Employees Engage in Rogue Cloud Use Regardless of Security Policies

Studies show that employees are engaging in rogue use of the cloud, even when IT organizations say they have clear formal cloud policies and penalties for violation of the policies.

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Tue, November 13, 2012

CIO — Employees are increasingly turning to the cloud to get their work done, whether IT has a policy about cloud use or not, according to research studies by Symantec and cloud backup provider Symform.

"I don't think IT realizes how much the way we live life as individuals has completely permeated the enterprise," says Margaret Dawson, vice president of product management at Symform. "This is happening whether you want it to or not."

Analysis: Does 'Shadow IT' Lurk in Your Company?

In a survey of about 500 companies across a range of industries and sizes, Symform found that nearly 20 percent of businesses have no clear security policies or standards around employee or departmental use of cloud. Of the 39 percent of IT organizations that say they are not using the cloud, 65 percent said they allow employees or teams to use cloud services and 35 percent allow employees to put company data in cloud applications.

"This research validates how cloud applications and services are being purchased and managed increasingly by non-IT departments and illustrates the need for IT to reclaim control from a policy and governance standpoint while still enabling the business to benefit from the cloud's agility and cost effectiveness," Dawson says. "I always advise IT leaders to be the centralized source of all IT policy, vendor criteria, compliance management and the definition of 'trust' for their organizations. Cloud usage is inevitable, but loss of control is not."

Employees Frequently Go Rogue When It Comes to Cloud

Even when organizations do have formal policies around cloud use, employees frequently make an end-run around IT. Symantec conducted a survey of 111 knowledge workers and 165 IT managers in November and found a significant disconnect between employee behavior and IT policy when it comes to cloud applications at work.

According to Symantec, even though the majority of IT managers report their organization has formal policies for cloud use, 71 percent of employees do not think there is a policy to control their use of cloud applications in at least one category (online email/communications, file sharing, online storage or backup, productivity apps or contact manager apps). And 28 percent of employees don't know of a policy for any of the categories.

No matter the type of cloud application, many employees say they never go around IT and use cloud applications outside of policy, but IT says it's much more common than employees admit. For instance, only 69 percent of employees admit they go rogue with cloud-based email/communications, while IT reports 88 percent of employees go rogue. Cloud-based storage or backup apps lead to some of the biggest discrepancies: 38 percent of employees admit to rogue use of such applications, while IT says 81 percent of employees engage in rogue use of those services.

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