"You can't manage what you can't see" is a popular saying in the network industry. Historically, it's been used for traditional network management, with the thought being that one can't fix a problem on the network without having visibility into the applications, traffic flows, and infrastructure.
Recently, though, the meaning of that phrase has changed as "shadow IT" has become increasingly popular. Shadow IT is when lines of business or individual users purchase their own cloud services without any involvement in IT. The problem today is very real. An interesting data point to support this comes from a ZK Research report that showed that 96% of organizations claim to be running cloud applications that are not sanctioned by IT (disclosure: I am an employee of ZK Research).
I also find that the magnitude of the problem that IT departments are dealing with is much greater than anyone realizes. I worked with several companies last year that did audits to discover how many cloud applications were being accessed by employees, and in every case, the estimation by IT was off by an order of magnitude. The extreme case was from a CIO that guessed there were about 30 cloud services procured via shadow IT, but in actuality there were more than 600.
This week, Cisco launched a new service to help IT deal with this challenge. Cisco's Cloud Consumption as a Service (CCaaS, not to be confused with contact center as a service) is geared to help small and midsize businesses discover and monitor the use of public cloud services across the company (disclosure: Cisco is a client of ZK Research).
The service will sell for a mere $1 to $2 per user per month, depending on the number of employees, and will be available through Cisco resellers so the IT department can procure it through the same avenue it buys all of its other Cisco gear from.
Unlike some of the other cloud discovery tools that just provide the name of the service, Cisco's CCaaS includes analytics, benchmarking, security risks, and Dun and Bradstreet information to give an indication of the financial stability of the cloud service provider.
Armed with the right information, IT can make better decisions on what to do with the cloud services. For example, if the company discovers that a large number of users are all paying for a certain service on a personal credit card and expensing it back to the company, the organization could approach the cloud provider about a discount for volume purchasing.
A real-life example, provided by Cisco, is CityMD, an urgent care organization with 50 facilities across New York and New Jersey. Using the CCaS service, CityMD found employees were using over 500 cloud services, with IT only supporting 15 to 20. The service provided the organization with full visibility into cloud usage, enabling it to make an informed decision about the services that are right for it and what the risks are. The doctors want fast results so they turned to the cloud, but with the information of cloud usage at their disposal the IT department can be a more effective partner to the business groups. Now the doctors can have the services they want, and IT can ensure the appropriate security and compliance measures are in place.
Shadow IT is here to stay, and it is now a reality that all enterprises need to learn to deal with. How an organization responds depends on the level of risk it is willing to take. The new CCaaS service from Cisco gives the IT department the right information to make an informed decision.