What Is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT is the use of non-sanctioned programs and applications by your employees, often on the devices they are bringing to work to complete their tasks.
This presents a challenge for every business leader.
And the experts only cloud the issue, with some saying that Shadow IT is inevitable because it is so widespread.
Others calling the practice a security nightmare.
The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
Why Shadow IT Proliferates
Think about your organization:
Are you providing your employees with the most innovative solutions to make their work easier?
If you’re not, or if your technology is out of date, you’re more likely to be at risk.
Your employees will take matters into their own hands and obtain the application software they believe will help them complete their jobs more quickly and efficiently.
The solution, of course, is to provide your employees with the tools they need to do their jobs well.
Employ secure, licensed software applications that give your employees the ability to be efficient and to collaborate.
The other way to help improve your control over Shadow IT is to have an open-door policy with your employees, allowing them to suggest new programs and apps that may help.
The Benefit of Shadow IT
Shadow IT incidents occur when employees feel hindered by the existing solutions to do their jobs or collaborate effectively.
Employees who take the initiative to find innovative solutions can be an asset.
They have the right mindset but the wrong approach.
You can embrace that mindset, however, and provide a path for employees to recommend new solutions.
Often, the solutions discovered by employees will have an enterprise-grade version or comparable enterprise-grade solution available that you can offer.
The Cost of Shadow IT
The cost of Shadow IT may be immeasurable since there is often no way to adequately measure the risk your company assumes when an employee uses unlicensed software.
Not only could such use result in a compliance issue, but if the Shadow IT introduces malware or viruses into your network, the result could be catastrophic.
Shadow IT can also hinder collaboration.
If two team members are trying to collaborate on a project yet one is using unsanctioned software that is incompatible with what the other team member is using, the disparity could slow things down.
Detecting Shadow IT
You will find it difficult to deter that which you can’t trace. So how do you detect and thwart existing Shadow IT?
One of the simplest solutions is to monitor your outbound traffic, to identify unauthorized applications.
Example: Dropbox may not be a secure or sanctioned solution for your organization, so if you see traffic to Dropbox, you can assume an employee is illicitly using it to store or share data. It’s a simple matter from there to identify why the employee is using it and to provide a secure solution in its place.
Reducing the Risk of Shadow IT
To reduce the risk of Shadow IT, communicate with your team:
- Establish policies regarding the use of unsanctioned programs and apps
- Create clear BYOD policies
- Do not allow employees to use their expense accounts to cover the cost of personally obtained programs or applications
- Monitor outbound traffic and thwart Shadow IT as it arises
- Provide secure, enterprise-grade solutions to the problems employees are trying to fix with Shadow IT
Shadow IT may be here to stay, but it does not have to put your organization at risk.
It takes both a cultural shift and clear policies to address the issue.
As technology fundamentally changes how we do business, serve customers, and meet compliance standards, business leaders must re-evaluate whether their current IT strategies are meeting their needs.
The ITeam is committed to helping Calgary- and Alberta-based businesses develop proactive IT strategies that keep them competitive. Contact us to learn more.