Here's a simple truth: pirate software isn't cheaper. Certainly not in the long run. Here's why.....

Dave from the pub gave me a CD...

Really? Unless you’re a highly skilled IT systems analyst, you’ve got no idea what’s on it. In studies conducted on counterfeit versions of Microsoft® software, one in three disks wouldn’t work. More than 40% of the rest also installed either other nasties which would compromise your computer, or spyware which would affect your privacy.

I don’t need the latest bells and whistles, why should I pay for them?

That may be true. But Microsoft only conducts formal new releases of software every couple of years. Those new releases present quantum leaps in functionality which give you lots of new tools designed to work together, on current and older specifications of PC, they’re exhaustively tested by professionals and won’t go wrong. That, incidentally, is why you should support large software developers.

But more importantly, the interim releases are primarily updates which respond to the ever-changing security landscape. When you turn down the latest software because you don’t need bells and whistles, you’re more than likely turning down the opportunity to keep your PC and its information safe.

If it all goes wrong, I’ll just start again.

If you’ve never had the sinking feeling of losing a document, you’re very lucky. Now imagine losing everything on a PC. It’s far more expensive in time and money than just buying genuine software in the first place. Oh, and don’t expect sympathy from an IT consultant – many will not risk working on PCs containing pirate software to recover data; and none will help you restore pirate software.

What’s the worst that could happen?

A knock on the door from PC Sensible? It does happen, but it’s by no means the worst that could happen. As a business owner, you’re far more at risk from the loss of your customer information and other data protection issues. If you fail to secure customer data – even if it’s a very minor breach – your business can be liable for very large fines indeed. Needless to say, blaming an unknown provider of pirate software generally doesn’t play out too well in court.

I’d pay if I could get software cheaper

Actually, many companies are paying too much for their software. Even smaller companies can benefit from volume licensing; and everyone should have a software asset management (SAM) programme in place. SAM doesn’t just make sure you’ve got the right number of licenses to stay legal – it also makes sure you only pay for the number of licenses you need. Many small companies have found that a simple audit actually means they can license fewer, rather than more pieces of software; taking advantage of bulk-discount opportunities, too.

Also, if cashflow is the problem, how about looking at the Cloud? You can trim your capital expenditure by getting access to the same software that corporate giants use, for less than the price of a couple of coffees per month.

I’ll just download it and see what happens.

The apparent anonymity of download sites means plenty of people have downloaded software just to “see what happens”. It doesn’t make good business sense, though. A study by analysts, IDC, found that 25% of web sites studied that offered counterfeit software also attempted to install spyware or other malicious software; in other words, the same sort of risk as dodgy CDs. But more importantly for anyone with their eye on their pockets, the estimated cost of recovering a single infected machine is over $1,000 – and that’s not counting your wasted time and any effect the machine concerned could have on your business.

PCs and laptops are cheaper without software pre-loaded.

That’s true. They usually are. But your hardware isn’t a doorstop: you’re going to want to put some software on it. Unloaded computers are rightly on sale because there are plenty of people who want to install different applications. However, loading a PC yourself with the same software as a pre-loaded PC is highly unlikely to be cheaper. These manufacturers bulk-buy on a grand scale, and are actually offering you something of a bargain. If you load it yourself with pirate software, you’re saving a few quid upfront, but buying yourself trouble further down the line.

Don’t worry – it works!

Even bogus software which does work (for now) is a false economy. Desktop software today, especially Microsoft software, is designed to integrate seamlessly with online services- the Cloud. Outlook on your PC, for example, will connect to cloud-based Exchange providers. Office is enhanced by Office 365 and Office Web Apps; all designed to give you a desktop experience wherever you are through a browser. There’s no guarantee that pirate software will work with cloud services; again you are probably doing your business a disservice by valuing a small short-term saving over long-term competitiveness and security.