Pittsburgh, you’re on a roll…don’t let illegal software slow you down

By Luke Sossi, Enterprise Sales Manager for the Mid-Atlantic District, Microsoft Corp.

These past few weeks have been filled with good news for small businesses in Pittsburgh.  Recently, On Numbers ranked Pittsburgh as having the strongest small business sector of 21 major Eastern metros as part of the publication’s annual ratings of small-business climates across the country.  It’s exciting to see Pittsburgh’s ranking in this survey skyrocket over the years, from 17th in 2010 to sixth last year to taking top honors this year.

Also, the most recent PNC Economic Outlook finds that, among several positive trends, Pennsylvania business owners showed a significant improvement in business expectations and optimism compared to Fall 2011 for hiring, profits and sales.

Small business owners in Pittsburgh are on a roll. With such great momentum moving our local small business economy forward, we at Microsoft are focused not only on providing technology solutions that help businesses grow, but also on protecting business owners from technology dangers that can hold them back.

These dangers can be especially insidious as they often come in small packages, like software purchased for a company.

How can something that takes up so little space cause so much harm? Consider how powerful your company’s productivity software is and the efficiency and accuracy benefits it delivers.  If counterfeit, something as small as the discs housing these resources can seriously compromise your company’s security, reputation and legal standing.

Here in Pittsburgh, I work closely with local businesses and can confidently say that, when equipped with the facts about illegal software’s dangers, they make more informed decisions about software purchases. However, these conversations have also revealed that some do not have the basic information around why and how counterfeit software impacts business viability. If you fall into that category, consider this a primer on counterfeit software’s dangers:

  • Increased vulnerability, decreased productivity: Purchasing software from a non-reputable website or software vendor increases the chances of downloading malware or viruses, which makes PCs or laptops slower and less reliable. It also exposes your – and your customers’ – data to fraud.  By purchasing softward from reputable Microsoft partners, you’ll decrease your chances of downloading malware and viruses or losing your critical business data, problems that are symptomatic of using counterfeit software.
  • Nowhere to turn: If your business is in the habit of moving fast to keep pace with competitors and customers, the last thing you want is to be locked out of technical support in a time of need.  Counterfeit software doesn’t give you access to protection such as a complimentary subscription to Microsoft Security Essentials, the award-winning antivirus solution from Microsoft
  • Legal repercussions: An individual or a company can be found legally responsible for pirating software even if business owners are unaware of copyright infringement.  Businesses in possession of counterfeit or non-genuine software face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, years in jail, or both.

This is why your company’s computer software – and where you buy it – matters. By installing only legal Microsoft software, or purchasing a device on which it’s pre-installed, you get the experience you expect and deserve for your investment. For Microsoft software, always look for a Certificate of Authenticity (COA), which helps identify a genuine Microsoft product. Product keys can also be a sign of genuine software as no product key is ever sold separately for Microsoft. Also be wary of online auctions, peer-to-peer networks, and websites that appear legitimate but bear no sign of being verified Microsoft vendors and sell software at a price far below market value.

Some business owners are motivated into action by understanding the risks, but just as many are inspired by knowing how legal software creates an advantage for their companies.  Fortunately, I have plenty of that information to share:

  • Someone who has your back: With legally-obtained, -produced and -licensed software, businesses have access to technical support; ongoing improvements and updates; and unparalleled protection like that from Microsoft Security Essentials.  Legal software also includes full documentation to help you get the most from your computing experience.
  • An economic boost: Your support of local, legitimate technology businesses fuels local jobs and tax revenue, and helps level the competitive playing field. The protection of marketplace intellectual property and marketplace opportunities are invaluable to businesses of all sizes, including yours.
  • Peace of mind: With authentic, genuine software, you’re positioning your business to win, and ensuring your customers a consistent, secure experience. No amount of savings on software from a suspicious source compares to the confidence your business will feel knowing it’s simply doing the right thing.

Don’t jeopardize the success of your company in this thriving marketplace because of misinformed software purchasing decisions. Learn more about how to make wise technology decisions for your company, employees and customers, by visiting www.microsoft.com/piracy/. And may your business ride this wave of good news into an even more successful future!


Cloud Technology: Bringing New Jobs to Pittsburgh

By Luke Sossi, Mid-Atlantic Enterprise Sales Manager, Microsoft Corp.

The real cost savings and efficiencies that businesses are receiving from the cloud have become increasingly evident: increased productivity; reductions in expenditures for IT hardware, software and maintenance; and the ability to free up IT staff from time-consuming routine tasks to focus on more mission-critical work. While these benefits were largely anticipated, it may be a surprise to learn that the cloud also is helping to restore economic health in our state.

In fact, a new Microsoft study conducted by the IDC research firm shows that, by the end of 2015, the cloud will be responsible for creating more than 1.1 million new jobs in the U.S. It may seem puzzling that a technology solution that automates and relocates work traditionally carried out by people in the IT department would actually lead to a growth in jobs, but the fact is that dollar savings from cloud computing is making it possible for businesses to invest more in hiring people all across their organizations.

Here’s how it works, according to IDC: cloud computing frees up organizations from their legacy computing systems and allows companies to invest in broader innovation in other areas of the company’s operations. These innovations create more profit and revenue to devote to new jobs. Indeed, IDC reports, increased revenues from IT innovation (enabled by the cloud) could reach $1.1 trillion dollars a year by 2015 in the 28 countries studied by IDC. Thus, a little money spent up front to reach for the cloud leads to impressive returns down the line.

The results of efficiencies gained from cloud computing are being applied to hiring more people in sales, finance, production, marketing and other areas. In some companies, IT personnel now are creating their own cloud services for the company’s customers, generating even bigger payoffs and more potential hiring dollars.

At Microsoft, we’ve seen firsthand how cloud is facilitating business results and job growth for our Pittsburgh-area customers.  For example, one of our manufacturing customers has benefitted greatly from cloud applications.  This particular business uses cloud to not only scale its operations, but to create a highly intuitive and engaging application that assists customers with purchasing. Through cloud, the company was able to make purchasing decisions easier for customers, resulting in higher sales and more opportunities for developers to innovate and increase the rate at which new customer offerings are available.

Cloud-fueled job growth will vary by industry, and here in Pittsburgh, two key industries that stand to benefit most are retail and education.  While the retail industry has traditionally been late to adopt new technologies, it has been a relatively early adopter of cloud computing.  Additionally, the education sector has adopted the cloud at a faster rate than other industries, as it offers schools solutions to combat budget constraints.  By 2015, worldwide job creation attributed to cloud in education is expected to reach more than 720,000 jobs, and nearly 640,000 new jobs are expected in the retail industry – giving us good reason to continue to expand upon cloud utilization in these key local industries.

When examining the number of jobs that might be created in a particular nation, the study factored such elements as projected level of spending on IT, degree of automation, workforce size and many others. Between emerging and developed countries, the numbers are driven more by the degree of IT spending and adoption levels of cloud, public and private, than by industry make-up.

Although many of the advancements in cloud computing have occurred in companies based in North America, the cloud-created jobs expected to benefit the U.S. are dwarfed by the number anticipated for other areas of the world, many of which have huge populations.  The Microsoft study projects that North America will have 1.17 million jobs by the end of 2015, Europe-Middle East-Africa will have 2.07 million, Asia/Pacific (excluding China and India) will grow to 2.87 million, and China and India alone will have more cloud-created jobs than all the other regions combined, with a total of 6.75 million in those two nations.

The cloud keeps exposing sunny opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. Now, many of us can add an important new cloud benefit to the list: enhanced job growth.

 About the author: Luke Sossi is Microsoft’s Enterprise Sales Manager for the Mid-Atlantic district, including Pittsburgh.


Fresh inspiration for corporate giving

By Luke Sossi, Microsoft

No matter how tough the economic climate might be, corporate giving is one of the aspects of running a business that should always remain intact.  It’s a way to deepen roots in the community, improve the quality of life in your area and share with those in need, regardless of how little or how much your company can give.

Perhaps your company is already committed to giving back to the community, but wants to do so in a more focused, impactful way.  Observing examples of other businesses and individuals is a great way to inspire fresh ideas and spur new courses of action when it comes to making a difference in the community.

At Pittsburgh’s Microsoft office, we have been working on a multi-year initiative in giving back to the communities where we live, while also giving us the opportunity to see how our technology can actually change the lives of others.

For many people, stepping into a hospital, even if it’s just to pay someone a brief visit or undergo a simple medical procedure, can be uncomfortable and unsettling.  It makes illness more real to us, especially as we see the faces of hospital patients and are reminded of the fragility of life.

Imagine if you were a child or teenager undergoing a lengthy hospital stay – that’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it?  Here in Pittsburgh, Microsoft employees have given some thought to this very scenario and decided to take action in making hospital stays for these children a bit more tolerable, and hopefully, even help make their treatments more bearable.

In 2010, Make Room for Kids, an extension of the Austin’s Playroom Project of the Mario Lemieux Foundation (MLF), was formed through a partnership with Microsoft, MLF and local blogger Virginia Montanez.  In the first year, Microsoft employees donated 24 Xbox devices to the Transplant Units at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP).  Since then, we have donated another 30 Xbox units and installed them in the Adolescent Medicine Ward at CHP, and at numerous MLF Austin Playrooms across Western Pennsylvania.  By the end of 2012, we will donate another 50 Xbox devices to CHP.

Another of our initiatives happened in November 2011, where Microsoft donated Xbox and Kinect devices to the Epileptic Ward of CHP.  Kinect for Xbox 360 is a motion sensing input device that is revolutionizing the way people interact with the Xbox versus a traditional controller.  Because treatment for epilepsy requires brain stimulation to determine the portion of the brain causing the epileptic event, CHP is introducing these systems into the patient’s treatment regimen.

Patients at CHP can have long recovery time due to surgeries and can be in isolation for months due to compromised immune systems.  Access to these entertainment and communication devices provides a way for patients to pass the time and to interact with family members during long stays.  Our office has seen first-hand the value these devices bring to patients at CHP, as some of our staff’s family members have been treated at the facility.

How this effort came about reveals some key components of successful corporate giving, which include:

Willing leaders: One of the driving forces behind this effort wasn’t an employee responsible for Microsoft’s philanthropic efforts.  Instead, an employee in Microsoft’s Pittsburgh office heard about Make Room for Kids and noticed that this initiative had a need that Microsoft could help fulfill.   Any employee, regardless of his or her position within a company, can discover ways that a company can make a difference; all it takes is a willingness to lead.

 Motivation through matching: Microsoft motivates its employees to give through a program that matches their donations dollar for dollar, providing added incentive to employees who give out of their own pockets.  While your company may not be able to match donations in this way, you should aim to provide some sort of matching incentive, since it’s bound to extend your investment in the community.

 Broad involvement: Microsoft employees who donated to this cause didn’t do so in silos.  They involved their families and children, helping them understand the need of these hospital patients and determining ways they could help.  Spreading the word about your company’s giving efforts beyond the four walls of your office is a great way to extend your investment in the community and multiply its impact.

Share what you already have: This might sound like a no-brainer, but try to revolve your giving efforts around products and services your company already provides.  Sharing what your company does best, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, will better serve your community and make it easier on your business, too.

The best corporate giving programs involve everyone – not just a handful of employees.  Reinvigorate your company’s philanthropic efforts today by starting a conversation with the entire office on how your business can give back.  You might be surprised at what unfolds, and you certainly won’t regret making giving a priority.

 About the author: Luke Sossi is Microsoft’s Enterprise Sales Manager for the Mid-Atlantic district, including Pittsburgh.