Tech professionals are smart people. Like cool kids at school, they always have their ears to the ground when it comes to the hippest innovations and hottest gadgets popping up in the tech world. Yet the urge to utilize the latest, fastest, and most efficient innovations has led to a security threat that many IT leaders struggle to manage – the ominously monikered “Shadow IT.”
What Is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT is the buzzword for the use of unapproved IT systems and solutions within an organization. The current abundance of third-party apps and Software as a Service (SaaS) tools means tech-savvy professionals have a myriad of options to choose from. As users familiarize themselves with these apps, they might begin to feel more comfortable using them or find that they provide functionalities that approved corporate apps simply do not. This trend is not new, but is wildly more pervasive than many CIO’s realize. According to a study, 35% of employees feel the need to work around protocol to work efficiently.
The Risks of Shadow IT
Obviously, the use of unvetted apps is troublesome from a cyber security perspective as users tend to be unaware of the security risks associated with third-party software. For example, Evernote, a widely used app (more than 25 million users), is popular in business circles even though the info you input into it is stored entirely unencrypted. Beyond the security risks, there are other potential perils. Any info stored on a shadow IT service won’t be a part of company backups and therefore could be easily lost forever. Additionally, if your business needs to be compliant with any laws or regulations, the use of these methods may constitute a violation.
Combating Shadow IT
Like many workforce issues, the use of shadow IT is best helped by reestablishing or strengthening lines of communication. Over 30 percent of IT workers say they are using unapproved apps because of a slow approval process for new solutions in their corporate environment. Many employees complain that corporate solutions are clunky, have long load times, or don’t offer the latest features. So, start by engaging your employees on this issue by doing the following:
Start by monitoring your network for popular shadow IT services such as Dropbox, Slack, or Evernote and then dig deeper to attempt to assess the scope of the problem.
Once you have a sense of what is being used, gather your team and have an honest dialogue about why these tools are popular. Are they meeting needs that your current systems do not? Or is it merely that the interface is more user-friendly? This will give you a checklist of what to improve to entice your employees to stay within the guidelines.
You are more than justified in throwing down the hammer and demanding your employees simply stop using any shadow IT options. However, finding solutions that address the needs or preferences of your team will help improve efficiency and replace outdated systems. It also creates a positive workplace environment where employees feel their needs are met, and their concerns are heard. Most of the time, replacing the functions of these apps with corporate-approved options will eliminate the need for employees to use them, and the problem will quickly dissipate naturally.
Once you’ve found suitable alternatives, give everyone a grace period before restricting third-party apps. Make sure your team is on the same page about why these apps are forbidden. Then provide proper training for new solutions so everyone can see firsthand how these new systems solve problems that were previously addressed by using shadow services.
The ultimate ally, a dependable Managed Service Provider (MSP) is stocked with professional IT management experts that can consistently find the most advanced solutions for you and implement them before your employees search for a workaround. An MSP like Net Works can also train, educate, and ensure workplace satisfaction by working with your IT team to establish open lines of communication. Contact Net Works today to find out more about how working with an MSP can help you eliminate shadow IT