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Can Shadow IT Be a Good Thing?

shadow IT

Typically when you hear the term “shadow IT” you think of something menacing or ominous; a dangerous virus or malicious program hiding from detection. This initial reaction is surely due to the word “shadow.” Despite the apprehensive reaction this term can instill in us, shadow IT can, in some instances, actually be a good thing. Shadow IT has existed as a concept for decades and pervades the connected world. While some may strive to eradicate it complexly, they are missing an important point: once pulled into the light, some components of shadow IT can be beneficial. To separate the good from the bad, we should learn to identify shadow IT, control it, and embrace it when we can.

Shadow IT refers to IT projects or actions, typically software usage, that transpire without IT’s knowledge. This often involves employees bringing their own device (BYOD) or bringing their own cloud (BYOC). In most cases, however, the motivation that gives rise to shadow IT events is simply the quest for increased efficiency.
The most common applications that fall under the shadow IT classification are services like Dropbox, Box, social media channels, collaboration tools like Google Docs, and other SaaS driven software solutions. These BYOD and BYOC tools help increase productivity and efficiency because employees tend to use them regularly and they understand how they work. In addition, these tools allow employees to share information and access data more quickly.

The problem with shadow IT lies in the fact that teams charged with the responsibility of securing and approving company IT resources are not aware of the extent of use and proliferation of public cloud services. Consequently, IT teams do not know how the services being used will affect their security and compliance requirements. IT teams shouldn’t attempt to ban BYOD and BYOC tools and services – but rather they need to be aware of them and understand how they are impacting the network.

In order to better manage BYOD and BYOC services to ensure that they meet all security and compliance needs, IT should comprehend how to regularly review and audit the services being used across the entire organization. This entails knowing what applications and tools are being used, how many licenses are being paid for, and how each touches the network.

These assessments can help organizations determine which tools they can allow employees to use and which ones they need to prohibit. An important part of this process involves creating a whitelist and blacklist of acceptable and unacceptable applications so that employees are aware of which services they can and can’t use. After this initial stage, enterprises need to implement a comprehensive cloud management solution to pull applications from the shadows and harness the attributes of efficiency and productivity that cloud has to offer.

To learn more about how BYOC and shadow IT can affect your company, as well as how MatrixCloud can help IT teams better manage the services touching their enterprise, click here.