Shadow IT: Questionable practice in a business context
The vast majority of computer users routinely use cloud services of some description. Whether it’s a Gmail account or a file transfer service, almost all of us use free cloud-based tools. This might be OK for personal use, however, in a business context, such an approach is highly questionable. Why?
Whatever the core business activity of a firm, fast growth is a nice problem to have. Although the doomsayers warn of the problems of rapid uncontrolled growth, such as resourcing gaps and overstretching with too many commitments, these are challenges that should be well within the capability of a company governed with good management practice.
The issue of passwords is something of an evergreen problem for technology users. People often choose obvious, simple passwords that are easy to remember. Research has shown that a group of 10,000 words are used by 98.8% of people as passwords. This means that a hacker with software written for the purpose could automate the process of trying every one of these, something known as a ‘brute force’ attack, and would be certain of being able to hack into almost 99 out of every 100 accounts.
If the writing isn’t quite on the wall the signs may well be there!
In many firms, IT is a tricky area. It’s complex, costly and impossible to ignore. It needs continual vigilance and good oversight to make sure it functions well. One of the biggest headaches is support.
We’ve all been there, particularly when dealing with personal consumer affairs. We are unhappy with the service we receive from a great big company that we deal with, like a telecoms provider, an energy supplier or an e-commerce giant. We try to get the company to rectify the situation, we may often find that we are still not satisfied that the outcome is fair.
That’s a slightly provocative title for this blog. After all, there are two elements here. ‘IT’ refers to the technical bit, the ‘hard’ skills, while ‘Support’ speaks to the ‘soft’ skills of dealing with people, the context of any problem and managing it through to resolution.
For any given problem to be resolved within an acceptable time-frame requires the support person to be able to deliver on both counts equally well.
So why do we make the assertion that there is a greater emphasis on Support skills rather than IT skills?
Today’s tablets are powerful, flexible and handy computing devices. It’s hard to think that the first tablet to gain popular mainstream acceptance, the original Apple iPad, only debuted on April 3rd 2010.
Since then the market has exploded with devices from the big hardware manufacturers as well as those from hundreds of new market entrant brands. There are a lot of size options and the smallest 3/4G capable ones blur the line between the phone and the tablet – quite literally where does the tablet end and the smartphone begin?
Tablet computers are ubiquitous and seem to have conquered practically all markets. But can you run a business from one?
In a company of perhaps 20 people or so, many will have taken the view that staff numbers mean there is enough work to recruit an IT manager. However, what do you do before you reach this size?
Many small companies choose to engage external consultants to provide hands-on support. Often these are solo operators, one-man bands. While they may be competent and well-intentioned, there are a number of inherent problems which may prevent them from responding with the appropriate service levels you need to run your business.
One of the key HR concepts in business is to avoid person dependence. Many businesses have experienced difficulties resulting from the inability to access vital skills and expertise, from specific individuals, relied on to deliver services to clients and customers.
IT security is one of the biggest concerns of our time. It might be identity theft from individuals or the hacking of business and corporate networks on an industrial scale by unscrupulous nation states trying to obtain commercial IP or military secrets. Whatever the threat, securing networks against attack is high priority for IT teams.
Besides viruses, malware and hacking, if we look at other factors that impact operational availability of business dependent IT systems, then there are a range of issues which need to be addressed.
Server status and Windows Services, disk space and database sizes are all factors that could influence a business-critical failure. Storage and back up, the availability of network devices, satellite offices and websites are all hugely relevant.