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Fight Software Piracy With SaaS

SaaS makes application deployment easy and effective. It could eliminate software piracy once and for all.

Microsoft's ongoing quest to fight global software piracy using legal means may be on its last leg. The software giant's latest attempt to quell piracy of its OS and application software suites enlists the help of US state's attorneys. It will be the job of the state's attorney to seek out and sue global companies operating within his or her state that knowingly pirate software.

While a novel approach at eliminating an illegal competitive advantage, state-driven lawsuits will be a monumental battle, and one that likely will take years to gain traction. Instead, a more efficient way to solve Microsoft and other software publishers' piracy problems may be to put all applications inside the relative safety of the cloud.

In fact, software piracy is actually an invisible force, partly responsible for the popularity of architectures like software as a service (SaaS). If you want to do your part to fight against software piracy, you may want to think about moving to cloud services in your organization.

When we think about what propels software innovation, most of us think that momentum is primarily driven by a customer perspective. While it's true that software companies may listen customer needs, that's often not their primary driver. There are even times when a software vendor steers customers toward a particular product or service that may not be in their best interests. Often this is because the product or service provides a higher rate of return. In other cases, it's to ensure that the vendor stays relevant.

A traditional method of staying relevant in the IT industry involved the practice of vendor lock-in through the use of proprietary hardware or software. But, as is the case with Microsoft and many other software publishers, the migration of customers onto tightly controlled SaaS architectures is a more appealing way to maintain relevancy while combatting mass piracy at the same time. SaaS and other cloud models might be the only real way to eradicate piracy for good. If you can control software and keep it protected inside the cloud, users can access it only when it's been paid for.

SaaS architectures also make self-installed and managed software feel antiquated and less appealing. If a company can use a cloud-based service at or below the price of managing software on its own, it no longer makes sense to manage it in-house. In addition, cloud models offer huge flexibility and elasticity benefits. As organizations expand and contract, so do their software needs. SaaS models can conform to meet the needs of any organization in an instant, without the high costs of hardware purchases and rearchitectures.

The same level of agility cannot be said of software running locally on PCs or within private datacenters. Once IT realizes that cloud models provide superior application deployment, it will abandon any desire to use privately managed software. As the cloud-service market continues to grow and mature, so will the added benefits of migrating.

Pirated software is everyone's problem, even if it's not happening in your organization. Piracy creates an uneven playing field in which competitors don't have to foot the cost of licensing. While the use of the legal system often works within a single nation, using it is proving to be an ineffective way to combat global piracy. Therefore, it's in everyone's interest to look at moving to cloud-service models like SaaS. 

Find out how a government program is putting cloud computing on the fast track to better security. Also in the Cloud Security issue of InformationWeek Government: Defense CIO Teri Takai on why FedRAMP helps everyone.

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the ... View Full Bio
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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 11:08:13 AM
Lock in
The pirating angle is interesting, but isn't it disingenuous to suggest that SaaS will limit or end the practice of vendor lock-in? Sure, maybe the lock won't be proprietary hardware or software. But once you have a few years' worth of data with that SaaS vendor, moving will be a messy, expensive business, if it's even feasible. 
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2014 | 12:33:38 PM
Double Win
A win for the user, organization or individual, because there is no longer a need to maintain the software itself. A win for the software producer/vender, because piracy is largely eliminated. The only problem is that when internet access is down, no work can be done until it's back up.
Andrew Froehlich
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Andrew Froehlich,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2014 | 1:02:36 PM
Re: Lock in
Hi Lorna - You have a point about SaaS simply locking in customers within the cloud. But I see this tactic eroding as well. As cloud services evolve, customers are not only looking for ease into the cloud, but also ease out of the cloud. 
Andrew Froehlich
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Andrew Froehlich,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2014 | 1:04:44 PM
Re: Double Win
@Gary_EL - Because of cloud models, Internet redundancy and HA is becoming increasingly important. This type of architecture was once thought of as only being necessary in enterprise-class networks...but now even SMB's are finding it necessary.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2014 | 1:15:04 PM
What am I missing here?
OK, so how would SaaS prevent pirating copies of Win 7 or Win server? Are you talking about virtual desktops in the cloud? Or is this just about people using MS Office illegally?

With SaaS, seems like you still have the rent versus buy problem. Yearly user subscriptions are never going to be as cost effective as buying it and using indefinitely. At least at certain scale anyway. Or unless you actually buy new versions of software every 2-3 years when vendors make new releases. How many businesses (or people) actually do that?
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
4/24/2014 | 4:18:33 PM
Re: Double Win
I have always held this view that SaaS is the single most effective tool that can enable a company to combat global piracy. However, it requires time to manifest DaaS globally, because it is also in the interest of a company that a consumer does not lose their entire workstation on account of a communication outage. Once, networks become a bit more reliable and redundancy is increased, then it's DaaS all the way.  

The current generation of game consoles are a good example here, both the Xbox One and PS4 use the Cloud to authenticate users and can even provide hardware resources -- Cloud Gaming. If I recall correctly, the only reason that stopped Microsoft from making the Xbox One completely Cloud base was because they were worried that some gamers on a submarine would not be able to play video games without internet access.

One concern could that if the OS of desktops goes down the path of Mobile operating systems, Android, etc is free (at least on the surface), and if this happens then the entire billing model changes and it will also change the objectives.  
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
4/25/2014 | 6:53:14 AM
Re: What am I missing here?
Switching SaaS vendors may involve the slow and difficult task of transferring very large data files over the Internet which makes it difficult for adoption.
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