Based on the current results of a recent TechRepublic IT Consultant poll, 80% of 675 respondents have been asked by clients to install unlicensed software. Antivirus software is almost certainly one of the leading culprits.
There's much confusion regarding antivirus licensing, which deserves its own review when discussing some clients' resistance to properly licensing software. The preponderance of free consumer-grade antivirus applications leads many clients to believe installing the software is a good idea. There are several reasons why installing free antivirus in a business, nonprofit organization, or other commercial firm is a more than just a bad idea.
Antivirus companies add to the confusion by making free versions of their software available. Many clients are unaware that the free antivirus applications cannot be installed in commercial companies, nonprofit agencies, or other business organizations. Read the licensing terms within almost every free antivirus application, including those from AVG and Microsoft, and you'll see that those programs cannot be loaded in those environments.
The applications are deliberately crippled
Free antivirus applications are not the same editions as their paid, commercial counterparts. Take AVG Antivirus Free, for example; the AVG Antivirus Professional edition adds rootkit protection and much more granular control over scanning schedules. In short, you get what you pay for with antivirus.
You forfeit support
When an antivirus platform stumbles in an attempt to remove an infection or introduces some system-halting incompatibility, someone's in for a world of hurt if the offending software is a free edition. It's difficult enough to reach knowledgeable technical support representatives for a paid software product. Here's hoping you have an image backup from which to recover. You're going to need it.
What you should do
You have an obligation to the software vendors, as well as your reselling relationships, to honor the terms of antivirus manufacturers' licensing agreements. That means you can't install free antivirus when it's inappropriate to do so.
Here's what you should do when a client won't properly license antivirus:
- Educate clients. Point out within licensing terms windows the wording stating the application can't be installed in their environment.
- Tout paid versions' benefits. Remind clients that the paid versions offer critical advantages — including customizable configuration, additional scanning engines, more frequent and immediate updates, etc. — over their free cousins.
- Review costs. Review with clients the costs of a single infection. Considering that paid versions are much more likely to detect and quarantine infections, total the expenses that arise when a system must be cleaned. In addition to downtime resulting from the system being unusable (and the corresponding lost revenue), don't forget to calculate the costs of having to disinfect the system or wipe it and reload not only the operating system but applications and the user's data.
- Explain you're precluded. Tell clients the truth. Inform them that, if your office participates in improperly licensing or installing antivirus, your office could lose its reseller status.
- Discuss worst-case scenarios. If all else fails, review a worst-case scenario. Ask the client to consider what would happen to their organization if critical donor, customer, patient, client and/or employee data were to be released to unauthorized parties, and then that release were to become public knowledge, as the result of a virus or Trojan infection that could have been foreseeably prevented simply by properly licensing antivirus software.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.