As enterprises shift to using cloud-based solutions, employees are increasingly choosing to use cloud services of their own choice instead of those advocated by their enterprise. At first, this may not seem like a big deal. We like what’s familiar to us. So at work, instead of using some software we know nothing about, we’d rather use something we’re accustomed to. With just a couple clicks, we can get an alternative that we like better. But when employees use unauthorized cloud platforms for enterprise data, shadow clouds are created. And for IT, this is a huge problem.
Multiple cloud options exist with the same functionality. For example, Microsoft Project, Mavenlink, TeamWork, and Trello all exist as project management tools. To collaborate, there’s Slack, Google Chat, AOL Instant Messenger, Skype and more. And these are just a few options for only two enterprise functions. If each employee chooses to use her preferred cloud platforms for her multiple service needs, suddenly there are hundreds or thousands (depending on the number of employees a business has) of different platforms that IT has to support. And if IT isn’t even informed of all the different services being used — which happens when employees decide to use their own personal clouds — it has no way of supporting its customers. Employees using their own cloud of choice without telling IT makes it extremely difficult for IT to support employees. As a result, IT is perceived as ineffective when it is unable to support its customers.
Shadow clouds also cause unintentional enterprise data dissemination. Instead of being on one particular cloud service, enterprise data ends up being spread over multiple clouds when users choose their own platform/s. This prevents effective security protection of enterprise data, and may even break government regulations.
Additionally, when IT costs are displaced and spread throughout an enterprise, it’s difficult to even track how much money is being used for IT functions. No one has insight into strategic budgeting, making it difficult for enterprises to determine where there money is going and if they’re getting their full return on investment (ROI)–which they’re not when shadow clouds exist in their enterprise. An employee “swiping” a credit card to enroll in a new cloud platform is a glancing blow to our budgets.
How do we prevent shadow clouds from being created and proliferating?
First, it is important to understand the motivations behind the actions of the involved parties. On one hand, employees need software that’s easily usable. On the other, IT needs to know of all of the software being used in order to be effective, and to make sure they are compliant to various security measures. A mutual understanding of these motivations is necessary to move forward, one that can be brought about through clear IT governance and policies. This includes software use policies, Internet acceptable use policies, security policies, BYOD policies, and more. If these policies are in place and briefed and explained during the on boarding process, it would eliminate or at least reduce the proliferation of shadow clouds, non-authoritative data issues and security risks. While this ensures that both IT and employees are on the same page, a second step must be taken to address their mutual root problem of needing to learn multiple different solutions.
The introduction of a single cloud platform that offered all the different functions an enterprise needed and the ability to expand with additional capabilities, would significantly help with the cloud shadow problem. Instead of learning multiple different programs, both IT and employees would only need to learn how to use a single solution platform that covered all their needs. Companies already offer such comprehensive platforms, in which the various possible cloud functions that exist are being offered under a single user system. This not only helps IT streamline its services and ensure regulatory compliance, but also assists employees by offering user-friendly software. This way both IT and employees can get their work done efficiently and safely.
Shadow clouds quietly drag down efficiency and effectiveness within enterprises, but emerging platforms offer a necessary solution to counter such obstacles.