IT managers are seriously underestimating the actual use of Cloud apps at their organisations.

IT Departments Lack Awareness of in-Company Cloud App Use

The word ‘Cloud’ has now become an integral part of the workplace lexicon. However it appears that Cloud use extends far beyond the scope of company IT departments. Between October and December last year California-based app analytics specialist Netskope carried out a study on the use of Cloud apps at US companies. The report reveals that IT department management underestimate the number of apps in use in their organisations by an average of 90%. This enormous discrepancy clearly indicates that staff in many different company departments are now using Cloud apps, probably because they are highly convenient. This practice does however pose serious problems for data security. It is extremely difficult to set up effective security protocols when the IT department is not even aware of who is using what Cloud apps inside the organisation.

Underestimating app use creates security issues                      

The Netskope report thus points to a real gap between the assumptions made by company IT departments and the reality of Cloud app use. Prior to the Netskope analysis, the IT managers surveyed by the report’s authors typically estimated that there were 40 to 50 Cloud applications running at their organisation. However the results of the analysis showed an average of close to 400. Storage applications such as Google Drive and Dropbox are among the most popular, but Twitter actually takes the number one spot for in-house app use. Perhaps even more striking is the number of Human Resources Cloud apps per enterprise. HR apps are the number two category, averaging 35 apps per company surveyed, behind Marketing with 51 apps. However, warns Netskope, 77% of the Cloud apps being used inside companies are not ‘enterprise-ready’, meaning they are rated ‘medium’ or below according to Netskope’s ″objective measure of cloud apps’ security, auditability and business continuity,” states the report.

Enhanced role for IT departments                              

In contrast with IT tools used in the past, which were intentionally put in place by the IT department, it seems clear that the use of Cloud apps goes hand-in-hand with the move towards more informal digital practices at companies. Employees’ familiarity with the online world means they are adept at using  digital tools, but using apps which have not been tested and approved by IT can make the company very vulnerable to data leaks. Data protection specialist Ponemon Institute recently reported that 90% of organisations admit to losing control of sensitive content in Cloud file-sharing apps. One must conclude that the current shift in companies’ relationships with digital tools requires a corresponding change in the role of IT departments. IT should no longer be regarded as a compartmentalised support function. IT management should instead be taking a proactive approach to keeping track of what is actually happening in the workplace.

By Quentin Capelle