to install software that is illegitimate is not only wrong (not to mention illegal), but it can cost you additional money in the long run. You are also putting your data at risk if you choose to go down this path.
It is one thing to ask your IT Pro to install illegal software, but it is quite another when your trusted IT “Professional” installs illegal software for a business without their clients knowing they have done so. See “IT Pros and Questionable Media”
You trust your IT Pro to do what is right and legal. But if you put too much blind trust into him or her, you could be setting yourself up for a nasty surprise.
Your IT Professional should be using legitimate applications and leaving you all the valid license keys and software.
Some indications that your software may not be above board:
- Your IT Professional does not leave you any recognized documentation
- Your hardware does not have a valid Microsoft license key sticker on the case (there are some exceptions to this rule)
- The software is more than a few years old (i.e. your new server came with Windows Server 2003 Enterprise edition)
- The deal on your new system was a steal (no pun intended)
Using illegal software can cause many issues including:
- You will not receive any necessary vendor support
- You may not be able to download the updates to keep your system and data safe
- You may not be able to take advantage of special upgrade pricing
- You will not be able to reactivate the software if it requires re-installation
Things you can do to prevent this from happening:
- Hire reputable IT Professionals who will not install unauthorized software – if your IT Pro is Microsoft-certified, installing illegal software voids their Microsoft contracts
- Insist all documentation, license keys, and serial numbers are left with you
- Purchase equipment from trustworthy computer sales establishments
If you do find out you have illegal software:
- Purchase a valid license for the software
- Remove the software from your systems
If the cost of licensing is a barrier to entry, there are many excellent open source alternatives you can use until software and proper licensing is in your budget. Your reputable IT Pro can help you choose the solutions that are best for you and your company.
If you discovered your systems had illegal software, what would you do?