Cloud Computing: Piracy Killer Or New Infringement Avenue?

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David Hoff, CTO of Cloud Sherpas, also sells Google Apps and said the visibility offered by cloud services is a major advantage for resellers and vendors. "In the past, we thought 'Is there a warez crack for this program?' but now it's different," he said. "Because the software is in the cloud and there's real-time analytics and a view into each user base, the publisher has fundamental control over the product. They just have to architect it properly."

So what exactly constitutes a proper cloud app?

Opinions differ on how cloud apps and SaaS offerings should be delivered, especially when it comes to the subject of login usage. While some cloud services and SaaS offerings limit each seat or account to one login at a time, others such as Google Apps do not.

Hoff said allowing multiple simultaneous logins for a single account isn't necessarily a design flaw, either. "You may be logged in on your desktop, but then you have your phone, your tablet and other mobile devices," he said. "Should cloud providers shut down the account because its seemingly three logins are being used at once? You risk alienating your users that way."

Bi101’s Lalor said he doesn't see login credentials being traded much within his customer base. "I don't think it's a major problem, and it's probably only for intimate use," he said, referring to small groups of co-workers who may access the same account during a meeting, for example.

BSA’s Reid acknowledged that not all login trading represents a licensing or terms of service violation, and offering flexibility for account usage is a good thing for some software vendors and cloud providers. But, the practice itself portends to potentially bad behavior, he said.

"Not all of it is piracy and license abuse," Reid said, "but there are some bad habits."

For example, one part of the survey poses a simple question: Do users think it's okay to share login credentials for a paid cloud computing service with other people? According to the BSA, 56 percent of respondents that used business cloud apps answered no. Again, the survey itself didn't specify whether or not such activity violates that cloud app's terms of service.

Nevertheless, Reid pointed out that despite the majority of respondents believing it's wrong to share their login credentials, 42 percent also say they share their credentials and accounts for paid cloud services with other employees inside their organization. Again, such sharing may not violate the terms, but Reid said the BSA is concerned that users may abuse the privilege of multiple logins.


NEXT: Limiting Business Cloud Services Logins

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