In a 2008 survey conducted by Info-Tech Research, Canadian business leaders were asked to identify the most effective ways to encourage staff productivity. Of three top-ranked answers, two were related to new technology: specifically, the ability to provide upgraded desktop software and access to the latest intranet/portal solutions.

Much has changed in the past 12 months. In this challenging economic environment businesses are being forced to make difficult budget decisions, and every dollar spent must demonstrate a clear return on investment (ROI) for the organization.

That's why investments in information technology (IT) continue to be one of the best decisions an organization can make. Taking advantage of the newest business solutions can help technology departments and businesses to operate with maximum efficiency, ensure their employees remain productive and help them stay one step ahead of the competition. The best part is that organizations can achieve this while saving money by selecting the right volume licensing program.

There are many licensing options available to businesses, and it is good practice to separate fact from fiction before making a final decision. What follows are some of the most common misconceptions about software licensing.

Myth: License purchases require a sizeable upfront investment.

Fact: Today, most software vendors offer flexible financing programs that can help companies choose a payment structure that works with their budget - helping them preserve cash and credit lines for other priorities. Microsoft Financing, for example, enables customers to select customized payment plans that fit their needs.

Myth: Sticking with my current technology environment and licensing arrangement is the less-expensive option.

Fact: Actually, volume licensing programs can help businesses save money over the course of the software lifecycle. The Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, for example, has been designed as a simple and cost-effective way to standardize a business on the latest Microsoft-based software. This can help IT departments drive consistency across the business, streamline administration and budgeting, and help facilitate a dynamic infrastructure that can respond rapidly to changing market conditions.

Myth: If I lock into a license agreement now, upgrading later will be a hassle.

Fact: Those who take advantage of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement have access to upgrade rights through Software Assurance, which enables organizations to immediately take advantage of new version releases - an important consideration given the availability of Windows 7 shortly. Software Assurance offers other benefits as well, including a broad range of tools, services, and solutions designed to help your company get the most out of your software investments.

Myth: Buying a license will mean I have to spend more time managing usage and compliance rights.

Fact: Today's volume licensing agreements, such as the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, can actually help eliminate the need to count individual licenses and make it easier for organizations to manage and track usage. As well, businesses can streamline their procurement process by only needing to place one order annually, and take advantage of exclusive online license management tools.

Myth: Licensing will get me the software I need, but not the support I'm looking for.

Fact: There are many benefits to being a part of a volume licensing program aside from the standard ROI considerations. With Software Assurance, for example, companies get access to software deployment and planning services from an expert consultant. Employees can receive home use rights - the ability to install software on their personal computer - while businesses also gain access to 24x7 problem resolution support, an employee purchase program and training and learning incentives.

Bottom line: learning more about Microsoft Volume Licensing can help Canadian organizations make more effective business decisions and maximize the value of their IT purchases.

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