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article imageCisco finds most companies now use over 1,000 cloud services

By James Walker     Jan 13, 2016 in Technology
Cisco has found that the average company now uses over 1,000 services based in the cloud across all of its various operations and employees. Cisco has now launched a new tool to help IT administrators manage all these outside connections.
The use of cloud computing is now rapidly growing as companies begin to offload their systems onto remote servers managed by other companies. Whereas only a couple of years ago a firm may have required an onsite file server to store and share all its documents, now it's a lot simpler and cheaper to store everything on Google Drive, Dropbox or Office 365.
IT administrators no longer need to budget for expensive dedicated hardware and employees can access their files from wherever they are, even when out of the office. Should the building be hit by disaster, the firm would be able to pick up where it left off rather than having to start from scratch if the server was destroyed. Companies are now realizing these benefits and actively seeking to get access to them, as Cisco has found out.
As TechCrunch reports, over the past two years, Cisco has been asking IT leaders in businesses how many cloud services they thought employees were actively using. The initial response averaged out at 91, a figure that Cisco discovered was a substantial underestimate.
After analyzing the web traffic of the companies involved and eliminating connections to ordinary websites, it established that most companies were using over 630 cloud services. Just 12 months later, the figure has almost doubled to 1,220.
The findings brought to light a major drawback to reliance on the cloud. Most of the administrators responsible for IT services at their company were aware of less than 15 percent of the online apps and data providers that their employees were actually using. At an average company, over 540 unknown cloud services were in use without the chief information officer's knowledge.
This means the services weren't approved for use and could potentially be insecure or inappropriate for a business workload. The IT staff never knew to check them out though because they were never told they were used.
To help with this growing issue, Cisco today announced a new tool, Cisco Cloud Consumption as a Service. It provides "deep insight" into the services a company is using, scanning network traffic in the same way as Cisco's early survey to work out what employees are accessing.
Aimed at companies of all sizes, Cisco is pricing the new service competitively to get new users onboard. A 30-day free trial is available and costs are only a few dollars per user after that. The service will rival IBM's similar Cloud Security Enforcer, released in September 2015.
Robert Dimicco, senior director for advanced services at Cisco, said: "Cloud Consumption as a Service helps customers discover and monitor which cloud services are being used across the organization. It helps customers mitigate cloud risks, uncover redundant services to reduce costs, and compare providers and benchmark usage. Ultimately, it helps organizations strategically manage their cloud use and gain insight to inform their cloud roadmap."
The service will let IT staff see exactly which services are in use and when. Any potentially insecure connections will be flagged for attention and options provided to let administrators move to a different provider.
The aim isn't to give IT "big brother" powers to see what employees are doing but rather to ensure online resources are used responsibly and safely. If a particular worker finds a cloud service that helps them in their work, that service becomes a positive asset to the company. Cisco wants to ensure administrators are aware of the data flow on their networks though in case an employee were to upload sensitive data to a company that does not place adequate security on it.
Cisco says the average use of cloud services has grown 112 percent over the past year and 67 percent in just six months, highlighting the need for tools like Cloud Consumption as a Service. Employees are fueling the migration to remote tools and cloud computing even as company executives struggle to control or even be mindful of the different services in use, a security issue waiting to be exploited.
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