Software can be a significant expense for those who use multiple applications, use applications that require frequent and costly updates, or expensive packages. The free-for-all of both money and ethics leads to Internet downloads or other means of acquiring software rather than buying it from the store or the vendor’s website.
For a business of any size, the cost of software is multiplied many fold because business software licenses cost much more than general home user editions. How can you balance business ethics and frugality in IT?
1. Use trial versions of software before buying to reduce the risk of buying software you do not like. Do not use hack codes to keep the software in trial mode when you decide to keep it. When done by an individual, it is theft. When done by an employee at a business, even if it is a small business, you risk a lawsuit by the software vendor.
2. Use licensed freeware versions of software applications that meet your needs. Do not use pirate sites to obtain software (even licensed freeware) since downloading supports those sites. Downloading from pirate sites also increases the risk that the freeware version will come with malicious software.
3. Do not allow interns to use student editions of software. If they are performing drafting or graphics editing using student edition software, there are violating the terms of the student edition license. This is illegal. The software vendor can claim losses that include the value of the product produced with their software.
4. Look for public domain e-book versions of corporate reading. For example, Amazon.com periodically offers many business management classic books for free as an Amazon Short or Amazon Kindle download. Why pay for a print edition when the digital one can be had for free? Do not download books that are not licensed to the public domain for free. Doing so is equivalent to stealing royalties from the author.
5. Do use sites like MIT’s “Open Courseware” to deepen your understanding of any subject. Do not allow employees to piggy back on someone else’s telecourse attendance (online digital classes) without permission to do so. Doing so deprives the school of revenue that funds the infrastructure that makes online learning possible and can result in charges of theft of services.
6. Save money by buying floating license software based on the expected number of simultaneous users, instead of buying a license per person who would be expected to use the software. The license management may require its own server or a partition on a virtual server, but this maintenance cost is justified if fewer licenses are purchased.
For example, if 50 licenses cost $1,000 each, the total software cost is $50,000. If only a dozen users use the software at a given time and a floating license is $2,000, then the addition of a $1,000 server still results in a $25,000 savings.
7. When acquiring demonstration software or freeware, issue a zero cost purchase order. Have the software then delivered as part of that zero cost purchase order. This provides legal documentation that the software was approved by the vendor to be delivered at no cost.
By adhering to the above general ethical guidelines you or your company will be in good stead when it comes to balancing ethics and finances for your IT needs.