IT Tips & Tricks

Published 9 November 2021

Shadow IT: The Invisible Enemy?

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If you’ve ever found yourself questioning your career path following a migration, we get it. The chaos can be overwhelming, particularly if data has gone missing, resulting in downtime or end-users that think that emailing you every five seconds is helpful in any way. Or, heaven forbid, Bob, down in the purchasing department, calls you and is puzzled that he can’t seem to find his “stuff”, so you go down to see Bob. And end up wishing you hadn’t. Bob, Sid and Lorraine, you decide, are everything that is wrong in this world.

Lorraine, it transpires, isn’t “comfortable” on her office computer, so she brings in her own laptop and saves all her work to her personal iCloud account. It’s enough to make your eye twitch.

Sid doesn’t understand the “newfangled” accounting software, so he’s been creating invoices and receipts in Word. Oh, that’s definitely some eye twitching that’s getting started.

How do you fight an invisible foe?

And Bob? Well, to his credit, Bob does understand the newfangled accounting software, but he’s been saving all his work onto a flash drive, in case he needs to work from home. You take a look at what’s on that flash drive and realize that he’s got a zillion files linked to company accounts and spreadsheets, but the links are all broken, which is why Bob can’t find his “stuff.” And now your eye is twitching so bad, you’re scared it’s going to plop right out of your head. Oh, boy.

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Emergency situations sometimes demand emergency solutions, but there should be transparency between the host department and central IT.

Just for a minute, let’s put Bob, Sid and Lorraine aside, and imagine you’ve stumbled across a new online computer game. You are suited-up and armed to the teeth. You and your co-players confidently enter a battlefield. You scour the terrain and discover there’s not another living soul out there, just you and your men. And then your men start dropping like flies. But how? And why? It turns out there’s an invisible enemy, silently slaughtering your crowd. You can’t see them and there’s zero indication on your screen as to how many enemies you’re facing.

The smartest, most survival-oriented move would be to exit that battlefield while you still can. Once exited, you might contemplate whether or not you want to play a game where victory is virtually impossible. Seriously, what’s the point? How do you fight an invisible foe?

That’s pretty much the dilemma IT departments face when it comes to shadow IT. Individuals and various departments within the organization are responsible for its creation, but the IT department is responsible for its discovery and relocating it in the event of a data migration, for example.

You’re probably completely familiar with the issues presented by shadow IT, but just in case an IT greenhorn stumbles across this article, we’re going to offer a quick 101-type summary.

Shadow IT 101

Shadow IT refers to IT systems installed by departments other than the central IT department. Generally, this occurs when the department in question feels they need a work-around to what they perceive as the shortcomings of the central information system. They then acquire independent IT resources, which they believe better suit their specific needs. This may occur as a one-off in an emergency-type situation, or it may be the daily norm. It isn't uncommon for resourceful departments to hire IT engineers and purchase or even develop software themselves, without knowledge, buy-in, or supervision from a centralized IT department.

35 percent of employees felt that in order to work most efficiently, they had to find ways to work around a security measure or protocol.

Friend or Foe?

There are both benefits and drawbacks to shadow IT. In most organizations, the pervasiveness of shadow systems results in a seriously fragmented application landscape, where consistency, security and governability are forfeited in order to achieve the necessary level of business agility, whether for the purpose of innovation or mere survival.

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Sometimes, a department needs more control than central IT systems offer.

The main benefit of shadow IT, whether the central IT department likes it or not, is the increased agility and control it gives to the host department. Shadow IT systems are frequently a source of innovation and may, in fact, become prototypes for central IT solutions.

While attempting to prevent shadow IT may be perceived as improving organizational security, it frequently has the inverse effect, as identified in a 2007 study by EMC. This study confirmed that 35 percent of employees felt that in order to work most efficiently, they had to find ways to work around a security measure or protocol. Apart from that, 63 percent sent documents to their home email address so that they could work from home, even though they were aware that it was probably not strictly allowed. And then, of course, there are the Bobs, Sids and Lorraines of this world and even thinking about it makes your eye twitch.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject of shadow IT, it should be acknowledged that the success of any data migration is going to be seriously impeded if a shadow IT system, the invisible foe, is unknown to the IT department. We therefore strongly urge open communication and transparency, which simply makes everyone’s life easier. In reality, this translates to finding the equivalent of Bob and his crew in your organization. Who is doing or using what to get their job done? How hinky-jinky is it?

Knowledge is power, we’re told, so, no matter how badly this process stresses you out or makes your eye twitch, you need to know. It pains us as much to say this as it’s going to hurt you to do it, but you need to go forth and discover. A caution: If you actually physically face-palm yourself at every instance of craziness you find, you’re going to be black and blue. Restraint, friend, will keep you “purdy.”

Migration Mission

So, you’ve identified your invisible foe and you’re good to go. All that remains is to get that data safely migrated. Unless you have a penchant for complaining end-users, downtime and grumpily glaring bosses, the one obstacle you need to avoid is lost or missing data. You’re probably aware that one of the most common causes of missing data is the file links that are broken during the migration process. Think of Bob and all his missing “stuff.” And cover that eye. It’s getting out of control. You’ve probably also got more than enough on your plate without having to worry about that as well. Finding a tool that will take care of it for you is the smart choice.

The pervasiveness of shadow systems results in a seriously fragmented application landscape.

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Nobody wants their data going “poof” during a migration. LinkFixer Advanced safeguards your data against loss due to broken file links.

LinkFixer Advanced is the patented powerhouse you want on your side. Deployed prior to your migration, you’ll never have to worry about missing data due to broken links. If your migration is already complete, LinkFixer Advanced can rapidly repair any broken links you may have, whether they number in the hundreds or thousands, consequently restoring that lost or missing data. And it does it fast.

For further information, visit LinkTek.com or speak to a friendly Service Consultant at 727-442-1822 for more details on the other way it can be utilized. LinkFixer Advanced: Your weapon of choice on the migration battlefield.

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