According to a Gartner press release, by 2020 a “no-cloud” policy will be as rare as a “no internet” policy in companies. It comes as no surprise that organizations seem to be more eager in migrating to cloud than ever before. The benefits are well-understood: cost savings, ease of setup, flexibility and mobility, to name a few.
Cloud computing has enabled a seamless digital work life both inside and outside of the office. Working from home, sharing and storing data, remote capabilities and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) have all been facilitated by the accessibility and ease of connectivity to the cloud. However, it has created a challenging security problem that most organizations struggle to solve: Shadow IT in the cloud.
In this blog, you’ll learn what shadow IT is, why it exists and the common risks your business should watch out for.
What is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT refers to any IT system, solution, or technology that is being used within an organization without the knowledge and approval of the corporate IT department. The most common examples of shadow IT are SaaS products and cloud services like Salesforce and Dropbox.
Why do people use shadow IT?
To solve the issue of shadow IT, one should at least be aware of its root cause. People typically utilize unauthorized apps not because they’re seeking to increase security risks, but because they’re simply hoping to innovate and enhance their productivity. However, in most cases, it’s because an organization’s IT solutions aren’t serving business needs well enough. Here is a list of few possible reasons as to why employees use unauthorized apps:
- Unauthorized application or software might be more comfortable to work with as compared to the IT allotted software
- IT allotted software might be less effective
- Approved software is incompatible with the employees’ mobile devices
- Lack of awareness about the security risks posed by shadow IT
Why is Shadow IT So Menacing?
The simple answer to this question is that you can’t effectively manage something that you don’t even know exists. As a result, both security and performance of the entire network are at risk. Let’s understand some of the risks associated to shadow IT:
#Risk 1 Lack of governance- If your organization adopted ISO/IEC 20000, or any other standards that require you to demonstrate quality to your customers, the presence of unmanaged software makes it much harder for a company to meet these standards.
#Risk 2 Data Loss- IT can’t create backups for software they don’t know is present in the network, and shadow IT users might not understand the relevance of having a backup. As a result, there’s always a significant risk of losing important, valuable, and sensitive data.
#Risk 3 Sabotage of software asset management (SAM) compliance – Shadow IT can hamper software asset management (SAM) compliance, which can be indeed a challenge for IT teams at the best of times. Especially when the company relies on SAM compliance as per government policies. Such circumstances might not be favorable for your organization.
#Risk 4 Lack of security- This can be one of the prime concerns for your business. Lack of visibility and control over network elements are the primary cybersecurity risks of using shadow IT. They create numerous weak spots that hackers may use for compromising a system and collecting or stealing sensitive business information. Plus, since unsanctioned software and applications aren’t managed by the IT department, they usually have lots of unpatched errors and vulnerabilities.
#Risk 5 Inefficiencies- When people rely on shadow IT to get their work done quickly there is a new technology introduced into your infrastructure which can impact the existing resources. Whereas, in an ideal circumstance before implementing any new software, the technology is tested to see if there are any potential impact and what needs to be done to remediate any inefficiencies it may cause. And when technology is implemented outside the normal business processes, it doesn’t undergo these checks.
Embrace the Shadow
Wait!! Why should I embrace, if it is a threat to my organization’s security system? Are you thinking the same? Well, you can consider it as a blessing in disguise!! Trust me.
Gartner’s Shadow IT report states that decentralizing IT and allowing individuals and teams to purchase their own IT resources can reduce time to market by two years.
There is no denying that shadow IT can bring serious threats to your organization’s security. But, it’s not an inherently bad thing that needs to be completely repressed, and it doesn’t mean there are zero benefits to using unauthorized software in the corporate network. Enterprises should stay abreast with today’s rapidly evolving business landscape and should take advantage of the cloud/SaaS revolution. Having a collaborative approach across the organization and recognizing that technology innovation cannot always be the purview of a single business department. Here are few reasons why your business should rely on a forward-thinking approach to shadow IT:
#1 Increases business agility and innovation: One cannot plan innovation and expect results on a certain day or time. When an employee or customer identifies a need, they drag the organization in the direction of innovation. That’s how shadow IT works. An enterprising individual inside the organization hears about a faster way and decides to just go for it and spin up what the company needs. And realizes all a sudden it’s done, and it’s done way faster than anyone can get anything provisioned. And that’s how it leads to innovation.
#2 Allows individuals ownership of their technology: When people have ownership of their technology, they tend to spend the time learning how it operates, reducing help calls to IT. This helps to create less dependencies on the IT team.
#3 Enables increase in productivity: Team members are the best source for knowledge about what their departments require in order to get the job done. Sometimes that is a unique solution. Frequently, IT departments focus on the bigger picture, while individual departments are more localized. Shadow IT can remove roadblocks against department efficiency, increasing productivity by providing a better tool.
#4 Creates less dependencies on IT department: One of the reasons shadow IT has gained traction is because there is a widely held belief that corporate IT departments are too busy and therefore are too slow in responding to requests. In addition, the perception is that they are not always on top of the very latest technological advances and their concerns around security and compatibility are sometimes insurmountable stumbling blocks.
How to Mitigate the Risk of Shadow IT?
It’s important to recognize that IT staff is always under pressure and stretched thin to deliver on business transformation initiatives. With shadow IT here to stay, enterprises need a strategy to include it in their cloud adoption journey. So, let’s look at how exactly organizations can deal with the problem of shadow IT.
- Offering training around BYOD and application/cloud services: providing training getting in-touch with users is the most important step in managing shadow IT effectively. This helps users understand the risks associated to shadow IT and instills a culture of trust and personal responsibility.
- Network monitoring: IT must not be in the dark about which apps are being used and, most importantly, what data is being sent into the cloud. This allows the business to effectively manage and monitor app usage and data flows.
- Build a smarter corporate policy: A well-thought-out corporate policy that addresses the most critical problems of your business is a must. For instance, restricting access to third-party applications or making data exchange between internal applications and cloud products possible only with the IT department’s approval. This will help organizations minimize the risk of data leaks.
A Balanced Approach to Shadow IT
By using shadow IT employees are only trying to make things easier for themselves. However, they may not be aware of the dangers or risks associated with implementing an IT solution which the organization isn’t aware of. Eliminating Shadow IT in your organization is not about limiting agility, but rather applying some governance to make your organization more secure and ensure there’s less risk to your business.
Therefore, by understanding the needs of the employees and providing them with more effective tools, you can both eliminate shadow IT and increase the productivity of your employees.
All that is required is to build a smart and thoughtful corporate policy around the use of personal devices and third-party applications and services. Network and user activity monitoring tools can help detect unapproved software and mitigate the risks posed by shadow IT.