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Keeping companies safe from piracy.

As the battle between illegal software copiers and manufacturers heats up, some companies have found themselves in the middle, trying to become compliant and cut costs at the same time. Don Geller, president and founder of Irvine-based BeLegal, talks about how his company aims to help those who feel adrift in the murky sea of licensing agreements.

How did BeLegal get started?

I started a small hardware, software, and networking company, MicroWare Computing, over 20 years ago as a one-stop shop for business users. Back then it was very common to copy softwareÑand most of my customers did just that. As a computer dealer, I tried to sell the software but most of the time my customers would “find” the software somewhere else.

Over the years, computer prices have dropped dramatically yet software prices remain high, so the justification to steal software remains strong. As aggressive antipiracy campaigns have heated up, I realized that there is no company out there to serve the business owner with cost-effective software compliance and technology solutions. We bring a customer into compliance by looking out for their best interests, not the interests of the Business Software Alliance or software manufacturers.

How do you help customers become compliant?

We assist customers in setting up software management policies and procedures to make sure that once they’ve purchased the licenses they need, they not only get compliant but stay compliant.

We utilize software metering and inventory tools so companies large and small can keep track of exactly what they or their employees use, and they can purchase additional software licenses or delete software as necessary.

Do you think many companies are unaware of the alternatives to standard licensing agreements?

As much as the software manufacturers promote volume licensing programs, it is surprising how many of them still purchase all of their software as shrinkwrapped product.

When software licensing is sold–for example, Microsoft Select and Enterprise agreements–the sales people don’t often take the opportunity to analyze a customer’s business situation. Thus, these “one size fits all” programs may actually be costing the customer more money.

BeLegal takes the opportunity to analyze each individual customer’s situation and then, utilizing all available manufacturers’ programs, craft a software licensing solution that saves the most money while creating the least amount of hassle.

Microsoft’s recent software licensing strategy seemed to sour many businesses on dealing with the company. Did you see any increase in clients because of the situation?

In the tough economic times of today, asking customers to spend more for a new licensing program that includes possible future upgrades was a poor decision. In addition, Microsoft has killed off most incentives for customers to upgrade to its new technology.

These decisions will make it much easier for Microsoft competitors such as Novell and Sun to offer better-priced alternatives to Microsoft products. While sales did spike prior to the July 31st phaseout of their Upgrade Advantage program, we expect Microsoft will again have to revamp its licensing strategy as revenues begin to dwindle under this new licensing program.

What future directions do you see for BeLegal?

When BeLegal is asked to analyze a customer’s current software licensing situation, we are also in the perfect position to recommend upgrades or alternative software solutions that not only bring a client into compliance, but also increase productivity.

In the world of tight IT budgets BeLegal can offer a great compliance outsourcing solution to strained IT staffs. We can monitor a company’s software usage and licensing and take the hassle out of software management. We are currently working with several vendors to bring complete remote compliance solutions to the market.

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