The Biggest Risks and Assets of Shadow IT

Cisco conducted a study about cloud strategy and security. It says, “Companies are using up to 15 times more cloud services to store critical company data than CIOs were aware of or had authorized”. The report said that companies used 730 cloud services while their IT departments only authorized 51 of them. The report concludes that there could be many applications in organizations that run in the shadow unauthorized by the firm’s tech leaders. Those unauthorized technology solutions are categorized as Shadow IT.

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Shadow IT

The term Shadow IT embodies all personal technologies or BYOD solutions that are maintained by 3rd party service providers rather than the company’s IT department. Since past few years, social media, mobile, cloud and data analytics technologies have been the key drivers of innovation. Cloud and mobile technologies have provided consumers the capability to manage data from any location. Consequently, business apps that were secured by company’s firewall have shifted to public in the form of SaaS solutions. From HR to accounting, every department is supported via cloud applications. These recent technological trends have introduced consumerization in IT industries where users are now habitual of mobile friendly, easy to use, fast experience. This likelihood can result into clash with legacy technologies, which will not benefit users in the long run.

It’s human to be drawn towards solutions that are convenient. That’s why employees use their personal devices such as smartphones rather than sticking to any work-related device. According to Cisco’s Shadow IT statistics, 98% of the web-based applications used in a large enterprise are Shadow IT. Users download and install from several applications that are readily available in Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. As these apps are outlanders, there are some issues using them.

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Shadow IT Risks

Shadow IT Risks

There are many issues when we talk using Shadow IT in organizations. If users are provided with the power to choose their own applications at companies, it can make company’s security system vulnerable. Under such cases, companies will not be able to follow legal guidelines and it will unintentionally affect other users in the system. Here’s how Shadow IT can affect your business:


You can’t apply similar level of software measures on unsupported software and hardware technologies. As your IT department is not able to monitor or manage app usage, unauthorized apps that use organizational data and communicate with other authorized apps invite malware infections and other cyber risks. It could result into loss of productivity, revenue and reputation.


There are even bigger risks when it comes to compliance while using Shadow IT. Anyone can easily upload or share sensitive data of the organization. Moreover, there are existing processes that can ensure confidentiality of information as an employee can store serious business data on his Evernote account or personal DropBox. In addition, breaches that are caused due to negligence in compliances attract significant fines.

Processes and Workflows

Technologies that are unauthorized by company’s tech leadership can adversely impact the user experience of another employee in the system. For example, it can affect the bandwidth and create situations that result into the conflict of various software application protocols. Moreover, the IT department may not be able to resolve the problems related to unauthorized apps. It will slow down the complete process.

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Reducing Shadow IT Risks And Boosting Benefits

Reducing Shadow IT Risks And Boosting Benefits

However, there are some benefits that can inspire to accept Shadow IT solutions in your organization. We cannot ignore the possibility of new apps revolutionizing company processes and allowing employees to work more efficiently. A vigilant balance between administration and flexibility can help new applications thrive in the organization.

There are users who don’t like using devices or apps with extreme consequences. Thus, Shadow IT solutions in the company can bring flexibility to comprehend user preferences. Rather than asking users to not use unauthorized foreign applications, you can determine which data can be used on unauthorized applications and which can’t be. But ensure that you detect allowable uses and add them in the Accept Useage Policy.

EventBoard’s co-founder and CTO, Zach Holmquist thinks Shadow IT may one day change the regular IT model. Workplaces have started to think about a bottom up approach. Holmquist says, “The traditional role of IT and facilities will begin to change as they shift to work alongside employees to craft a more personalized and mobile workplace. Companies like Slack, Evernote and BlueJeans will become more visible in the work space, offering up a certain simplicity and accessibility not offered by typical enterprise software.”

It’s time companies should not deny but discuss the use of Shadow IT. they need to communicate and educate users regarding the guidelines on how to use foreign applications in the company. Companies need to understand user needs and create clear instructions about the use of Shadow IT. If the guidelines are powered with research and the input from user needs, they will contribute in company’s growth. Again, controlled Shadow IT practices combined with SaaS solutions instill user control and data security.

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