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Combating Shadow IT With A Cloud Communication Strategy

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As anyone working in an enterprise today can attest, technology is playing a much larger role in the daily operations of companies than ever before. This push toward increased adoption of devices and programs has had a variety of benefits, but it has also caused organizations to battle with the growing problem of shadow IT, or unauthorized applications being used on enterprise networks.

While shadow IT may seem harmless, it can lead to numerous cybersecurity issues. While not every unauthorized application is a malicious trap set by cybercriminals to steal data, businesses put policies in place for the use of specific programs for a reason, and employees skirting those rules to use a specific app can have damaging consequences.

As the consumerization of IT continues to progress, shadow IT will become a much more widespread phenomenon. Many CIOs are unconcerned about the practice and are unaware of just how many employees are making their own decisions about what programs they want to use in the workplace. A recent report by cloud security developer CipherCloud revealed that businesses are dramatically underestimating the extent of shadow IT in their organizations.

According to the 2014 Cloud Adoption and Risk Report in North America and Europe, 86 percent of the cloud applications employees admit to using are not sanctioned by the company's IT department. One major U.S. corporation surveyed for the study estimated between 10 and 15 file-sharing applications were in use by their employees, but it was discovered that the actual number was closer to 70.

Employee Interest In Cloud Services Driving Shadow IT

As demonstrated by the number of file-sharing services used by employees, one of the most popular areas for shadow IT apps is collaboration and communication services. Many companies have been slower to embrace cloud-based communication tools that employees want to use to connect with one another at work the same way they would at home.

A 2014 report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled "Managing the Shadow Cloud" noted that the pervasive nature of cloud computing among individual users has helped to increase the presence of shadow IT.

"Shadow IT is not a new concept, but its recent increase has been dramatic," the report read. "The culture of consumerization within the enterprise . . . coupled with aging technologies and outdated IT models, has propelled cloud computing into favor with business units and individual users."

One way to combat the rise of shadow IT is to deploy a company-sanctioned cloud communication strategy that provides employees with the apps and services they rely on while allowing internal IT teams to monitor and secure the programs being used. To ensure the program has interest from the staff and won't be ignored, CIOs should consult employees on the apps they currently use and what types of communication and collaboration services they are interested in. Once the particulars have been decided, a cloud-based unified communication suite should be implemented to offer a variety of communication methods through on central platform.