Employees use tools at their disposal to get work done, but if these tools (often legacy) hamper collaboration or are inflexible, they’ll turn to less secure options for the sake of convenience.

According to Gartner, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will come from Shadow IT usage by 2020. 

And this problem is not unknown. Eighty-three percent of IT professionals reported that employees stored company data in unsanctioned cloud services, a challenge especially apparent with file sync and share tools.

When people work around their legacy systems to use tools like Google Drive, it’s often because they find their current systems to be clunky or that they can’t collaborate with others as easily. They’re unable to do three key things in legacy file sync and share systems (like Microsoft SharePoint):

  1. Unable to work on their phones. By now, people expect to be able to work on the go—and this means not just opening an attachment, but actually making edits to and comments on work. It gives them freedom to work when it’s convenient for them and to help teammates anytime. 
  2. Unable to create workspaces independently and easily. This might sound counterintuitive, but if an employee needs to contact IT to have a new project folder made on a drive, the bar is too high. Employees need to be able to quickly, and independently, create documents that can be shared simply because of the changing nature of collaboration. Work happens ad-hoc, on the go (like we mentioned above), and with people inside and outside of your organization. If someone has to contact IT to create a new folder, they’re more likely to neglect the request or use a different tool altogether to get started. 
  3. Unable to make the data work for them. Traditional file storage is just that, storage. Like an attic, we store things in these systems, but at some point stuff gets stale and it’s hard to tell what we should keep or pitch. People need their storage systems to not only house their data, but to help them categorize and find information quicker so that they can make this data work better for them.

The way I see it, you have two choices when it comes to making a decision on file sync and share systems:

Option 1: Continue to let your employees work on unsanctioned products, some of which may open your business up to unintended security issues (and, in some instances, scary terms of service).

Option 2: Buy the tools that your users want to use because these tools are making them more productive.

If you want to create a more productive workforce, take cues from your employees. Your tools should not only meet the highest security standards for IT, but let people work the way they want to (and be intelligent enough to guide them along the way).

Imagine if your technology could flag that a file contains confidential information before an employee accidentally shares it. Or surface files as they’re needed to help people work faster. Google Drive does this.

Remember, if the technology doesn’t suit your employees, they’re just going to work around it anyway. Instead of investing time and resources on routine maintenance, shift this energy toward helping your employees stay productive in ways that work for both you and them.

See what’s new: Google Cloud recently introduced Google Workspace: everything you need to get anything done, now in one place.

This article was originally published on the Google Cloud blog.

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