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In an interesting twist in the battle against software piracy, Microsoft UK is promoting the benefits of Software Asset Management (SAM) under a scheme which rewards honesty - richly. It says the voluntary self-start SAM programme it introduced last November can save businesses a significant sum on licensing fees - in addition to giving them peace of mind.

"The initial feedback from customers is that they can save an average of 30 per cent on licence fees because they are only paying for what they use," says Ram Dhaliwal, licensing programme manager at Microsoft UK.

The self-start scheme involves a formal audit of a organisation's installed software with one of Microsoft's 'trusted' SAM partners. The audit process generates a report which can be used to check back with Microsoft's records. If all is well, Microsoft issues a certificate to say the organisation has complied with the SAM process.

Dhaliwal says the initiative aims to give its customers greater control over their software. "It gives them better security and ensures they are receiving all their maintenance upgrades. We see it as a way of improving long-term customer satisfaction."

He acknowledges that the voluntary audit also cuts back on the amount of policing Microsoft has to do to stop illegal software use. The Business Software Alliance, for example, claims that 27 per cent of software currently in use is unlicensed. ®

Matt Fisher vice president at Centennial Software, one of Microsoft's trusted SAM partners, alluding to the gamble some users may now fancy, acknowledges that checking software use is too big a job even for Microsoft. "Microsoft does not have the resources to go after each and every company. At the same time companies do not want to be visited by the software police. The self-start scheme means companies can buy themselves some protection and policing efforts can concentrate on real offenders."

Fisher adds that SAM tools such as Centennial's can pretty much guarantee compliance by scanning hard disk storage and register entries.

The self-start SAM scheme is part of a wider effort by Microsoft to cut back on illegal software use.

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