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The Risks Posed by Cloud Sprawl & Shadow IT

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The Risks Posed by Cloud Sprawl & Shadow IT

Cloud computing offers numerous benefits for businesses big and small. It allows firms to instantly access off-premise data using connected databases and business applications that benefit from advanced security protocols and multiple server locations. The technology also scales with a business in on-demand fashion and allows users to create modules to fit their team’s needs.

With this said, the ease of scaling with new environments, modules, or workflows may sometimes come at a tradeoff to organization and oversight. If not properly managed, a firm’s cloud may sprawl, creating larger openings for costs as well as the shadow IT and its associated risks to efficiency and security.

Cloud Sprawl

Cloud sprawl refers to when a company possesses an outsized number of unmanaged or unmonitored cloud tools or instances. This sprawl may occur as a byproduct of the ease in subscribing to, and incorporating, new cloud services. The accessibility to add instances of servers and environments to enterprise clouds for running apps and storing data also contributes to this dilemma. After all, it is oftentimes efficient and highly valuable to provide the ability to autonomously utilize new tools or create them in the company cloud for a large amount of users.

In line with this, it is estimated the average enterprise uses 1427 distinct cloud services. Many businesses thrive on their ability to stay agile and robust in their data management, and utilizing the cloud in this manner helps them do so. Though, if there is a large amount and they aren’t well managed, these cloud instances may cause disorganization. This can result in redundancies, reduced performance, and inadequate cloud spend.

Cost efficiency risks

Unmanaged provision of cloud resources can put a firm at risk to experience unnecessary IT costs. As users leverage many new cloud environments and store data on them, the overall ecosystem may become disorganized without proper management. If this becomes the case, users may become increasingly unaware of existing workloads and create or purchase new ones when they’re not actually needed, raising the chances for data duplication or double expending.

Workloads may also be forgotten or abandoned, yet fail to be removed from the cloud ecosystem and therefore use up space and consequently incur a cost. At the same time, other applications with their own cloud space may not find it fully used. These cloud sprawl features indicate inefficient use of resources and a higher cost profile than necessary for the given level of utilization.

Shadow IT

Unmanaged cloud sprawl and resulting disorganization creates a more conducive environment for the shadow IT — the unapproved or unknown deployment of information technology systems. Shadow IT projects may arise via purposeful circumvention of checks and approvals, possibly in order to shorten timelines or avoid rejection.

On the other hand, business pursuits and cloud projects with well-intentioned transparency may simply be obscured by their abundance in a disorganized cloud ecosystem. In both of these cases, it is a lack of organization and management that can contribute to decreased visibility to the deployment of cloud resources

Security risks

Shadow IT applications and data storage open up security risks due to lack of oversight. Since IT teams are circumvented, backup and recovery responsibilities lie with the individual or team using the shadow technology. These unapproved applications in the shadow may not store data backups or undergo the appropriate security protocols to protect information.

The individuals or teams using them most likely lack the level of expertise of dedicated IT staff. If a central IT team is unaware of a certain application or cloud server, the firm also cannot as easily apply network security patches to it. This opens up vulnerabilities to data loss, undesired access, or even breach.

Going forward

A large amount of business activity occurs in the digital realm and organizations need agile cloud solutions that can be deployed by business unit leaders. These demands may come at a tradeoff to complete visibility and control by a central IT team. As such, some vouch that shadow IT is here to stay. Though, this doesn’t mean it can’t be mitigated.

To limit cloud sprawl and shadow IT, firms should institute user policies to guide and manage the use of cloud resources. Fostering an environment of communication between business leaders and IT teams will also help to provide visibility into the deployment of technology and a means to manage it. Positioning IT teams as what they are and can be: advisors to business technology projects, will go a long way to reduce the risks of cloud sprawl and shadow IT.

By: Marie Johnson, Enlightened Digital

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