SMBs dominate 'shadow IT' as cloud-security concerns drive procurement revamp

The issue of so-called 'shadow IT' – informal adoption of cloud-based applications independent of a company's official IT strategy – has continued to cause problems but is more pronounced in smaller businesses with little or no IT oversight.

The disparity was highlighted in recent figures from IT-industry body CompTIA, which explored the frequency of shadow IT as part of an analysis of the evolution of the cloud market in its 5th Annual Trends in Cloud Computing survey.

Just 12 percent of IT organisations at the 203 surveyed US organisations where application procurement is handled at the line of business (LOB) level, said that LOBs had been procuring cloud services without involving them.

A further 34 percent of respondents said they had been consulted by LOB organisations before cloud-procurement decisions were taken, while the remaining 54 percent said they still had final approval over cloud-application acquisitions.

In cases where IT had become involved after the fact, integration issues were the most common cause and a security breach the second most common; availability, centralisation or incorrect operation were also cited as causes for IT intervention.

Overall, LOB organisations were procuring cloud applications anywhere from 18 percent to 36 percent of the time, up slightly from last year's numbers.

Significantly, the problem seemed to be more common in smaller companies, CompTIA's analysis noted.

“Most instances of LOB procurement still keep IT involved in some way,” the report's authors note. “The incidence of IT departments only being informed or not involved at all is dominated by small companies, which often do not have an IT function.”

This shortfall in surveillance of shadow IT creates opportunities for external service providers to step into the gap with their own monitoring capabilities, the analysis notes.

Read more: NATO security certification opens new markets for Australia's Senetas

The involvement of outside experts can also help manage the risks inherent in shadow IT – particularly the complexities around integration and security, which often are not fully appreciated by individual employees within LOB units.

“Allowing the LOB to procure technology allows for greater agility, but it also has the potential to create costly problems,” the CompTIA analysis notes. “Integration typically accounts for the lion's share of cost and effort in an IT project, and it is much more effective to deal with security up front rather than repair a breach.”

The key to resolving these issues, CompTIA advised, was to work cloud application into broader procurement strategies that recognised the value and risk inherent in the shadow IT model.

“IT departments and solution providers can help drive the discussion towards a new style of procurement that allows for agility while ensuring that IT concerns are surfaced,” the report advises. “A transformation of internal operations is taking place as companies are applying technology across the entire organization in completely new ways.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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