Shadow IT is in your enterprise -- get over it

IT departments must embrace shadow IT to stay competitive in the market and attract coveted employees.

IT departments that struggle with managing shadow IT applications need to get ahead of the curve and let users rule.

Rogue cloud applications turn up when business groups implement a public cloud that is not managed by or integrated into the company's IT infrastructure. And although many IT teams are aware that shadow IT is happening within their enterprise, they're often unaware of how many cloud applications have even entered the enterprise.

While much of the emphasis to date has been on cloud storage systems, users also bring in customer relationship management, email and marketing applications. Consequently, employees may not only back up company files to these rogue apps, but also create email archives, copy database information and load their corporate address books to the cloud.

However, trying to thwart the shadow IT movement may prove futile.

PCs and smartphones have invaded the enterprise, so why would the cloud be any different? Casting out rogue applications is more difficult than it was in the past; eliminating them isn't just a matter of closing down a particular port on the company router. Most of these services are Web-based and operate across multiple platforms, so it becomes almost impossible to prevent employees from using these services on corporate-owned devices, let alone personal phones.

What's an IT department to do?

Embrace the cloud. IT badly needs an image overhaul as employees' impatience with IT has fueled the "bring your own cloud" (BYOC) movement.

Validating BYOC jibes with today's corporate work style. Companies want their employees to be productive and encourage them to work while on the road or at home. They also want them to embrace social media: Companies encourage employees to tweet and spend time on sites such as LinkedIn to network with potential customers or promote the business. The traditional boundary between company work and personal information is unclear.

With the consumerization of IT, end users have gained more say over IT purchases. Since cloud services are so cheap, employees are using them to augment their work. IT departments could try to fight this movement, but that probably will prove to be fruitless. Unfortunately, the message to IT is clear: It's time to stop worrying and learn to accept those rogue cloud applications.

Paul Korzeniowski is a freelance writer who specializes in cloud computing issues. He is based in Sudbury, Mass. and can be reached at paulkorzen@aol.com.

This was last published in March 2013

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While Shadow IT may be pervasive, I disagree that IT simply needs to get over it. Embrace it, and bring it out of the shadows: yes. Shrug their shoulders and walk away: no.
Lurking behind every Shadow IT use of public cloud is a potential risk to the business that shouldn’t go unmanaged. Instead of accepting Shadow IT as the new normal, central IT should proactively bring unauthorized cloud use under IT management, ensuring providers meet SLAs, that proprietary customer data is housed in appropriate environments, and that the business is using the right decision criteria when selecting cloud services.
For more information on cloud management platforms as a control point: http://www.servicemesh.com/resources/take-aways/
- Derick Townsend, VP Product Marketing, ServiceMesh
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