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Why Users 'Go Dark': The Challenge of Shadow IT

Michael Hack| September 13 2016

| Security

Why Users 'Go Dark': The Challenge of Shadow ITWorkplace usage of cloud-based tools like Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote is surging. And when consumer apps translate into shadow IT, there's a real network security problem for IT teams. According to a recent report by Netskope, 92% of cloud apps were identified as not 'enterprise-ready'. Why? Because they lacked the security, audit and certification capabilities required for safe workplace use.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Reduce Dropbox Security Concerns

Consumer Apps Spur on Shadow IT

Yet the non-sanctioned use of such apps is proliferating - aka shadow IT - and it's easy to see why. Consumer cloud apps empower workers to circumvent the IT department altogether. Easy to acquire and deploy, non-technical employees may select products or configurations that don't measure up to corporate standards for security. Such users typically won't realize that using such apps increases the risk of security breaches and data loss .

Related Article: Shadow IT - When Employees Become Bounty Hunters

The reasons why workers will turn to non-approved applications are simple. Familiarity with popular consumer apps means they can get things done fast. It should be no surprise to the IT department that intuitive and easy-to-utilize interfaces prove popular with general users. Failure to leverage apps that keep employees satisfied results in the proliferation of shadow IT that's difficult to monitor or manage.

For employees, it's genuinely all about getting on with the job in hand in the most productive way possible. That means not grappling for hours with a complex 'corporately approved' application that doesn't meet their needs. In other words, non-approved apps are being used to fill a productivity gap or circumvent cumbersome options.

Make it Smooth and Easy

To support workplace productivity, rather than hinder it, IT teams should consider apps with intuitive and smooth user experiences for both workers and admins. Make it accessible over the web for familiar UX and efficient workflows users expect from their tools. Menus that are easy to navigate responsive and tailored to user access rights will deliver the right user experience. Data intensive applications should offer presentation methods appropriate to the task in hand. For example, providing lists and tables if multi-item comparisons are needed, or icons and tiles to support direct interactions for direct data manipulation.

Related Article: The User Experience Demands Transformation

Leveraging the strengths of both technology and end users can prove a winning combination. For example, solutions that present data content in graphically arranged objects like a map. These apps will support users looking to pick out and recognize visual patterns and identify meaning from complex interactions. Apps should be fit-for-purpose and support users to be productive. So, if a dynamic system is designed to deliver real-time data insights, then data should automatically refresh and be presented via a dashboards.

Come Together

It goes without saying that and enforcing transparent usage policies that make sense to employees. Communicating openly with users is just the start. Understanding why users feel obliged to turn to shadow IT can help identify where changes need to be made. Things like ensuring that approved apps aren't difficult to work with and deliver against all users' expectations.

Closing the gap between the disparate experiences of IT administrators and end users will be critical. If users favor a popular consumer app that doesn't meet security standards, then ideally the IT team should find a reasonable alternative that is intuitive to use.

Finally, ensure your workforce understands the risk of using non-sanctioned cloud apps for work and the benefits of using apps from the approved list. This can help to prevent workers going rogue and working in the cloud beyond the reach or knowledge of IT.

(This article originally appeared in Information Age.)

Topics: Security

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