Defining Shadow IT, 5 Risks, and How to Avoid Them
With cloud computing use rapidly growing, it is becoming simpler than ever for employees to gain access to applications that help them become far more efficient and productive than ever before. With this growth, the appearance of "Shadow IT" is becoming more and more common. Continue reading to learn more about what it is, why it exists, and what can you do about it.
What is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT is the common term for applications, hardware, and software that end up being acquired, installed, and managed by non-IT department personnel. Examples can range from acquiring a Microsoft Office license, to buying and setting up a network extender, to migrating from one primary work application to another. On average, a company will use around 1,083 cloud services, while their internal IT department is only able to track 108 of them. Employees are comfortable downloading applications that they THINK are making their lives easier, when in fact the lack of consistency, oversight, and professional integration will only hinder the COMPANY in the long run.
Risks and Challenges
Ideally, the IT department should be tracking every piece of equipment and software within their organization. Here are some of the biggest risks of Shadow IT every business owner should be aware of:
1. Holes in Security
When Shadow IT is conducted, it injects security gaps directly into the heart of the organization. Without proper application vetting by the IT department, the applications do not experience the same procedures used to test and implement new applications.
While many applications are indeed harmless, individuals that are not educated on the topic are not going to be aware of the difference between a safe and compromising application. Microsoft Office, for example, is of course used for document generation. However, there are plenty of sharing settings that need to be manually configured. Otherwise, the wrong people in and out of your organization may end up with unintended access to sensitive documents. This is especially critical in government and medical fields.
2. Regulatory Compliance
In order to protect businesses and consumers, the US government has created regulations and standards, such as ISO/IEC 20000, HIPAA, and PCI. Regulations such as these inform IT staff of proper processes and standards for a variety of topics, including hardware naming standards, personal identifying information (PII) security, and financial data storage.
3. Configuration Management
Every business strives to be the best that it can be. Without knowing EXACTLY how we do business, we will just flounder. Consistency is key here. Developing standard processes, procedures, and policies is critical to a business's efficient functionality. The same goes for technology. Without the network equipment meeting a minimum performance and security standard, your time and effort is just flying out the window.
4. Inefficiencies during Collaboration
If the HR department is using Google Drive, Marketing is using Sharepoint, and Operations is using sticky notes, how is everyone supposed to work together? Using your IT department to link the departments together will bring a whole new level of meeting efficiency to your organization.
5. Lack of IT Visibility
When applications and equipment are used without IT's knowledge, their quality of support will decline rapidly. Many of the applications may not have even been meant for your type of organization, let alone made to work well with others. When there are major updates, bugs, and crashes, these systems will go down, and because IT doesn't have an internal knowledgebase of the system, they now not only need to make the repair, but figure out how to do it first.
Managing Shadow IT
The best way to manage Shadow IT is to implement policies to govern applications that are in use and how to implement new ones. Ensuring applications are vetted properly can take time, so ideally if your employees are interested in a new product, they should be able to take it to IT as a request, and let the techs determine the validity of the option.
Companies can be tempted by what seems to be an easy way to get what they need. However, when it comes to IT, the "set it and forget it" mindset simply is just no adequate anymore. With ever-increasing threats of ransomware, malware, and scams, cybersecurity needs to be left to the experts.
Lexington IT Solutions provides a plethora of cybersecurity solutions to help your business defeat Shadow IT, ransomware, and hackers. We will help you determine what applications and equipment are best for YOUR organization, consolidate services, and get everyone on the same page.