How Cloud Computing Is Stopping Software Piracy

Software piracy in business is a major issue — one that is costing both software developers and businesses millions of dollars in losses and fines every year. According to the Business Software Alliance, an astonishing 43 percent of all software installed on business computers worldwide is pirated or not properly licensed. In some cases, that pirated software is simply the result of a poor purchase; often, users install pirated software without even realizing it, having purchased the software from an unauthorized retailer. 

 

In many cases, though, the unlicensed software is used deliberately and without consideration for the consequences. This could be an employee who brings a work program home to install on a home computer (or vice versa.) It could be an employee who installs something on their work computer without permission, thereby making the employer liable for any fines or sanctions. It could simply be a matter of failing to stay on top of licenses and monitoring who’s using which programs. 

 
Whatever the reason, though, software piracy is a serious issue that many companies are working hard to address. One of the most logical solutions appears to be in the cloud — or more specifically, cloud-based SaaS applications.
 
Continuous Monitoring Means Reduced Piracy

In the traditional software environment, it’s often been difficult to stop pirates. However, by moving applications to the cloud and using software licensing products from Safenet, developers are gaining ground in the fight against unauthorized use of their products.
 
Experts predict that the SaaS model will curb piracy largely because it’s much easier for developers to monitor who is using their products when and from where. While traditional software can often be installed, registered and used by whomever whenever they want, cloud-based applications can only be used when there is a continuous Internet connection. This allows the developers to keep track of who is using the product, monitoring the logins and account usage — and addressing inappropriate usage as soon as it’s spotted.
 
Some businesses balk at this model of continuous monitoring, noting privacy concerns, but developers point out that such an arrangement benefits the user as well. When users only have access to those features that they have paid for, it helps keep software costs in check, as the business is no longer paying for unnecessary features. In addition, instead of purchasing a complete software suite that’s rarely used, the software developer can bill for services only when they are used.
 
The Dark Cloud and Simultaneous Login

While software developers are optimistic that the cloud-based software can help curb the problem of piracy, there are still two major issues that experts say limit the clouds usefulness as a piracy deterrent.
 
First, there is the issue of simultaneous logins and credential sharing. Almost half of all people surveyed by the BSA admit to sharing their log-in credentials for paid software services, even though they know that it isn’t the right thing to do. Software developers note that one way to help curb the issue is to limit login credentials to one specific machine, but most are reluctant to do so. Users expect to be able to login to applications from wherever they may be — or simultaneously from their computers and mobile devices. If developers were to limit this functionality, there’s a strong likelihood that they could lose sales to those companies that do allow simultaneous logins. Therefore, most licenses allow for simultaneous logins, and usage monitoring is able to catch abuse.
 
Another issue of concern is the dark or gray cloud. In essence, this is a cloud created specifically for the purpose of running unlicensed or unauthorized software applications; there is even the potential for companies to create such clouds in order to sell access to applications they purchased legally. The BSA sees this is a major concern, but others note that the difficulty and expense involved with establishing a dark cloud — plus the potential for major sanctions — will deter most from attempting to pirate software this way.
 
It may be naïve to believe that the problem of software piracy will ever go away. As long as developers are creating new programs and selling them, there will be others trying to cash in as well, or at least avoid paying to use the product. However, with the growth of the cloud, it’s becoming easier than ever to catch and stop pirates, and ensure that everyone is using software legally and ethically.