The field of cloud computing has come a long way, with so many advancements to enjoy today. It is not very easy for IT experts to bypass IT procurement protocols and access the solutions they need in the workplace.

What is shadow IT?

Shadow IT is the IT technologies that are managed outside of, and without the knowledge of, the IT department. It entails all the solutions, services, projects and infrastructure used without formal approval and support of internal IT departments. In most cases, shadow IT does not align with the compliance, security, cost, documentation, SLA, reliability and other requirements and policies of a company, which is why it gets the name Shadow IT. Here is all you need to know about it:

Growth of shadow IT

In the past years, Shadow IT was restricted to unapproved Excel macros, usually bought at office supply stores. However, time and technology have changed shadow IT. As the quality of consumer applications in the cloud has improved dramatically, it has brought the pressure of growth of shadow IT. Today, buying Shadow IT systems ranges from hardware and software. It includes SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, off-the-shelf pre-packaged software, computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Other than that, the purchase has become so easy that the TI users can swiftly buy Shadow IT systems before the organization identifies or detects unusual network activity.

Why Shadow IT?

You may not understand why IT users purchase shadow IT systems or why many lines of business are deploying enterprise-class SaaS applications unless you fully understand some of the benefits it brings on board. The top benefits of these technologies include:

1. Get work done easier – IT users can have it rough trying to figure out their way around cloud computing. Given that most organizations do not offer ample support for technologies that IT users require to get their job done, they are forced to indulge in Shadow IT to find the systems that will help make their work easier and faster. For example, in a DevOps-driven company, the focus is on continuous innovation and rapid software development. This demands the use of sophisticated tooling with adequate speed and flexibility of IT support.

2. Businesses become more competitive – with access to different IT systems, companies are more competitive with each other like never before.

3. More employee productivity – shadow IT contributes a lot to employee productivity. Ideally, deploying some SaaS applications like Office 365 in departments take off some of the burden on the IT desk to handle every other hardware and software related challenges. Instead, the IT team can be left to take care of the servers, manage the networks and do their delegated tasks.

Figure 1 Shadow IT stats

The challenge with shadow IT

While sourcing for applications without the proper authorization can help with productivity in the workplace, there is a huge risk that comes with it. Ideally, such access presents such a big security gap in companies. Without the IT department aware of the software, services, and applications that people in the workplace are adopting, there is no form of control over the quality of the technologies and the kind of threats they invite into the business’s networks.

If, for example, you only approve of the use of to back up your data, accessing other cloud-based applications can be an undoing to the company, leading to wastage of time, money and inviting security threats to the servers. Even though most apps are harmless, some of them have features such as file sharing and storage, or collaboration. These automatically pose a security gap. The worst part is that it may take the company sometime before they figure out what the underlying problem is.