Shadow IT exists in almost every business and organization. The word “shadow” gives it an ominous tone. But it’s not really.
The IT professionals who support your organization know about it. They may even encourage some elements of it.
You may even be involved.
Shadow IT is rarely a hidden practice. It does come with risks and costs – but also potential benefits to both employees and the business.
In this article, we will:
At the end, we’ll also provide a checklist to help you identify and manage shadow IT in your organization.
Shadow IT describes all of the devices, applications, platforms, and technologies used outside your IT department or provider's control and knowledge.
We'll share some examples in a moment, but it's important to note that rarely do employees do this to “get around” IT or company policy. In most cases, employees or departments find a tool that they like, which helps them do their job better.
The use of non-managed applications and technology can reflect individual user preferences. It may also reveal issues with the tools selected for use by employees and departments. For example, some problems could be as follows:
Does data security leap at you as a significant risk of shadow IT?
If so, you’re right. But data security risks aren’t the only problems shadow IT practices create. Let’s take a closer look at the most significant ones.
These four represent the most common and significant problems of shadow IT to an organization. In recent years, a new element has only added to – and complicated – the reality of shadow IT.
Without question, the cons of shadow IT are its significant risks. As such, you might think IT professionals would only see those and seek to prevent it.
The opposite is often true.
For example, one survey of IT professionals reported:
These responses reveal that shadow IT has positives too. These benefits include:
Technology has become so mobile and diverse that few IT departments have the resources to monitor and track every device, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An increased remote workforce has only stressed already stretched resources. Third-party managed IT service providers offer comprehensive IT services with enterprise-level tools to monitor, track, and manage an organization’s infrastructure, devices, and more.
Bring-your-own-device and remote workforces create security gaps that malware, ransomware, and other cybersecurity threats can exploit. The challenge of protecting endpoints like laptops, PCs, smartphones, and tablets has grown, especially when they can connect to the internet through unsecured connections. There are ways to manage and protect all of these shadowy endpoints. For companies with limited resources, managed security services can help.
Many employees use cloud applications like Google Docs or Trello or Slack to get around clunky VPNs. These applications also offer easier accessibility, simpler sharing with others, and workflow management tools. Embracing cloud applications that meet specific needs across the organization can bring all applications back into a supported infrastructure. Here's a quick snapshot of how to do it:
Centralized document storage with workflow automation can streamline processes, eliminating the need for shadowy add-ons. A document management system enables you to control document access. Creating workflows that keep tasks and approvals moving is simple. You also eliminate many manual processes, especially those impacted by remote workforces.