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What is Shadow IT?

By:Christine Fettinger

When we hear the term Shadow IT, we must think to ourselves. Great, another term we need to keep track of! We must not confuse BYOD and Shadow IT.

  • BYOD is the act of bringing a personal device to interact with an existing IT work environment
  • Shadow IT is hardware and software that is unsupported, often unknown in the IT work environment

Typically most small and medium-sized business owners claim to be tech savvy enough to understand their current IT. Expectations of how IT should be delivered changes dramatically when we factor in Shadow IT.

Services such as Dropbox and Google Drive will have free storage at their disposal (Note I am only using these two examples as Shadow IT can expand towards various topics). Take a look at Dropbox. It’s simple, sign-up and start uploading files. When users feel comfortable they make the leap towards a subscription based service such as Dropbox for Business. Has your IT department authorized services such as Google Drive or Dropbox? Exposing, processing, and engaging clients with data is Shadow IT.

This can be your work computer, mobile device, and even at home. In retrospect Shadow IT and BYOD are completely different. Accessing documents at home through an unsecured connection is a risk. Company data can be exposed to shared devices without anyone knowing.

When users are in search of assistance, their first resource is the Internet. Free tools and services are available before they commit to the real deal. They generally inform themselves before purchasing the service or product. When something breaks, they begin to search for an expert opinion. Common scenarios are:

  • The device is broken, buy a new one.
  • We’ve invested too much into this product. Therefore we need to hire a professional to repair it.
    • This includes niche, outdated hardware and software.
  • We’ve always been using this software, and we can’t live without it.
    • The pains and cost of migrating to a new platform. This includes user training
  • We’re moving maybe we should reevaluate our IT infrastructure.
    • Did someone mention cloud computing?
  • Speak to the next tech savvy IT person you know.

Perhaps you can use Shadow IT to your advantage. After using Google Drive for a few weeks, it might be a right fit. Only if the data is non-sensitive such as client information, billing credentials, medical records, and etc. Shadow IT should not be frowned upon. It can actually innovate core IT services that have yet be discovered.

How important are your documents? The wealth of information on the Internet will often leave you frustrated and doubtful towards your solid business case. Unsure? Contact us here for more information.