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European enterprises deploy one new cloud service a day, research shows

Skyhigh Networks' European cloud adoption report flags concerns about how much insight IT has into what employees do in the cloud

European enterprises are deploying an average of one new cloud service a day, with the average organisation now actively using 897 off-premise applications, research has suggested.

According to latest version of security supplier Skyhigh Networks’ twice-yearly Cloud adoption and risk report, the number of cloud applications being used by European enterprises has grown by 61% over the past year.

The report’s content is based on an analysis of the real-world use data Skyhigh Networks has accrued from 2.5 million enterprise users of its products in Europe.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, the firm's European marketing director, Nigel Hawthorn, acknowledged the average number of cloud services being used by enterprises may take some people by surprise, but many may have been procured without the IT department’s knowledge.

“The average enterprise is now using 897 cloud services, and that is 365 more than last year, which means there is one a day being added,” he said.

“This is a moving target and a scary thing for IT because if you think you knew what cloud services were being used yesterday, you’re already one out.

“As users sign up to these services without thinking, today’s one could be the dangerous one that loses you corporate data,” he added.

Even relatively small firms had a sizeable number of cloud services in use, with one European organisation having fewer than 200 staff reportedly using more than 500.

As such, enterprise IT departments may not have a full handle on what services are being used to handle and process corporate data, and need to act fast to maintain control, Hawthorn said.

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Indeed, Skyhighs' own findings showed that just 7% of cloud services meet enterprise security and compliance requirements, while only 15.4% support the use of multi-factor authentication.

When combined with the company’s research revealing that the average European enterprise uploads around 12.3TB of data to the cloud each month, Hawthorn said companies are taking big risks with their data by failing to keep tabs on what employees are up to. 

“We’ve yet to find an organisation which, when estimating the number of cloud services in their organisation, comes anywhere near to what the real number is. Typically, when people make estimates, they come up with a number that is 10% or less than the actual number being used,” he said.

Weekend cloud workers

Another trend flagged by the report is the number of employees using cloud services at weekends, which Hawthorn said should prompt IT departments to see if their security monitoring systems provide them with round-the-clock protection, seven days a week.  

This could be automated traffic, generated by data backups taking place and other background tasks, he added. However, with the increasing number of firms adopting flexible working procedures, companies need to make sure their corporate data is secure at all times.

“You’ve got 14% of the week’s traffic happening over the weekend, so what are your policies and procedures over the weekend? You need to have a 24/7 view of what your users are doing because you can’t assume everything is happening nine to five, Monday to Friday,” he added.

Education vs enforcement

For IT departments looking to clampdown on the number of unsanctioned cloud services in use within company walls, the first step should be educating users about why the services they’re using may not be fit for enterprise purpose, Hawthorn advised.

“Starting with enforcement first is the wrong way to go about things, because if you start there, what tends to happen is IT starts to block the services you’ve heard of. That could push users to try even more dangerous ones that are under the radar that IT haven’t heard of,” he said.

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