Do you really know what's on your employees' computers? No, not on their screens - on their PC hard drives, where workers might be storing hundreds of dollars of unlicensed software that could cost your company thousands of dollars in fines. Or worse.
The average employee workstation has at least US$405 worth of unlicensed software, according to recent research by Micropath Inc., a Bellevue, Wash.-based IT asset management firm. Micropath finds that employees use 10 per cent to 20 per cent more software applications, hardware and peripherals than their IT managers realize. Some may be pirated, some copied from e-mail attachments or downloaded from the Internet. But however the software got there, says Micropath president Bill Holder, IT managers' ignorance of its presence will be no excuse if these unlicensed software applications cause system or legal problems down the road.
Of course, Holder is biased; his company provides IT asset inventory services. But he also points out that unlicensed software - particularly if it was downloaded from the Internet - can bring with it viruses such as the recent Melissa bug. In addition, without knowing which applications employees are really using, IT managers may be overbuying or underbuying software packages.
The surest way to avoid trouble is to implement an asset management strategy. Take stock of desktop systems regularly, and make employees aware of the risks of unlicensed software. If this strategy can't be handled internally, then outsource it. For more on Micropath's IT asset management research, see www.micropath.net.