At one point in time, only large corporations had to worry about shadow IT. However, as more small businesses move data to the cloud, owners are also beginning to realize the risk that shadow IT poses. Keep reading to learn more about shadow IT and why it matters to your small business.

Understanding Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to the use of software or other IT systems in a business without the knowledge or approval of the IT department. At one time, shadow IT was mainly restricted to software that employees would find and download that worked better than the software they had access to. However, in today’s business and technology world, shadow IT now encompasses personal smartphones and tablets that employees use while on the job.

Growth of Shadow IT

Over 60 percent of small business employees say they have accessed company data using their personal tablets and smartphones. This number is only expected to go up as wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, become even more popular. These responses show how quickly shadow IT is growing, and just how many businesses have important and confidential data at risk. However, employers are also beginning to realize this problem and are seeking a solution.

Risks of Shadow IT

Along with putting business data at risk, there are other concerns with shadow IT. Part of the IT department’s job is to obtain and manage software licenses, but this software management isn’t possible when software is downloaded without IT’s knowledge. It’s also impossible for the IT department to test and upgrade hardware and software that it doesn’t know exists. Additionally, companies must ensure compliance with industry and government regulations. Many will invest heavily in resources and time to document their systems, only to find software and devices they had no idea about.

Striking a Balance Between Access and Security

Companies used to strictly ban downloading software or using personal devices to get access to company information. However, in today’s world, that’s simply not possible. If employees don’t have reliable software or apps that can help them get their job done efficiently, they’ll turn to another source. Additionally, as more employees work from home or on the road, it’s impossible to control what devices they use. Instead, you must work with employees to find the ideal solution to maintaining security and getting the job done.

What Small Businesses Can Do

To help create that balance between security and access, have your employees get involved with creating security policies. When employees have a role in establishing security measures, they can explain the systems they need while still understanding the security they have to follow. If your small business has an IT department, encourage meetings between departments where employees can work together to find the right systems that still maintain data security.

While shadow IT is a concern for big and small businesses, it’s also something you have control over. With this information in mind, you can better understand shadow IT and what you need to do to stay secure.