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Cisco Fighting Shadow IT With New Cloud Service

Cisco has launched a service, called Cloud Consumption Services, that sniffs out surreptitious cloud users practicing shadow IT. The service also analyzes the risk and helps IT manage use.

Shadow IT: 8 Ways To Cope
Shadow IT: 8 Ways To Cope
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Amid the rapid growth in use of cloud services, Cisco is warning enterprises that their employees use more outside services than IT realizes. To help combat this, the company is offering an online tool with which IT can identify and track such use.

Now, fighting shadow IT is just another cloud service -- Cisco Cloud Consumption Services -- launched Jan. 13.

Cisco's Robert Dimicco, senior director of Advanced Services, wrote in a blog post that enterprise IT can now subscribe to Cisco Cloud Consumption Services, an online tool designed to determine how cloud services are being used by employees.

Cloud use by the enterprise was up 112% in most enterprises, Cisco estimated from its own survey of customers. The unauthorized use of services "is becoming a major headache for IT leaders. On average, large organizations are now using 1,220 individual cloud services, largely without oversight, which leads to increased risk and spiraling costs," Dimicco wrote in the blog post.

(Image: MilosJokic/iStockphoto)

(Image: MilosJokic/iStockphoto)

Common forms of shadow IT include:

  • Shared storage that's moved sensitive data into Box or Dropbox offsite
  • Servers being used by developers who were too impatient to wait for the latest purchase order to be delivered
  • Mobile apps that were downloaded to smartphones and hold information on potential clients

In some cases, marketing campaigns have been conceived, debated, and set up for execution, all outside the purview of IT, because business users deemed them too pressing to be delayed by going through the usual channels. Such maneuvers raise the risk of proprietary data exposure and compliance violation. There's also the hazard to business continuity that unchecked code from the outside may get injected into production systems.

What's it going to cost to keep shadow IT in check? About $1 to $2 per employee per month, by Dimicco's estimate. Cisco Cloud Consumption Services will be administered mainly by partners and systems integrators working with Cisco.

Dimicco recounted an exchange he had with Chris Jennings, president of Aqueduct Technologies in Boston, one such partner. Jennings told him: "I had conversation with a VP of IT at one of my larger customers. I was able to show him data in the Cloud Consumption dashboard and he was amazed at cloud services he didn't realize they are using."

[Want to learn more about managing shadow IT? See How to Control Shadow IT.]

The Cisco service inspects network traffic to identify the cloud services being used, who's using them, the amount they're being used, and the risk profile of that use. The analysis side of the product helps IT managers govern the use of the services and manage the danger of proprietary data being sent off-premises.

A user cited in the announcement was CityMD, a New York City and New Jersey doctors group, which employed Cisco Cloud Consumption Services to discover employees using 522 cloud services, even though IT supported only 15 to 20 of them. The announcement cited Robert Florescu, vice president of IT, as saying: "Now that we have full visibility into our cloud usage, we can make educated decisions that are right for the business and get a better idea of what risks we may face."

Florescu said the emergency room doctors in the group want information out of the cloud quickly, and CityMD wants to "ensure we have appropriate security and compliance measures in place."

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2016 | 4:40:05 PM
Great Idea
I think this is a really good idea. The problem with shadow IT is that it brings in some pretty significant security risks. Companies are constantly on the watch these days for things that can make an organization vulnerable, and using certain cloud services certainly brings the risk factor up. I know Cisco has been doing pretty well with its cloud business, and this is just another service it can sell to its large client base. 
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