Page 3 of 6
BREAKING THE BAD NEWS
Discovering your customer has unlicensed software in his or her IT environment, for whatever reason, can put solution providers in a difficult situation. Informing company leadership of the situation can make for an uncomfortable discussion, especially if the clients' IT budgets are small and they're being told they need to spend more money on software.
On the other hand, ignoring the issue can lead to serious legal and technological issues as well. Solution providers say downloading software from digital lockers like Megaupload or BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay carries serious security risks, as free software downloads can often contain malicious code.
For Entre, the decision was easy -- it's company policy to give customers all the facts, even if they might not want to hear them. The solution provider delivered the IT assessment report to the company's executive business managers, who were surprised by the piracy findings.
"We told them we're not the police, and it's up to them to decide, but we strongly urged them to get the proper licenses for all their software," Entre’s Lucas said. "The company's leadership was completely in the dark. They had no idea that their IT manager was running a loose ship, and software piracy was just one of the problems."
The customer was thankful for the assessment report and eventually purchased the proper software licenses to get compliant. Lucas said the vast majority of Entre's customers do the same. But there are some that don't. "It's very rare that we encounter clients who say, 'Let's keep this private; we'll take our chances.' But it does happen," he said.
Solution provider Marathon Consulting, New York, takes the same approach as Entre when it comes to breaking the news to clients: Tell the truth, even if it hurts. "We always do reports of what software is licensed and what isn't for our clients," said Scott Wilson, founder and CEO of Marathon Consulting. "We make it known to them that it's a liability."
Solution providers say it helps to frame the issue in language that clients can understand. "It is a compliance issue," said Mark Giannini, managing director of All Covered Memphis, "and that's what we tell customers."
Giannini, who sold his managed services business Service Assurance to All Covered earlier this year, said finding and eliminating pirated software was a common practice at Service Assurance; in fact, offering IT assessment scans that "cleaned up" customer environments helped him win new customers because clients were eager to rid themselves of any legal worries or potential headaches.
"We're very cognizant of keeping our clients 'legal,' so to speak," Giannini said. "We looked at everything -- every desktop, notebook and server and not just the software, but any pictures or unlicensed music that may be on that server."
But finding and removing unlicensed software in the data center can be much more difficult than purging a desktop or notebook.