Licenses? We don't need no stinking licenses, part 1

The Business Software Alliance could be knocking on your door sometime soon. Maybe now's a good time to figure out if you have all the correct licenses for the software you're running.

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One-third of software in use today is pirated, according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a worldwide anti-piracy organization. If your company uses illegally downloaded software, the BSA is after you. If they catch you, your company could spend a bundle on new software licenses.

Rather than living in fear, you could stop using licensed software, said Evan Leibovitch, Chairman of the Board of Brampton, Ontario-based Linux Professional Institute. In other words, stop using Windows and go open source, he said. If you do, the BSA can't touch you.

This is the first part of this SearchWindowsManageability series on software piracy. In part two, Leibovitch explains how the BSA tracks down companies that use illegal software. Here, Leibovitch describes the "Stay legal -- Use free Software" campaign and how Windows-centric companies can move to open source software.

SWM: What is the "Stay legal - Use Free Software" campaign?
Leibovitch:

This campaign is essentially a number of companies that use open source and support open source software. They believe this is a time to encourage companies to consider open source and consider switching over from proprietary software. It's a fairly small, grass roots effort on the part of some consulting companies, such as Ottawa, Canada-based Roaring Penguin Software and Starnix of Thornhill, Canada. They are trying to call attention to the open source alternative to the threat of being audited.

SWM: Is it feasible to move from a mostly Windows platform to all open source?
Leibovitch:

In the case of servers, file servers and Web servers, for example, that has been easy for some time now. Linux has a significant percentage of the installed base now of Web servers, files servers and databases. This year, there have been a number of developments that finally make the Linux desktop suitable as an alternative to proprietary systems. Sun has OpenOffice, which is a totally open source desktop suite. It is a word processor office suite that is comparable with Microsoft Office. It now allows a Linux system to work and operate just like a Windows box. A Linux system installed with OpenOffice is fully capable of doing everything that a regular office worker would need to do. Linux has proven that open source can now be a good alternative with the release of OpenOffice this year and v3.0 of the Linux desktop called KDE. Those releases have made the Linux desktop feasible for the first time.

SWM: How long might it take a company to move over to open source, and would they incur any extra costs and downtime?
Leibovitch:

That would depend on the strategy they want to use. There is a way to phase in things or go cold turkey. There are various consultants and groups that are prepared to do that. It's a matter of suiting the technology needs to those of the company and not vice versa. It can be as gradual or as sharp a turnaround a company needs to fulfill its business needs.

SWM: Do you have any "dos and don'ts" for organizations that are currently not using open source software but want to move in that direction?
Leibovitch:

Don't be intimidated by claims that open source software is difficult. Open source now can be as easy-to-use as conventional software. It's easier now because it has a graphical desktop. Linux, for the longest time, did not have one that was extremely easy-to-use. The reviews from KDE v3 say it can be more user friendly than Windows.

Do investigate local Linux user groups or companies to see what kind of alternatives they can offer. There are university groups, too. There's the volunteer aspect. If you don't want to go to a consultant, there is a fairly large community in most major centers that will be capable of offering help.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Part two of this series details why software pirarcy is unacceptable.

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