What Shadow IT means for your organisation

Shadow IT represents any technology spend that occurs outside of and without input from the IT department. An estimated one-third of all technology spending falls under this category.

The rise of Shadow IT is as harmful as it is inevitable. Tech savviness is no longer concentrated within the IT department. As more and more digital natives enter the workforce, the demands on the IT department, and business as a whole, are changing. These new users want technology to enable their work, and in many cases they don’t understand why they have a much richer and more robust computing experience at home than at work. They demand to, for example, bring their own devices (such as mobile phones) to work…so why not bring their own IT solutions too?

The cloud has also made it easier than ever to identify and consume IT resources. Implementations that used to take an army of consultants and a matter of years can now be done in a fraction of the time with nothing more than a credit card. Today’s business leaders are armed with the ability to bypass IT.

Causes of Shadow IT

At its core, Shadow IT results from a disconnect between IT and the business. The business believes that IT is being unreasonable in not adapting to its needs, and IT thinks the business is sacrificing long-term environmental stability at the altar of short-term needs.

Often, Shadow IT grows in an organisation from certain potential factors:

  1. IT does not respect its users. We have all seen IT departments that treat users as an inconvenience, and if IT does not show a willingness to engage and cooperate with the user base, the users will find solutions on their own.
  2. IT isn’t innovative. As mentioned earlier, users are more technically savvy than ever before. They have rich computing experiences at home, and they are able to encounter new and powerful IT paradigms through social media. If IT doesn’t deliver innovation, it’s not surprising to see users discover and seek the innovation on their own.
  3. IT is expensive. If your IT department is bloated with bureaucracy, or projects constantly find themselves over time and over budget, users will run out of patience, especially when external providers can deliver powerful Shadow IT with just a few clicks and a credit card.
  4. IT isn’t flexible. Some IT departments can develop a siege mentality, in which any suggestions for improvement are dismissed simply because they differ from “how things were always done.” Users are only human; they will tire of a can’t-do attitude and seek alternative solutions.
  5. IT is too slow. Before the digital age took over all aspects of business and life, it was more defensible for IT departments to deliver solutions more slowly. These days, if the time to deal with requests can be measured with a calendar, users will look to a company that can provide them solutions quickly.

Risks of Shadow IT

Shadow IT has many logical explanations with reasonable causes, but it also presents risks for the average organisation.

The biggest and most obvious risk is data security. Each cloud service has its own data protection and retention practices, and these might not match with your organisation’s requirements, even if the service itself meets your needs. For example, the cloud service might not encrypt data, either at rest or in transit. The cloud service might even have rigid terms of service that entitle it, at least in theory, to your company’s intellectual property.

If an employee who used a Shadow IT service ends up leaving the company, he or she could still have access to the cloud service, which might have important data both for your organisation and its clients. This is a major risk to the company’s long-term client retention and its reputation in the industry.

Tribal knowledge is another key risk of Shadow IT. Even if the credentials don’t leave with a certain employee, the knowledge of how to utilise the service might leave when a certain employee decides to move on. This could render the shadow service completely useless.

Fixing Shadow IT

Fortunately Shadow IT is not the end of the world (or your business). While it is unavoidable, embracing and managing it is certainly helpful in reducing the risk of negative impact and ensuring that all uses of technology create value for your organisation – whether it was approved or not.

If you are looking for a quick guide on addressing issues caused by Shadow IT, check out our 5 Step Plan of Attack on Shadow IT.

The most important way to combat Shadow IT is to engage with your users as active partners, rather than an annoyance or a hindrance. Opening lines of dialogue, such as what DevOps encourages, can strengthen the bond between IT and the business and bolster each side’s sense of common purpose. This could in time eliminate the need for Shadow IT solutions.

The IT department has many core competencies, including standards, process, and best practices. For the long term, it would be easier for an IT department or a Managed IT Services Provider to sit down and develop objective standards for any external cloud service, against which the business can gauge a proposed solution, rather than treating each request as an ad hoc. As a result, IT can still become the overall arbiter of technology, as well as the keeper of standards and best practices. It’s a departure from the historical “we build everything” idea, and a great way for IT to fit into the paradigms of modern day business.

Conclusion

Shadow IT was the result of numerous factors and developments over the past decades, including increased technical knowledge among end-users and increased gatekeeping and inertia from IT. A new sense of partnership, and a promulgation of key standards and best practices, can allow the IT department to embrace the new reality and bring business tech out of the shadows.


Do you have concerns about Shadow IT in your organisation? Chat to us today on 1300 302 207 or send us a message here.

Track, secure and control corporate devices under one single system

The Interlinked Mobile Device Management (MDM) service allows you to manage and secure the increasing volume and diversity of both ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) and corporate-owned devices.

Here’s a quick overview of our MDM solutions powered by Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security products, and how Interlinked can help your business stay in control:

To learn more about protecting and controlling your business devices, contact us today.

Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme – Quick Facts & Answers

Australia’s Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) Scheme went into effect recently in February 2018.

Cyber security is now more important to Australian businesses than ever, and IT leaders can expect questions and concerns from key stakeholders about what the new laws mean for their organisation.

Here are some easy-to-understand answers to the most common questions, or simply download our NDB Fact Sheet.

Who does the new Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme affect?

Australia’s Data Notification Law came into effect on February 22, 2018. It applies to businesses governed under the Privacy Act 1988 – including any with annual turnovers of $3 million, or businesses that collect and store sensitive user information like payment or personal data. If a data breach will likely result in “serious harm” to individuals, whether reputation, finances, or safety, you are required to notify the relevant parties. Failure to do so can incur fines of up to $1.8 million.

How big is the impact?

According to the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Global Study by Ponemon Institute, 1 in 4 organisations with top cyber security defences still experience data breaches. 90% of a cyber attack’s bottom-line impact is felt up to two years after an attack. It is important to recognise that data breaches are not an “if” scenario, but “when”. The new data breach laws add hefty fines and heightened public scrutiny on top of many other consequences of a breach, including: loss of sales and contracts, compromised IP, and legal action. Customers and shareholders will hold business leaders responsible for non-compliance with these laws.

What do we do when a breach is detected?

Verified breaches must be reported to the Australian Information Commissioner and all affected individuals, along with descriptions of
the breach, the nature of any compromised information, and recommendations to individuals on what they should do next. The law gives organisations only 30 days to investigate any suspected breach, or plug any possible data loss, before notification is required.

How can you protect your business against breaches?

Monitor your networks. According to the Cost of Data Breach Global Study, it takes an average of six months to discover a data breach. It’s critical to have a robust monitoring system not only to help you and your team identify and stop threats more consistently, but also to make compliance with data breach notification laws much simpler. The more visibility you have into your data and networks, the easier it is to give details to regulators and the public if a breach occurs.

Download our NDB Fact Sheet for quick sharing with your business leaders and colleagues.

Have concerns or want to learn more about the NDB Scheme? Contact Interlinked today.

Is your data backup solution up to date?

Data backup technology has drastically evolved throughout the past decade to meet the rapidly increasing amount of business data.

Here’s a look at the latest in our backup solutions and how Interlinked can help your business get back up & running in a matter of seconds:

At Interlinked, we specialise in no hassle automated backup plans that offer cost effective data protection to ensure business continuity.

To learn more about protecting your business data, contact us today.

The latest BI trends

BI technology is an increasingly sophisticated selection of tools, using a wide range of disciplines. It’s a field that’s constantly evolving – here are some top BI trends over the past year:

Data discovery and visualisation

According to the Top Business Intelligence Trends 2017 report, visualisation and explorative data analysis (known as data discovery) for business users have become some of the most important trends in BI.

The increasing variety of data available today needs more efficient and user-oriented methods of presentation, according to the report. Visualisations help people quickly digest the most relevant information at a glance.

Master data and data quality management

With master data and data quality management, users can make the right decisions based on accurate data. The aim of master data management is to integrate and exchange data from customer, supplier or product master data across multiple systems.

Self-Service BI

Another BI trend coming to the fore is self-service BI, manifesting itself as an ever-growing demand from business users for ad hoc reporting, analysis and flexibility. But this demand for BI data to be available anytime, anywhere, and on any device is putting pressure on IT as enterprises are increasingly allowing users to build and design their own reports, models and queries.

Embedded BI

Businesses are increasingly embedding BI and analytics closer to where people work. This year, expect to see analytics put into the hands of people who aren’t BI specialists, such as shop workers, call centre staff and even truck drivers. This embedded BI extends analytics to people who may not even realise they are using it.

More BI in the cloud

BI and analytics are moving into the cloud and is fast becoming a mainstream practice. The concept of data gravity (data pulls in more data), means that analytics is deployed where data lives. As such, with the availability of cloud-based data warehouses, the need for analytics in the cloud becomes greater as it represents a faster and more scalable solution to organisations.

Artificial business intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play an increasingly important role in business intelligence. The increasing amount of data available to businesses will mean there is no time to sift through all of it to find trending and patterns. There will also be little time produce reports.

According to a report by Hitachi Solutions, this is leading to the rise in use of machine learning, “where data structures can be integrated with decision trees so that executives can access the data they need, when they want it, in the channel that they prefer instead of relying on a secondary resources and static reporting”.


This is Part 2 of our Business Intelligence series. Please see below for links to all parts of the series.

Part 1: Introduction to Business Intelligence – Use Business Intelligence (BI) as your competitive advantage

Part 2: The latest BI trends

Part 3: BI in Action: use of BI in the Healthcare Industry

Empower your BI today with Interlinked – learn more here.

Powerful features in Microsoft Office 365

Take advantage of the Microsoft Office 365 cloud suite with Interlinked’s free IT assessment. We will complete a full analysis report of your hardware, software and business needs and assess the compatibility of your IT environment with Office 365.

Team collaboration and documentation control

 SharePoint in Office 365 have introduced “co-authoring” where you can collaborate with as many people as you want on documents online. You can physically see the changes as they are being made.

To use this feature:

  1. Click on the top right where it says “share”
  2. Search and invite people to edit the document

Or

  1. Click on the top right where it says “share”
  2. Copy the share link found in the “share dropdown” option and send it to whoever you’d like collaborating on the document

To communication with all the editors:

  1. Click on “email everyone”

OR

  1. Click on “stop sharing”

Link files through email

 Instead of attaching the file to your email, Office 365 allows you to directly link to the file.

By emailing the direct link to the recipient, you give the recipient permission to edit and change the file.

Your notes will appear in your Outlook calendar

You can migrate your OneNote to-do list or planning project into your Outlook calendar. By migrating, you will have the ability to set up reminders, deadlines and keep on track.

To create Outlook tasks in OneNote:

  1. Select the words you like from your pre-made list of tasks
  2. In the menu that appears, click on “Outlook Tasks”
  3. Choose when you want to be reminded
  4. Search in “find tags” for your specific tasks
  5. Once your task is complete, you can click the tag to mark it as complete

 No more email clutter

Microsoft has introduced a folder in Outlook called “Clutter” which can be found in your “Inbox”. By moving less important emails, it will learn and adapt to the pattern to decipher which are important and no so important emails.

The emails will not be deleted and can be viewed at any time.

 Remove yourself out of “reply-all” email conversations

There is now an option called “ignore conversation” where you can remove yourself from “reply-all” emails. The emails will automatically be transferred into your “Deleted Items” folder.

To remove yourself out of “reply-all” email conversations:

  1. Choose an email conversation
  2. Click on “ignore” button in the top left navigation bar

Edit PDF

 You can edit a PDF document in Word:

  1. Choose PDF
  2. Go to “file”
  3. Click on “open in Word”

Contact us today for your free assessment.

 

Security in the Cloud

When updating IT solutions, security is an immediate problem that comes to mind alongside cost and time.

In a previous post , we mentioned the outstanding security measures and procedures built into Azure. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at the security risks associated with public, private, and on-premises solutions. When building your IT solution, you’ll be choosing between them.

With good security measures in place, the location of your data matters less than how you access it. This is where securing networks, restricting access, and monitoring access come into play.

Below we explore some of the risks and benefits associated with each of your cloud options!

PUBLIC CLOUD SOLUTIONS

Risks Benefits
  • Data is stored on a shared server and maintained by provider
  • Users agree to terms of use and providers have access to data on servers
  • Network outages: Relies on access to internet in order for access to your data
  • Difficult to see where the data resides
  • Providers notify users of security breaches
  • For non-sensitive data, it’s cheap and easy to set-up
  • Can scale up or down as needed and pay accordingly
  • No cost of ownership, maintenance or upgrades – just operating cost

 PRIVATE CLOUD SOLUTION

Risks Benefits
  • Data can be stored off prem, in a partitioned server owned by a host
  • Existing security tools can be affected when data volume increases
  • Meeting compliance requirements changes with two different regulatory environments
  • Replicate servers and data in even of disaster recovery
  • Configure on-prem and cloud servers can communicate on a private network.
  • Securely scale up or down as needed, including during maintenance

 HYBRID/ ON-PREM SOLUTIONS

Risks Benefits
  • Siloed data can’t be recovered in the event of hardware damage or corruption
  • Employees can threaten security with malicious intent or misunderstanding
  • ·May take time to notice security breaches, leaving you vulnerable
  • Security is under your discretion, as are your employees
  • Complete ownership of data and server
  • Easier compliance with industry regulations

Take the time to examine your IT and understand if it meets the security standards that concern you right now. This step is the most important way to decide what you need from a cloud solution. If you need help, assessments are a great step towards identifying vulnerabilities, the best solutions, and migration-ready workloads.

Contact us for an assessment to build a more secure IT future!

Think Ahead with Azure!

Businesses can’t ask where they want to be in 5 years without considering where they want their tech to be as well.

The way we handle our IT solutions has a direct impact on how we handle business, growth, and disaster.
How do we build solutions now that will work later? By building solutions that can evolve over time!

The need to build forward-thinking solutions with existing hardware is why understanding Azure is key to your next step. In last week’s post, we talked about “Why Azure?”, discussing why Azure is our cloud solution of choice and the merits of its security, support and cost. This post, we’re getting a little more technical and talking about IaaS and PaaS, the two basic services Azure offers users.

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud platform.
Users can buy service for storage, hosting, or running application on-demand from its global network of datacenters houses servers, storage, and software. It supports the largest number of operating systems, devices, databases languages, and tools.  Azure’s primary options are IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service)

 

IaaS: What you get

 

Why it matters

 

How to use it

 

  • No on-premises server that you have to manage and maintain:
  • Access to Microsoft datacenters, servers, storage and software.
  • Run your applications, operating system, and manage your data
  • Increased security
  • Business as usual if on-premises servers fail
  • Hybrid IT options (on-premises and off)
  • Cost + flexibility
  • Scalability for growth and/or use
  • Increase your blob storage and power
  • Create hybrid solution for on-premises and off
  • Integrate Azure with your IT and use as much or as little cloud as you need.
  • Add security through secure private connections, data residency, and encryption features
  • Disaster recovery: have data on site and in the cloud

 

 

PaaS: What you get

 

Why it matters

 

How to use it

  • Off-premises platform for building, testing, deploying, and managing cloud based applications
  • Development tools, business analytics features, and workflow, security, or scheduling features
  • Ability to provide the CPU, memory, and storage for applications as-needed
  • IaaS benefits +
  • Cut development time for applications
  • Add development capabilities
  • Application lifecycle management
  • Improve remote development
  • Manage you service/product while PaaS handles your network and infrastructure.
  • Improve development, testing, and deployment speed
  • Streamline development, deployment, and management through one platform instead of buying software licenses for each application
  • Improve access and stability by scaling usage as needed

MAKING MOVES

Depending on your business, one of the above may be more appealing than the other. Learning about both should help you see how your current solutions can benefit from Azure’s features.

Even for those of us with infrastructure in place, there are excellent options to leverage our on-site assets, benefit from off-site infrastructure and still be thinking 5 years ahead.

You can also contact us with questions or to discuss an azure-readiness assessment!

Why Azure?

As a Managed Services Provider, we work with customers to select the best services to support their IT and make it secure.
It’s our job to know the difference between a trend and solutions worth adopting.

In this cloud market, we’re an MSP that recommends Microsoft Azure.

They’re an efficient, secure, flexible, and cost-effective method for data storage and IT infrastructure. How those solutions are delivered is where do our best work. Building the right cloud solution for your business is how you get the most out of the cloud at the best cost, with the least hassle. Whether beginning your move to the cloud or building out an existing solution, we’ll tell you why we think Azure is the best foundation for your custom cloud solution.

Azure’s Security outstrips its competitors by taking an “assume breach” approach to its cloud. Its focus on compliance, privacy, and threat detection are hard to beat. Answer the following questions and see if your security stacks up to the features we list below.

“What does your security look like? Who runs it and what does it protect?” Does it match:

  • 24/7 global incident response team monitoring servers
  • Certificate and Private Key Management
  • Encryption protected communications
  • Identity and access management
  • Firewalls, partitioned Local Area Networks, and Network Security Groups
  • Intrusion detection and distributed denial of service

If you’re interested in a technical summary of 10 critical security functions Azure uses, you can learn more here.  For an overview of even more security features, click here.
In terms of privacy, Azure adheres to the international standard for cloud privacy, ISO 27018, publishes transparency reports, and publishes law enforcement guidelines. Microsoft also tells users about government data requests and requires a warrant for content.

A lot of customers worry about compliance, but Azure offers guidelines for compliance by service, location, and industry. No matter what Azure option you choose, there’s help.

Azure offers a wide range of support. We don’t just mean technical or billing support when you need it. IT support comes in the form of automatic patches, security updates, and upgrades. For running workloads, Azure supports the broadest number of cloud solutions, operating systems, software, development languages, and devices.

Azure integrates with existing Microsoft licenses, SQL servers, and Sharepoint. It also supports different OS, development languages, frameworks and third party technologies.

Cost is up to you. Since Azure is a cloud, you pay for what you’re using and can use more or less. It’s important to work with a professional if you’re looking to build the most cost-efficient model for your business, as some workloads may be more expensive than others.

The ability to research, right-size, ultimately build a secure, efficient and cost-conscious infrastructure makes this a worthwhile move for many—especially when compared to the maintenance and service costs of running infrastructure on-premises. Some customers are worried that switching to Azure will mean moving everything they have and stop their search there. Not only is this untrue, but it misses the opportunity to explore the different Azure options for storage, infrastructure, and deployment. Plus, it’s a huge missed opportunity to develop better disaster recovery and preparedness.

Next week, we’ll start thinking ahead with Azure and look at two forms of Azure that help customers understand what they’re looking for.

Until then, we’re all about learning more with you. Contact us with questions or read the links in the article to learn more today!

Password Statistics

Statistics: How does your password compare? [Infographic]

When was the last time you changed your password?

According to a recent survey of 2,000 people, almost three-quarters use the same exact password for more than one account. About 40% of people have had an online account hacked, a password stolen, or their personal information compromised. Despite this, they’re still using weak, old or duplicated passwords that can be easily stolen or hacked.

How can you make sure your online accounts are safe? This infographic below from TeleSign tells us some compelling statistics about password safety, common password mistakes, and how to protect your online accounts with more than merely a password.

Passwords Infographic

For further tips and examples on choosing a secure password, see our post “Is your password asking to be hacked?”