In recent years, shadow IT trends have emerged as a common issue as businesses attempt to embrace technology innovations while maintaining network security. Shadow IT is any hardware or software used within a business that’s not approved or supported by the company’s IT department.

Most companies are aware of the risks this ubiquitous technology entails, but many are oblivious just how deeply shadow IT is integrated within their business and may face more serious threats than they think.

A new study by Cisco revealed a standard organization has anywhere from 15 to 22 times more cloud applications operating in the workplace than have been approved by its IT department.

The quietly pervasive nature of shadow IT can result in a series of unknown risks that can threaten both a company’s IT infrastructure and reputation. However, just because this unauthorized technology can be hazardous to the well-being of a business doesn’t mean an organization should attempt to cease its use.

This article is the first of a three-part series that describes shadow IT trends, the benefits and problems associated with the technology, and how a company can manage its use without hindering the productivity or security of the business. This portion of the series will explain how shadow IT originates and what the technology entails for a business.

Types of shadow IT

Common shadow IT technology includes smartphones, tablets, USB thumb drives, and applications such as Google Docs, instant messaging, and Skype. Generally, the organization’s IT staff are unaware this technology is being used, presenting serious security concerns, and resulting in a negative perception of shadow IT as a whole.

In the past, it was easier for businesses and their IT departments to control what technology employees were utilizing. As innovations rapidly progressed, it became more difficult for an organization to keep pace with tech-savvy employees eager to take advantage of the latest tools available in the industry.

Cause of shadow IT trends

Trends such as bring your own device (BYOD) have propelled employees to make their own decisions about the hardware and software they use for business purposes. In addition, cloud computing and the associated software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) applications have facilitated an easy way for professionals to circumvent the regulations of their IT department.

All of these elements have contributed to the presence of shadow IT trends in the workplace and have presented businesses with security and management challenges that can only be remedied via a strategic, business-focused approach.  For example, an employee may access business critical data from the company’s Microsoft Office 365 OneDrive for Business application via a personal computer without the necessary security in place to protect the company’s information.

Risk of using shadow IT

Without the appropriate firewalls and software, this attempt to be remotely productive can result in a compromise of the business’s sensitive data which puts the company at risk for a breach and the legal and financial consequences associated. It’s necessary that a company understands where and how shadow IT is used throughout the organization to develop an effective method for incorporating the technology into business processes.

If your business is looking to learn more about shadow IT, check out our IT consulting services. Our team is more than capable of providing your business with the consulting and support you need to reduce the use and risk of unapproved technologies in your organization.

To continue reading about shadow IT, read Part 2 of the series “Shadow IT: Why it’s a problem”