Shadow IT: Workplace Trends Explained (Pt. 1)

August 4th, 2016 | IT Security

In recent years, shadow IT trends have emerged as a common issue as businesses embrace technology innovations while maintaining network security. Shadow IT is any hardware or software used within a company that’s not approved or supported by its IT department. Most companies are aware of the risks this ubiquitous technology entails. Still, many are oblivious to just how deeply shadow IT is integrated within their business and may face more severe 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 its 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 shadowing 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

Typical 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 severe security concerns, and resulting in a negative perception of shadow IT as a whole. It was easier for businesses and their IT departments to control what technology employees were utilizing in the past. However, 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 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 departments. These elements have contributed to shadow IT trends in the workplace. In addition, they have presented businesses with security and management challenges that you can only remedy 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 to protect the company’s information.

Risk of using shadow IT

Without the walls and software, this attempt to be remotely productive can compromise the business’s past sensitive data, putting the company at risk for a breach and the associated legal and financial consequences. Therefore, a company must understand where and how shadow IT is used throughout the organization to incorporate the technology into business processes effectively. If your business is looking to learn more about shadow IT, check out our IT security 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”