As information technology expands and becomes more complex, there are inevitably going to be problems that arise for businesses that utilize data. Some issues are the result of hacks, cyber attacks, negligence and security shortcomings. Other concerns have to do with network capacity and speed. To be sure, these are problems that every IT department must deal with or else be faced with data loss and downtime.

However, there is another potentially negative side effect of IT's growth that businesses might actually harness, rather than allowing it to do harm. It's called shadow IT and it will only grow as more workers use their own laptops and mobile devices in the workplace.

The dangers of shadow IT
As company information is accessed through existing office technology, the data goes through a secure network and each device is accounted for in a manageable workflow. But that balance is upset when employees use outside devices, apps and cloud technology, creating a separate workflow, according to Apps Tech News. Once that happens, it becomes difficult for IT departments to secure data, track equipment and provide support for unapproved devices.

But there is another implication that shadow IT raises – that the existing equipment provided by the office is not adequate for the employees. If a company cannot provide state-of-the-art technology for its staff, those workers will likely prefer to work on their own chosen devices. That doesn't mean companies should ban employees from bringing their own devices – it means the business should either upgrade their equipment, or learn to manage the resulting shadow IT. As mobile platforms become more diverse, scalable and interconnected, bring your own device has become a legitimate option for a number of businesses. That's why they should learn to manage the resulting shadow IT.

How not to address shadow IT
When businesses go about managing their shadow IT, there are a few mistakes to avoid, according to TechRepublic. These include allowing shadow IT devices to interrupt workflow, failing to provide adequate security and neglecting to provide tools that can manage data efficiently. Karen Adame, who came up with a list of common CIO mistakes when it comes to shadow IT, elaborated.

"What happens is that we see people are off doing their own little things, and then when you try to bring it all together, we spend 10 times longer trying to reconcile whatever the data was, or the process," Adame explained to TechRepublic. "If all the constituents on specific workflows got together, and had their little shadow IT but did it together, it would probably work better, compared to what happens when everyone does their own thing."

Adame also mentioned that security for shadow IT is just as essential as it is elsewhere – if not more so. Some employee devices may not be held to the same security standards as the rest of the office devices, offering an easy avenue for data theft. Similarly, employees that send sensitive information from their own platforms to those of the business might not encrypt or password-protect that data to the necessary degree.

Shadow IT can be both a threat and an opportunity –  it depends on the way a company manages their network. With the right maintenance, shadow IT can be a way to allow multiple channels through which information may travel.

IT and tech industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in information technology equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.