by Peter K. Han, Microsoft Vice President of U.S. OEM

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Microsoft and its partners are driven by a common purpose: to empower customers to compete, grow, and succeed with technology solutions. Sometimes, however, the most powerful solution we can provide isn’t the latest software or device, but real-world information that can safeguard businesses from harm. That’s what today’s Microsoft Play It Safe Day is all about—an occasion to share information and guidance around the damage counterfeit and pirated software causes to companies around the globe, and encouraging a level business field through the legal purchase and use of software.

So let the information sharing begin here. In my work with the Microsoft OEM team, I’ve seen firsthand how illegal software not only creates an uneven competitive field for software vendors, but for software users, too. Illegal software may offer price savings at purchase, but it also exposes them to cyber-threats, including security breaches, data loss, and downtime due to system crashes.

This problem casts a wide net, reducing our entire economy’s ability to compete on a global scale, as well as threatening the security and productivity of businesses—that often unknowingly purchased illegal software—on Main Street. According to IDC research, businesses worldwide will spend in excess of $100 billion, more than 5 percent of their collective IT staff budgets, dealing with security issues from pirated software in 2013. The costs from end-user installed software, alone, are forecast at $14 billion. In total, the potential 2013 cost of data losses associated with counterfeit and pirated software falls within the staggering range of $300-$500 billion.

Microsoft Play It Safe Day is one of our solutions to help level the playing field for our partners selling legitimate software and the customers they serve. We are joined in this fight by the landmark move in 2011 when 39 U.S. state attorneys general came together to ask the Federal Trade Commission to do more to stop IT theft in emerging markets. Since then, members of Congress have also passionately spoken up in the interest of protecting U.S. jobs.

Also, a broad alliance of companies that are stakeholders in protecting intellectual property has formed to flex additional muscle in this effort. The National Coalition for Jobs and Innovation is leveraging the strength of its members and executive board to create a platform for public discussion around unfair competition. To date, 100 companies, including the National Association of Manufacturers, with which Microsoft OEM partners, have signed on.

I encourage you to join Microsoft and the extended community of organizations committed to combatting the illegal sale and use of pirated software. You can make a difference by not only being diligent about using and selling only genuine software, but by serving as a powerful voice on behalf of the cause in your conversations with customers. It’s a golden opportunity to act as a true consultant to your clients, proactively equipping them with critical information, possibly before they even understand they need it.

Finally, use Microsoft tips for spotting illegal software found at www.howtotell.com, both for your and your customers’ protection.

imageFollow me on Twitter @PeterKHan and let me know the positive steps Play It Safe Day inspires you and your customers to take!

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Resources to help you ensure your customers are using properly licensed, genuine software: