Five software problems hurting your business

Software is the lifeblood of your computers. Without it, computers are just boxes of electronic parts. But what do you really know about those 1’s and 0’s powering your business?

Did you know your company doesn’t own the software you purchase, but just licenses it for use? Do you know the difference between single-user and multiuser licenses? Improper use of software by a company’s employees can lead to hefty fines-even if no harm was intended.

With software, it’s what you don’t know that can hurt your business.

Here are some of the most common software-related mistakes companies make:

Ignorance of copyright laws

“Most people think of software piracy as pirated copies sold at flea markets or on the Internet,” says Jung Pyun, communications manager of the Business Software Alliance based in Washington, D.C. “In reality, the most pervasive form of piracy is the relatively pedestrian practice of copying software in the workplace.”

Failure to regularly check software needs

Software manufacturers are continuously updating their products. Install the new versions on every computer that runs the programs-licensed of course. If you don’t, employees running version 3.0 will not be able to open files written in version 4.0. To avoid this, Pyun suggests scheduling times each year to audit each computer.

Poor documentation of purchases

If you don’t know what you have-or how many computers it’s supposed to be installed on-it’s impossible to be in compliance with your software licenses. Appoint a software manager, says Pyun, and have the person coordinate needs and purchases. Then, after installing software, in line with the licenses, document what was bought and who’s using it.

Failure to register software with manufacturers

All software purchases should be registered with the manufacturer, says Pyun. Nearly all manufacturers have technical-assistance hotlines. If employees need help, the software must be registered-or your employees are on their own.

Failure to prevent installation of unchecked software

Does your company have a policy against downloading software from the Internet? What about receiving files attached to e-mail?

Companies that don’t take the proper precautions or don’t have written rules against letting employees introduce software on their own may be inviting disaster-in the form of computer viruses.

Pyun says while there’s no panacea to solving all your software problems. If you’re careful to document every program your company runs, that effort will go a long way toward saving you headaches later.

How to reach: Business Software Alliance (202) 530-5136