The cloud is streamlining operations for businesses of all sizes. It offers on-demand, distributed access to the information and services that businesses rely on, fuelling new business models, increasing efficiency and therefore helping companies generate extra revenue. When used for file sync and share purposes, the cloud greatly improves the way in which lines of business operate, supporting instant collaboration between staff, and enabling sharing with customers.

Despite these benefits, business cloud adoption is often behind where employees would like it to be. As a result, employees find themselves turning to shadow IT – unsanctioned consumer IT solutions which undermine the security and control of businesses’ IT departments.

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Shadow IT usage in businesses

How businesses store and share information is one of the biggest headaches for CIOs and IT departments, and can lead to serious security and compliance issues. If staff store and share corporate information using shadow IT services, there is an increased probability of security breaches. This is because businesses lose visibility of who has access to certain files, which means they are unable to control their content.

However, the proliferation of shadow IT into the enterprise is largely the result of business users trying to find the best way to do their jobs. CIOs need to protect their companies from potentially negative impacts, and enable staff to operate at maximum efficiency whilst using the best technology to do so. The challenge is striking a balance between empowering staff to be autonomous and efficient and ensuring the company remains secure.

CIOs need to protect their companies

The integrity and privacy of a business’ information requires a secure, end-to-end cloud solution. Overlooking the security architecture of the chosen solution can cause a company to incur significant costs – not just in financial terms, but for a company’s brand, reputation and growth capacity.

A five-pronged security strategy

To satisfy the individual user and business as a whole, IT needs to introduce cloud agility combined with the security of on-premises storage. This should be underpinned by a five-pronged security strategy that targets the security of users, devices, networks, data centres and content. This helps IT monitor the behaviour of its whole business to help reduce rogue applications and risky file-sharing behaviours.

Furthermore, because a business needs file sync and share services to keep up with demands and competitive pressures, it is important to deploy a solution that can adapt to changing security and compliance criteria quickly and easily. A pure-cloud (cloud only) file-sharing solution is limited to a single environment that is not flexible enough to adapt to evolving regulations and different security needs. A hybrid solution, where business can choose whether their data resides in a public cloud, data centre or on premises, enables businesses to be adaptive and store their data in the most appropriate manner. Recent changes to the US-EU Safe Harbour regulations which determine how businesses from the US and EU must share and keep track of data, highlights the necessity for businesses to have an adaptive file sharing solution in place to meet the demands of new regulations.

Securing your business

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IT professionals have an opportunity to be viewed as a partner to business users vs. a disruptor. To encourage user adoption of cloud file services across the business, IT departments should seek solutions that are easy to use across all devices, and can be integrated with popular applications already used by the business. Understanding how users work will help reduce shadow IT whilst allowing employees to continue using their preferred enterprise applications to securely access the information they need, when they need it, regardless of where it is stored. Only then can businesses lift the over-shadowing threat of unsanctioned app usage and its implications on IT security.