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Pros and Cons: Do-It-Yourself Approaches to Monitoring Shadow IT & Cloud Services

Shadow IT is estimated to be 20-40 percent beyond the traditional IT budget. The ease by which organizations can purchase apps and services from cloud service providers (CSP) contributes significantly to this spending. This is an eye-catching number worthy of investigation—not only to identify and reduce costs, but to discover business risks. So, it is no surprise that CIOs and CFOs have started projects to identify and monitor unknown CSPs.

I often get questions from customers asking if it is possible for IT to monitor cloud service usage and discover shadow IT using existing technologies, and what the pros and cons would be.

The first CSP monitoring approach I am asked about is the use of secure web gateways. A gateway captures and categorizes incoming web traffic and blocks malicious malware. The benefit of this approach is that the gateways are typically already in place. However, there are several limitations in relying exclusively on this approach. Gateways cannot differentiate between a traditional website and a CSP which might be housing business data. They also have no way of discerning whether a given CSP poses a compliance or business risk. Most importantly, to use gateways to track CSPs, IT would need to create and maintain a database of thousands of CSPs, and create a risk profile for each CSP in order to truly understand the specific service being consumed.

The second approach I get asked about is whether organizations can use NetFlow traffic to monitor CSPs. Many customers feel that they can build scripts in a short amount of time to capture usage. Simply answered, yes this can be done. But organizations would face a similar challenge as if they were using web gateways. To capture CSP traffic using NetFlow, IT would need to develop scripts to capture every CSP (numbering in the tens of thousands). Then identify how each CSP is being used, the risk profile of the CSP to an organization, and how much the CSP costs to project overall spend. This is just the beginning. An IT department would then need to build reporting capabilities to access the information as well as continually maintain the database; and apply resources to this undertaking on a monthly basis to ensure the database was current.

The good news, Cisco has done this work for our customers! We have developed Cloud Consumption Services to help organizations identify and reduce shadow IT. Using collection tools in the network, we can discover what cloud services are being used by employees across an entire organization. Cloud Consumption includes a rich database of CSPs and can help customers identify the risk profile of each CSP being accessed, and identify an organization’s overall cloud spend.

Cisco has helped many IT organizations discover their shadow IT. For example, we worked with a large public sector customer in North America who was struggling to embrace the cloud, but were concerned about business risks. Employees were pushing for cloud services to improve productivity when 90% of Internet traffic was blocked by the organization’s policy. Despite these restrictions, 220 cloud providers were being used already and less than 1% were authorized by IT. Leveraging Cloud Consumption Services, the customer was not only able to manage risk, but also authorize future cloud services based on employee needs in a controlled manner.

It is a good practice for every IT organization to understand how employees are using cloud services and monitor usage on an on-going basis. I encourage our customers to determine which approach would work best for their organization; otherwise they may face unknown business risks and costs.

To learn more about avoiding the pitfalls of shadow IT and how you manage cloud services, please register to attend an upcoming webinar on Dec 11, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. PT.

 

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Partner Voices: Cloud, Data Security, and Business Continuity with Cisco Cloud-Powered Solutions from TekLinks

November 20, 2014 at 7:30 am PST

Well we’re deep into football season, so I decided what better time to chat with David Powell, TekLinks Vice President of Managed & Cloud Services, than when his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide are fighting for a spot in the College Football Playoffs. (Meanwhile, my Wake Forest Demon Deacons are mired in their sixth straight losing season.)

In short, I thought a little distraction for David would be good for him, and he agreed to give me some insight into how TekLinks is ramping up data protection for their customers using Cisco Cloud-Powered Solutions.

Natural Threats

With all of the malware attacks in the world today, sometimes Mother Nature is still the biggest threat to data security. When a deadly tornado outbreak in April 2011 occurred, Peoples Bank of Cullman, AL, experienced firsthand how important it is to have a backup data center location for their core infrastructure. The TekLinks’ networking team was already watching the tornado’s activity via Skycam when they were alerted that the connectivity at all of the Peoples Banks in Cullman had gone out simultaneously.

The team’s suspicions were confirmed when they received word that the bank’s entire second floor was gone. However, the bank’s primary servers were still intact. Early the next morning, the bank’s CTO and technical staff transported the servers to one of TekLinks’ Birmingham data centers, where an entire team of TekLinks engineers were waiting to get their core servers re-cabled, properly powered up, and reconnected to the network. The TekLinks team worked around the clock with the bank’s IT staff to get the bank’s environment and online customer services back up in less than 36 hours after the incident. Read More »

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Securing Mobile Data in the Event of Device Loss or Theft

September 4, 2014 at 6:00 am PST

As a business or technical leader, you know you need to protect your company in a rapidly evolving mobile ecosystem. However, threats are not always obvious. As malware and attacks become more sophisticated over time, business decision makers must work with technical decision makers to navigate security threats in a mobile world.

This blog series, authored by Kathy Trahan, will explore the topic of enterprise mobility security from a situational level and provide insight into what leaders can do now to mitigate risk. To read the first post focused on securing device freedom, click here. The second post, available here, focused on the risks that come with mobile connections. Kathy’s third post outlined three top considerations leaders must consider when examining their current mobile data security plan. The fourth post in this series highlights how security compliance is necessary for real-time mobile data access. – Bret Hartman, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Cisco’s Security Technology Group

Many of us have experienced that panicked “oh no!” moment when we’ve misplaced a mobile device or worse, found out it was stolen. The stakes are raised even higher when a lost or stolen device is company issued, or a personal device an employee uses for business purposes and contains sensitive data.

According to a recent report, more than 3.1 million smart phones were stolen just in America last year alone. This same report revealed that 34% of people took no security measures at all to protect sensitive information – not even a simple four-digit password. 51% of end users use their smartphone to perform daily business activities.

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Summary: Mitigating Business Risks

Organizations are rapidly moving critical data into the cloud, yet they still have serious concerns about security and other business risks. Read Bob Dimicco’s blog to learn several important steps companies can take to mitigate the risks of cloud services, such as uncovering shadow IT, assessing data security, and instituting cloud-specific employee policies.

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Securing Mobile Data: What’s Your Plan?

July 24, 2014 at 7:00 am PST

As a business or technical leader, you know you need to protect your company in a rapidly evolving mobile ecosystem. However, threats are not always obvious. As malware and attacks become more sophisticated over time, business decision makers must work with technical decision makers to navigate security threats in a mobile world.

This blog series, authored by Kathy Trahan, will explore the topic of enterprise mobility security from a situational level and provide insight into what leaders can do now to mitigate risk. To read the first post focused on securing device freedom, click here. The second post, available here, focused on the risks that come with mobile connections. – Bret Hartman, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Cisco’s Security Technology Group

The Cisco Visual Networking Index revealed an obvious truth that none of us can deny—mobile data traffic is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping:

  • By 2018, over half of all devices connected to the mobile network will be “smart” devices
  • Tablets will exceed 15 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016
  • By the end of this year, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and by 2018, there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita

With the explosion in the number of smart mobile devices and employees increasingly taking advantage of BYOD, securing company and personal data in a world where the mobile endpoint is a new perimeter presents technical and legal challenges for organizational leaders.

What are some of the most prevailing challenges? The personal use of company-owned devices happens more frequently than IT may realize and a complex legal environment can leave both employees and IT confused on how personal privacy is being protected. It is important for human resources to weigh in here as well.

Read More »

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