Shadow IT pertains to IT solutions, services, and infrastructures that your employees use without your internal tech department’s approval or support. These could be personal devices and unvetted apps your employees use to do their work or cloud-based services they use to process business-related data without your consent, among others. The term also refers to the practice of using such technologies.
Most discussions on shadow IT revolve around reining in the practice because of the risks it poses, but is it really all that bad? In this blog, we discuss the pros and cons of shadow IT for your business.
Dangers of shadow IT
Shadow IT isn’t always as shadowy as its name suggests. In many cases, it happens simply because employees find company-issued hardware and software too cumbersome or limiting, so they use unvetted business apps and devices they are familiar with. But no matter how harmless the intention behind shadow IT may be, the disadvantages it causes to your company are very real. These include:
Cybersecurity and compliance issues
Some shadow IT solutions are not as cybersecure as company-issued tools. And because they are outside your IT team’s radar, you might fail to take these hidden technologies into account when you lay down your company’s cyber defenses. As a result, shadow IT solutions can become convenient entry points for cybercriminals into your network.
Should criminals infiltrate your network, you might need more than $4 million just to recover from the cyberattack. Your business could also face steep penalties for noncompliance if you belong to a highly regulated industry.
Shadow IT often means your employees are using several different apps that do the same thing. Imagine if your employees were to save work-related files in their own Dropbox accounts. Finding the necessary data would take longer than if these files were stored in your company’s centralized cloud servers. Furthermore, if an employee were to leave your company, you risk losing access to the data stored in their personal Dropbox folders.
Your employees may be deploying software and services without properly securing licenses from these solutions’ vendors, resulting in conflict. At best, you may have to spend money to meet licensing requirements; at worst, your business could face lawsuits.
The bright side of shadow IT
Shadow IT can benefit your business by giving you a good idea of your business’s requirements in the following ways:
Visibility over users’ needs
Sometimes, even surveys can only do so much to tell you your employees’ actual IT-related needs as some of your staff will hesitate to answer questions as honestly as you need them to. Examining the shadow IT solutions your workers use will give you a glimpse into their needs and how they prefer those needs to be met.
For instance, if many of your staff have downloaded and installed memo apps into their computers, this could be an indication that they need ways to keep track of their tasks. This could be a sign that you need to invest in a project management platform.
Ideas for good tech
One way to find the best and most innovative solutions on the market is to have your staff search for you. In particular, look into the shadow IT solutions they’re already using. Your staff will likely favor tools that are both intuitive and which simplify their job, so their choice of shadow IT can help you identify which tech works for your business and which doesn’t.
Unfamiliar tools require a considerable learning curve before employees can use them properly. While learning how to use these tools, employees are also more likely to work slowly or commit mistakes, causing slumps in their productivity. If they use shadow IT solutions they are already familiar with, then they've already overcome the learning curves for these. Therefore, looking at shadow IT can give you great ideas on solutions that improve your company’s productivity.
Flexible work arrangements
If your business is adopting flexible working arrangements but does not have the budget to issue work devices, then shadow IT can point you to ideal solutions. For instance, if your employees are already using their personal devices while working in the office, then you can have them use those devices while working remotely. Make sure, however, to implement a process for your tech department to quickly vet these devices and ensure that these are secure enough to handle company data. You can also invest in solutions like virtual desktops and virtual private networks to enhance your data’s security.
If you want to attain the hidden benefits of shadow IT while controlling its risks, then you need to work with a managed services provider like Complete Technology. Our IT experts will help you resolve issues with disparate IT systems in your business and ensure that your data is protected at all times. Contact us today to learn more about the services we offer.