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Legality

One of CyberKnights’ specialities is protecting people from the Digital Inquisition, also known as the BSA, or Business Software Alliance*, and their fellow travellers, the SPA (Software Publishers’ Association).

CyberKnights Policy

CyberKnights recognises that authors of copyrighted software have a right to reimbursement for authoring that software, if they so choose. CyberKnights also recognise that the burden of proof can be an extremely heavy one, and sometimes a very difficult and/or expensive one to track.

Caught with your payments down?

Comes the day when a politely but firmly worded letter arrives from the BSA or SPA, asking you to (or in practice demanding that you) audit your software and report the results to them. What do you do?

We have also had reports from the UK of FAST representatives demanding £5,000 fees for auditing a school’s software, after first terrifying staff with tales of stupendous fines or jail terms. What do you do?

CyberKnights can quickly field personnel to note down the serial numbers of your software and correlate them with the paper records and/or physical tracking devices such as the common holographic serial number stickers.

This may only be a part of your problem. If it turns out that you have more software than licences, it may be extremely tricky to reconcile the two. There are also situations where software with the same licence number appears in many places; often this occurs when – although the correct number of licences have been purchased – the software was all installed with the same serial number in hand, and the Inquisition will still fine and penalise you as if you had deliberately bought a single Bali copy and done the whole office with it.

Instant Legal, just add CyberKnights

The most common pieces of sofware to suffer this kind of reconciliation failure are Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. The majority of MS-Windows and MS-Office users do not actually need MS-Windows or MS-Office. What they need is an operating system with a certain number of basic tools, and an office suite with a familiar layout and feature set, one that can open and make certain types of documents.

Fortunately, CyberKnights are experts at installing both, and best of all, there are no licence fees or software subscriptions, no serial numbers to track, nothing. In many cases, you even eliminate viruses and virus checking software. If you so desire, we can also eliminate the possibility of users installing pirated software – or indeed any software at all – on machines set up by CyberKnights.

In a typical pulling-the-fat-from-the-fire scenario, CyberKnights will rapidly identify users whose needs can be abundantly filled by serial-number-less software, and can shuffle machines and software so that users with MS-Windows-specific needs are still covered, then securely install suitable products on machines which would otherwise be troublesome.

We find that it is also a useful “insurance” practice to over-treat the problem and have a few spare licences in hand. We have also had reports back that mentioning our software to the prosecuting agency changes their attitude for the better.

At your servers, Sir

Another area of licencing which can instantly produce astronomical costs and fines is per-seat (CAL) accounting of servers and services. Rapid replacement of file servers, print servers and domain/login servers is usally possible, and in many cases more complicated services such as SQL servers prove amenable to updating toward a serial-number-less environment. Applications which are running on MS-Windows servers in an environment which is fundamentally DOS-based (such as ex-Novell applications) are also generally amenable to replacement.

If source is available for in-house applications they can often not only be ported to run natively but improved in the process. This is something best discussed with CyberKnights on a case-by-case basis.

Firewalling, Masquerading/NAT, DNS, DHCP, email and FTP servers are relatively trivial to update, as are web servers offering static content. Web servers offering JSP-based or VB+ASP-based dynamic content can often be updated too. Many other kinds of service can also be covered. Just ask.

Laughing all the way to the bank

Rough 200 Seat Server Price Comparison
ItemProprietaryOpen Source
Setup$1000$1000
Operating SystemWin 2000 Pro $2,300Mandrake 10.0 $80
Internet Connector$4,000none req’d
DHCP servicefreefree
Web/FTP proxyMS-Proxy ?Squid free
WebserverIIS freeApache free
Web CALsin ICLnone req’d
Web ScriptingVisualStudio $2,300PHP, PERL etc free
EmailMS-Exchange $3,000PostFix free
Email CALs$26,000none req’d
SQL DatabaseMS-SQL $21,700PostgreSQL free
SQL CALs$23,175none req’d
SubTotal$83,475$1080
 cost per client(x 200)
Setup$200$400
Operating SystemXP Pro $675Mandrake 10.0 $80
Office SuiteMS-Office XP $1072OpenOffice.org free
AntiVirus softwareSophos $40ClamAV**free
SubTotal$1987$480
Extended x 200$397,400$96,000
GRAND TOTAL$481,955$97,080

Because CyberKnights usually charge by the hour rather than by the installation, there is nothing in your CyberKnights invoicing which the Inquisition can effectively use to brand your organisation as criminal.

Beyond this, replacing servers with lots of seats can be quite profitable for you, even omitting any fines and penalties for licencing errors.

For example, if the choice you have is between buying a 500-seat Windows-2000-based MS-Exchange email server for USD$999 (Windows2000) + USD$1999 (Connector) + USD$667 (Exchange) + 500*USD$67 (CALs), a total of USD$37,165 or about AUD$69,500 (plus installation, to add insult to financial injury) versus having a CyberKnight spend an entire day setting up the same server to deal with around 5000 seats more securely using PostFix for less than AUD$2,000 (ie 40 cents a seat), the decision is not a difficult one to make. The software prices used here are from Microsoft’s website; street prices may total as little as AUD$60,000.

In this example, the difference in price makes it quite practical to spend a fraction of the savings from this one server on a secondary (backup) mail server and software, plus a brace of decent UPS systems, and possibly also a faster Internet link and a party for the participants afterwards.

In the rough worked example in the table to the right, a 200-seat business could afford to employ a pretty reasonable systems engineer full time (the sad truth is that with the proprietary system, they’ll probably need at least a few just to keep everything running) or buy a brace of IBM’s zSeries mainframes instead if they went with the suggested Open Source solution instead of the listed proprietary equivalent. Or buy the MD a nice new boat, it all depends on your priorities.

The Real Skinny

The differences can be even more striking when standardised thin clients and integrated workstation clusters (several users on one box) are appropriate. Software setup costs per workstation fall through the floor, and per-station hardware prices are lower as well.

Ask us for a free comparison – tailored to your situation – now.


*In Australia, the BSAA (BSA Australia), in the UK, FAST (Federation Against Software Theft)

** Not that you actually need a virus scanner, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.

There is something a little bit surreal about sitting in a meeting of the Jamaica Linux Users Group (JaLUG), in a cafe beside a waterfall — with Linus, Ted, Eric and other luminaries in the front of the room and an attentive audience filling the rest of the space — while a veteran local IBM executive stands up and describes the adoption of Linux by the company’s customers with adjectives like “huge”. — Doc Searles

Last changed: 09-Sep-2008 18:29:32  Find out who links to this page. Verify for yourself that this page is pure, standard HTML, not Ruby.

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