You may have heard it by other names like Stealth IT, but what is it exactly? Shadow IT describes technology and applications used by employees not explicitly approved by the IT department. The growth in consumerization and mobile apps has given rise to this trend and it is something that CIOs, IT directors and IT professionals need to be aware of and understand. What are the risks? What are the benefits? What are the ways to manage it?

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According to Gigaom Research, 81% of line-of-business employees admitted to using unauthorized SaaS applications, with 38% deliberately using unsanctioned apps because dealing with IT involves too much overhead. Another study by Cisco showed that a typical firm has 15-22X more cloud applications running in the workplace than have been authorized by IT. The most common form of Shadow IT applications you will find are social media, file sharing, business productivity apps, and unified communications.

Benefits

Efficiency and Productivity: Because of the flexibility, employees can use many of these applications remotely and from different mediums like mobile and desktop, which allows them to do their job more effectively.

Less overhead: This is a double-edged sword since it saves time for users to go out there and use the applications without requiring IT’s involvement and IT in turn has less work to deploy applications required by users. However, eventually, this will come back to haunt IT if they have no plans in place to control these applications and have performance monitoring measures in place.

Risks

No visibility: Without visibility and approval of these applications, IT has no way of knowing what the performance or user experience is like.

Reactiveness: As a result of the nature of shadow IT, IT teams may not be equipped and ready to provide control and monitoring of these applications and will end up reacting to things like outages or poor quality of experience. They’re still required to support and be accountable for managing the performance of these applications even though they were never sanctioned by IT.

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Management

Have the right tools: IT needs to have visibility around the performance of these applications and needs to look at tools that provide these types of benefits. The right solution will provide a blend of both application and network visibility, and showcase performance metrics for the IT admins. Additionally, it’s another win if the solution provides admins the ability to control and optimize these applications to improve the quality of experience.

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