With cloud computing and BYOD permeating almost every organization, shadow IT is beginning to make its way onto the radar screens of business leaders inside and outside of the IT department. The truth is, however, that shadow IT has been around for decades and is not necessarily a bad thing.
Shadow IT are systems and solutions built without the approval of the organization, and they are often innovative, potential prototypes for future IT-approved solutions. The problem is that while creating real value to an organization, they are often built without key network security management protocols in place; namely reliability, documentation, control, security, and budget.
So why the hype and why now? While shadow IT has been around for a long time, the volume and velocity of applications and cloud solutions, not to mention low cost (often free) is multiplying rapidly, creating an IT snowball effect. In fact, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Digital IQ survey, at 100 companies that PwC considers top performers, IT controls less than 50 percent of corporate technology expenditures – and we’re talking pretty large companies here with typically strict IT policies in place. This is in drastic contrast to ten years ago, when the Dachis Group estimates that only 10 percent of IT spending took place outside of IT. At smaller organizations where IT departments are even less influential, this shadow IT snowball effect is even more rampant.
So what can IT departments do? The answer is securing the network and protect the organization from outside threats. Containing the growth of shadow IT may not be an option, but reducing outside threats is. Select a strong, multi-function Unified Threat Management (UTM) system that goes beyond a simple firewall to deliver strong network security management, and make sure it has these FIVE key elements:
- Easy-to-Use Policy Tools – This way, administrators can enforce the policies that best meet their environment, whether it is a small retail shop or a multinational, distributed enterprise. And today, you really need to consider a single console that allows for easy integration of both wired and wireless security policies.
- Network Segmentation – Today’s solutions need to let administrators easily and quickly set up various network segments, to include virtual assets that can be protected and segmented to maintain compliance and high security. Also consider the capability to segment and secure accordingly via SSID (guest, corporate, finance, etc.).
- Smart Logging and Reporting – This may be one of the most valuable resources that IT can leverage for their BYOD strategy. Administrators need to be able to gain deep insight into what is connected to their network, as well as the applications being used. These insights not only help safeguard resources, but also illuminate trouble spots and potential weaknesses, and help to remediate areas of concern.
- VPN Functionality – Leveraging smart VPN capabilities, administrators can enforce acceptable use policies for mobile, remote and road warriors who need to access corporate data anytime, anywhere.
- Use Best-in-Class Solutions – When we built our XTM line of multi-function, smart firewalls we consolidated many vital security services (Anti-virus, IPS, Application Control, URL filtering, and more). But rather than build these ourselves, we relied on our best-in-class partner technologies (AVG, BroadWeb, Kaspersky, Commtouch, Websense, etc.). The result is a peerless multilayered security, an unrivalled ease-of-use and centralized management experience, and industry-leading UTM throughput performance. These solutions extend network security to the WLAN, critical for securing personal mobile device traffic, which generally utilizes wireless networks in corporate environments.
Without question, BYOD and the cloud is accelerating shadow IT, but strong network security can reduce and eliminate the inherent risks. As a leader in network security, we work to develop solutions to enable a safe and productive BYOD ecosystem. By enforcing a practical policy, we believe that organizations can enable workforce productivity, foster goodwill and trust across the organization, achieve compliance demands, and maintain strong security–without sacrificing flexibility.