The life of IT departments is complicated these days. What was IT kingdom 10 years ago gone forever. IT is loosing the battle of the the ability to control what users are doing as well as where they store information. If you are not familiar with the term, you better learn it – shadow IT. This is a term often used to describe IT systems and IT solutions built and used inside of organization, but without organizational approval. Sometimes, shadow IT comes from user activities and sometimes based on department activities of large corporation. The last one has a chance to happen a lot within large engineering organizations.
I’ve been reading ITProPortal article examined the growing problem data fragmentation in the article – Shadow IT: The Struggle to Protect Corporate Information in the Face of Growing Data Fragmentation. The extensive interview with Mimecast’s chief strategy officer, Matthew Ravden, examines the issue, from defining the problem to offering advice on how to deal with it. Here is my favorite and the most important passage from the article
“Ultimately, the employee is at the heart of this issue; using multiple applications and devices, often without the IT manager’s knowledge. You can understand why they do it; they want to be able to use the same applications and embrace the same ‘sharing’ culture at work that they do in their personal lives. They also sometimes feel forced to use consumer-grade tools because of the restrictions placed on them by IT, including the size of files that can be sent via the corporate email system. Of course, most employees are not conscious of the risk – they just want to use a fast and easy service which will help them get their job done. As well as identifying the potential third-party services used, IT managers need to educate users on the risks involved, in order to ensure corporate policies are respected.”
I found the problem described above very typical for engineering departments and work manufacturing companies are doing with subcontractors. There is a growing needs to share data. CAD files are big by nature. It is hard to send CAD files via email. These days, consumer IT services are coming close to tackle with files sizes in a much better way than corporate email servers. Google, Dropbox, BOX.net and similar companies are taking leading positions. Corporate portals and Exchange Servers are clearly followers in this game.
The problem of data fragmentation makes the situation even more complicated. In addition to the fact engineers are using consumer tools not approved by IT, actually data is spreading around and moving into different locations – most of them are outside of corporate firewall.
ITProPortal article provides few recommendations (actually affiliated with author’s company – Mimecast). In my view, even these recommendations are specific for a particular tool, I can see them as something that can be applied in a general way to different cloud solutions.
Cloud vendors have a critical role to play in solving the problems of Shadow IT since they are uniquely placed to meet the needs of both IT managers and end users. By creating a safe, intuitive to use and easy to manage environment, cloud vendors can be a major ally to IT managers who want to keep users from straying beyond their official corporate systems.
Cloud services can also provide secure access to all data sources from common applications or from any mobile device, making sure users can get their data where they need it without leaving the safety of the organization’s IT system.
What is my conclusion? Growing power of consumer cloud services are creating new set of risks for manufacturing companies these days. By providing new and easy options for engineers and other people in an organization to share and exchange data, they significantly increase the risk of data fragmentation and establishment of "shadow IT" storage. However, I can see cloud technologies also have an opportunity to solve these problems by providing consistent secured tools as well as new monitoring capabilities to IT. Just my thoughts…