IT companies need to start engaging more effectively with businesses about the risks of software piracy, according to a recent Microsoft debate.

It claimed that partners need to play a pivotal role in educating businesses and consumers on the risks they face by using pirated software.

During the debate, Michala Wardell, head of anti-piracy at Microsoft, revealed that software pirates are continuing to dupe people into thinking they are getting the real deal. She said: “Around 14 per cent of new PCs shipped with Windows in the UK are running a pirated copy of the operating system, with even a higher number of 29 per cent for Microsoft Office.

“If you speak to most small computer shops they'll tell you that piracy is having a clear impact on their business. The damage rogue traders inflict on the channel by selling pirated software is huge. However, by proactively speaking to businesses and advising them about the dangers of using illegal software, resellers can position themselves as trusted advisors and take back some of the money that previously would have been lost to pirates.”

She also revealed that during a one-month period in August this year there were over 16,000 illegal copies of Microsoft Office and 20,000 copies of Windows downloaded online.

Priyen Patel, policy advisor at the Federation of Small Businesses, agreed and said: “Businesses should never underestimate the value of establishing a good relationship with their IT supplier. Too often IT is at the bottom of the to-do-list, with business owners unsure of where to turn to for advice and support.”