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Shadow IT
The challenge in your own network

Shadow IT presupposes the existence of a lived IT structure in the company. Only if rules and specifications exist in the form of processes can shadow IT occur as an unwanted side effect. However, as long as there are no specifications or guidelines in the company that regulate the use of IT systems or software, it is not possible to violate them. Shadow IT in the true sense of the word is out of the question.

For IT managers in particular, shadow IT is becoming a growing challenge.The increased IT affinity of employees and the permanent growth in cloud apps mean that the risk of shadow IT being used is constantly increasing. In many cases, this dangerous initiative on the part of specialist departments and employees has negative consequences for IT security and data protection.


What is shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to IT systems, applications and IT services that do not comply with the specifications of corporate IT. When departments back up their data to USB hard drives on their own or employees take care of their own WLAN by bringing their own access point, this is called shadow IT. The use of a cloud storage service, which is subscribed to as a free version in order to be able to exchange data more quickly, is also part of this.

The bandwidth of shadow IT ranges from private cell phones, which are integrated into the WLAN or on which company emails are called up (not to be confused with BYOD) to unknown plug-ins, which are integrated into your website by your web agency.


Where does shadow IT come from?

The reason for the use of shadow IT usually lies in complicated or even missing IT processes.If, for example, the application for a required software is very difficult and time-consuming, some employees may prefer to opt for the free variant, which they already use privately.

Companies in which there is no own IT department are also affected by this danger. Here employees usually no other way remains, as itself around solutions to worry.

Many companies, which are subject after a takeover into another enterprise, new defaults, tend likewise frequently to take your IT problems into the hand. They think that the new company management does not know at all what they need to do their work efficiently.


The risks of shadow IT

The risks of shadow IT are obvious. Storage areas containing important company data cannot be backed up because the IT department is unaware of their existence. After a change of employees or restructuring of a department, there is a risk that these storage locations will be forgotten.For example, data from old projects can be lost.

Data security can also be compromised because these unofficial services can open back doors that bypass regulated access to corporate networks. Also, because IT is unaware of these services, compliance with password policies cannot be verified or enforced. Ultimately, this means that protection of corporate data cannot be guaranteed, because it is not even possible for an IT manager to control the cloud services or IT infrastructure used.

If personal information is transferred to unauthorized third parties, this can negatively impact data protection - whether it is the operators of the SaaS applications who are based outside the EU or unauthorized third parties who gain access to the data due to a lack of security precautions.


The supposed benefits of shadow IT

Over and over again, you hear about the supposed benefits of shadow IT. Employees are more motivated, departments work more productively and goals are achieved more quickly. Viewed in isolation, this may well be true. However, if you look at the whole picture, you quickly see that the not inconsiderable risks in the area of data security, IT security and data protection, do not outweigh these benefits at all.

Let me illustrate the benefits of shadow IT: If you were to give your employees 300 days of annual leave and pay them 16 salaries, you could certainly significantly increase employee satisfaction as a result, but it would probably benefit the company's objectives less.


The way out of the shadow

Companies and IT departments face major challenges here. To minimize the risk of shadow IT, there are nevertheless suitable methods.

  • Define processes for IT procurement (software, hardware, services).
  • Create guidelines for IT deployment.
  • Determine what your departments need (requirements analysis).
  • Be the partner of your departments.
  • Create security awareness through regular training.
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