The rapid rise of Shadow IT and SaaS sprawl

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Published: 31 January 2024

Reading time: 3 minutes

While most business leaders recognize the importance of strong IT teams and good cybersecurity policy, there are often hidden risks to look out for. 

Shadow IT has been around since the rise of personal smart devices and the internet but has evolved to become a bigger threat.

What is shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to the use of unauthorized technology at a company or organization, usually without the knowledge of the IT department. In practice, that might mean downloading a text editor that isn’t part of the software managed by IT, trying out the newest AI tool without IT testing it first, or using a personal phone instead of a company-owned phone. According to a recent study by Entrust, 77% of IT professionals are concerned about shadow IT becoming a significant issue. 

Additionally, over 65% of IT professionals report that the organization does not approve of their SaaS tools sprawl. SaaS sprawl refers to the uncontrolled proliferation of SaaS apps within an organization, resulting in increased costs, security concerns, and difficulties managing and organizing data. It is a digital pandemic that arises when a business uses a significant number of third-party SaaS apps that exceed the IT department’s scope and become unmanageable.

To counter the threats posed by shadow IT and SaaS sprawl, businesses must implement policies that provide better oversight of third-party applications while enforcing strict security measures within their organization.

Shadow IT and SaaS Increase: What’s Causing it?

  • Ease of Access and Adoption

The simplicity of acquiring and deploying SaaS applications has lowered the barriers to entry. This has allowed employees to quickly adopt new tools without the need for formal approval from IT departments.

  • Remote Work and BYOD Policies

The shift towards remote work and bring your own device (BYOD) policies have further fueled the growth of shadow IT and SaaS sprawl. Employees working from home or using personal devices seek tools and applications that help them stay productive and connected.

  • Rapid Technological Advancements

As technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, employees are constantly seeking out the latest and most innovative tools to stay ahead of the curve. This desire for cutting-edge solutions often leads to the adoption of unapproved applications, which then become part of the ever-growing shadow IT network:

Proactive Steps Businesses Can Take to Address Shadow IT

For all these reasons above, it is crucial to take proactive measures to mitigate risks and regain control of the technology landscape. Here are some steps businesses can take to address shadow IT in 2024 effectively:

  • Implement a Centralized SaaS Management Platform

A centralized SaaS management platform enables IT departments to maintain visibility and control over all software used within the organization. By consolidating application management into a single platform, businesses can more effectively monitor and manage their software landscape and cut down on shadow IT.

  • Strengthen Access Controls and Authentication

Implementing robust access controls and multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all applications helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and systems. This includes ensuring that only approved users have access to specific applications and that privileges are granted based on the principle of least privilege.

  • Foster Open Communication and Collaboration

Encouraging open communication between IT departments and end-users can help identify the reasons behind the adoption of unapproved applications. By understanding employees’ needs and pain points, businesses can better align their technology strategy with user requirements, reducing the likelihood of shadow IT.

  • Employee Training and Awareness

Educating employees on the risks associated with shadow IT and using approved applications is crucial for mitigating security threats. Regular training sessions and awareness campaigns can help reinforce organizational policies and promote a security-minded culture.

To conclude

Shadow IT and SaaS sprawl can significantly threaten your organization’s security, data protection policies and industry compliance. That’s why businesses must take proactive steps to address this issue head-on.



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