The cloud has unlocked a nearly unlimited number of benefits for today's enterprises. In addition to supporting remote access and enabling real-time collaboration, cloud resources have the power to boost employee productivity across the board. However, the cloud can also introduce certain challenges – especially when it comes to security.
Now, Cisco, a leader in the cloud solutions market, has announced plans to purchase security firm CloudLock. This deal underscores the importance of data protection in the cloud, as well as the criticality of preventing shadow IT.
While increased access can help support efficient working processes, it can also lead to gaps in security. Shadow IT, where employee users leverage platforms and resources that haven't been specifically vetted and approved by the company's IT team, is now a growing problem in the enterprise sector. As Computerworld contributor Robert Covington pointed out, this usually occurs when staff members are frustrated by a firm's existing cloud resources, and instead seek out other external applications to get work done.
"The problem usually continues with IT unaware, until technical problems develop, or until integration with other corporate applications is needed," Covington noted. "When IT is brought into the loop by users now needing help, it is not usually viewed as a pleasant surprise by the CIO or IT director."
In this way, shadow IT processes can continue to fly under the radar for a considerable period of time, leaving the IT team in the dark when it comes to user activities. However, leveraging the corporate network and the company's other infrastructure resources to access unapproved platforms and sites can create serious problems. And when IT admins are finally brought into the loop, it could be too late.
There are a number of stats that illustrate the deepening issue of shadow IT:
Whatever the reason, shadow IT has been a problem nearly since the emergence of the cloud. What's more, experts predict that this issue won't disappear anytime soon – in fact, shadow IT will only create more problems as enterprises continue to migrate more workloads to digital environments.
"There are actually 730 cloud platforms being accessed and leveraged by employee users."
Recently, Cisco unveiled Cisco Cloud Consumption as a Service, a platform that helps IT staff shine a light on all employee cloud activity, including that which hasn't been approved by admins. Now, Cisco is furthering its focus on cloud security with the purchase of CloudLock Inc.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cisco is buying the startup for $293 million, and that the tech leader will even offer incentives for former CloudLock employees who join the Cisco team. CloudLock uses specialized technology to track employees' use of cloud services, as well as to help enforce existing usage policies and rules. In this way, shadow IT processes are easier to spot, and gaps in security from these activities can be identified and eliminated.
David Goeckeler, Cisco senior vice president, noted that even companies with the best cloud resources in place aren't immune to shadow IT.
"The issue in security is, it's not good enough to have a bunch of best-of-breed products," Goeckeler said.
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