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What Is Shadow IT? 5 Risks of Shadow IT and How to Avoid Them

The popularity of cloud computing is driving rapid growth of application use in the workplace. It’s easier than ever for employees to download cloud applications that will help them be more productive and efficient.

Unfortunately, some of these applications operate as shadow IT.

In this blog, you’ll learn what shadow IT is, why it exists and the common risks your business should watch out for.

What Is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to IT applications, hardware and software that are managed without the knowledge of the IT department. Shadow IT has become most prevalent in the form of cloud applications because of how easy they are to download and the increasing number of productivity applications available.

The average company uses 1,083 cloud services, but the IT department only knows about 108 of them. Many employees feel comfortable downloading any application or cloud service as long as it makes their jobs easier.

And it does make their jobs easier. Modern software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications help employees hit their stride with tasks, manage their time and interact more efficiently with coworkers – but at what cost?

Shadow IT Risks and Challenges

When the IT department doesn’t have visibility into the SaaS apps that employees and departments are using, security and compliance risks arise. Here are five of the biggest shadow IT risks every business should be wary of:

1. Security Gaps
Shadow IT introduces security gaps to an organization. Because it hasn’t been vetted by the IT department, shadow IT doesn’t undergo the same security procedures as other supported technologies.

While some unsupported SaaS applications seem harmless, others might encourage sharing sensitive data between groups or recording calls for transcription services. IT staff needs to know what apps are in use and how they might put your company at risk of data breaches and other liabilities.

2. Compliance and Regulations
To protect consumers and other businesses, governmental organizations have created regulations and standards, such as Software Asset Management (SAM) and ISO/IEC 20000.

SAM compliance helps businesses manage the procurement of software licenses, but shadow IT prevents an organization from having proper documentation and approval of such licenses. Discovery of unapproved software can force government entities to audit a company’s infrastructure, leading to hefty fines or even jail time.

Organizations also adopt ISO/IEC 20000 to demonstrate quality and security to their customers and service providers. But these efforts are wasted if system documentation doesn’t reflect reality.

3. Configuration Management
It’s important (and necessary) for IT departments to create a configuration management database (CMDB) to help identify how systems work together. When an unauthorized application or piece of hardware is introduced, it likely won’t be supported or added to the CMBD because IT is merely unaware of its existence. Shadow IT can disrupt the delicate workflows the IT department has spent months or years configuring.

4. Collaboration Inefficiencies
When employees rely on different applications from department to department, collaboration becomes inefficient.

For example, if one department uses Google Drive for file sharing while another uses Box, what happens when the two teams need to work together on a project? How many times will one document get uploaded, edited and downloaded between the two services?

The average organization uses 57 different file-sharing services. Imagine how much easier collaboration would be if your company reduced that number to two or three enterprise licenses.

5. Poor IT Visibility
Lastly, while SaaS applications don’t seem like they take up too much space, the wrong one can severely impact bandwidth and efficiency. If one team relies on a shadow IT application that breaks down, the IT department won’t have the knowledge or documentation to fix it. Think about the chaos of having to get a time-sensitive project out that might ensue.

Many third-party applications were never meant to be part of your infrastructure in the first place — at least not without IT’s knowledge — so when a major update occurs that doesn’t mesh with your infrastructure, your IT team could be sent scrambling.

How to Manage Shadow IT

The best strategies for managing shadow IT include creating policies to oversee and monitor new applications.

While third-party applications can introduce serious security and compliance concerns, you also don’t want to stifle your employees by preventing them from downloading a product that could make them more productive.

Instead, embrace the idea that seeking out new technologies that can make their jobs easier. Establish policies that encourage employees to go to IT when they want to request a new application. It’s imperative that you keep the relationship between IT and the rest of the company open and honest.

Creating this open relationship between your IT department and your company isn’t the easiest thing to do. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone.

KMicro offers a host of cybersecurity solutions to help businesses gain control over and visibility into their shadow IT. We can help you identify the applications your employees are using without your knowledge, consolidate your cloud services and get everyone back on the same page.

SharePoint Online vs. On-Premises: How to Choose the Right Platform for Your Business

Microsoft SharePoint currently offers two types of environments. The latest version of its on-premises solution is SharePoint Server 2019, while SharePoint’s cloud offering is called SharePoint Online.

Both products provide companies with the tools they need to improve productivity and collaboration and make sharing data easier than ever.

But every organization has unique needs, requirements and IT infrastructure in place. When it comes to SharePoint Online vs. On-Premises, you need to consider the pros and cons of each before you can make a decision.

Comparing SharePoint Online vs. On-Premises

Need help making an informed decision about which SharePoint platform is right for you? Here are six important factors to take into consideration:

1. Cost

The first thing you need to determine is how much each option will cost you. But deciding between an on-premises solution versus the cloud isn’t just about the exact cost of the platform itself. You’ll have to consider how much data you need to store and how many users need access to SharePoint.

It’s also a good idea to consider your business goals. If you plan to double your number of users in a year, then your SharePoint costs can add up quickly. SharePoint Online is licensed based on the number of users, while on-premises requires additional dollars for licensing, maintenance, IT resources and more upkeep.

From a broad cost perspective, SharePoint Online is usually cheaper, so many small businesses choose it over on-premises.

2. Location of Resources

SharePoint Online stores your data in the cloud, which means your information isn’t contained in your own personal server. Instead, it’s on a server you’ll probably never see that is hopefully locked up tight.

With SharePoint Server, you do have peace of mind of knowing your information isn’t far from you. You have more control over who has access to the data and who doesn’t.

As you decide between SharePoint Online vs. On-Premises, make sure your compliance officer has a say in the migration. If the information you’re storing is sensitive and a data breach could place your customers at serious risk, then on-premises might be your answer.

3. Maintenance and Updates

As part of SharePoint Online’s offerings, Microsoft performs all of the updates to hardware and platform changes, so your servers are always up-to-date. SharePoint On-Premises, however, requires you have on-site team members who can manage the latest updates and patches. Your team will also have to continually review and monitor your hardware to keep things in working order.

The good thing is, though, that maintenance and updates might not be a huge concern for your company. Maintenance cycles are fairly consistent, and updates may not need to occur as often as they used to.

4. Scaling Abilities

Because SharePoint Online has strict capacity limits, you’ll need to closely monitor how much storage you’re using. You can request more space, but you’ll have to pay more to get it, which can quickly turn your more affordable option on its head.

SharePoint Online is part of Office 365, making it only one contributor to the amount of data you’re allowed to use. Monitoring all of the storage you have in Office 365 requires a careful eye if you’re on a tight budget.

With on-premises, however, you’ll be able to spend your energy on just managing the server. You can build the capacity you need on the onset and add as you go. Plus, your team members might find it better to run data governance rules on hardware and servers they can access directly.

5. Data Management

As already mentioned, SharePoint On-Premises requires that you have an internal IT team to manage your data. Your company should have access to experts in data governance, compliance standards, third-party application support and more.

SharePoint Online, on the other hand, relies on the Microsoft team to track down data center issues. It will allow you to set some compliance requirements, but not all. Office 365 does support Active Directory and other secure token systems, and it encourages single sign-on.

6. Infrastructure Needs and Support

SharePoint Server 2019 has a full list of prerequisites and operating systems that you need to review before migrating.

The requirements include SQL Server 2016, Windows Server 2016 or 2019, Microsoft Identity Extensions and more. And on top of your software requirements, you’ll also need racks, servers and other hardware to connect SharePoint to your network, provide security and manage traffic. And your IT team will have to manage it.

SharePoint Online allows you to shift some of the management burden to Microsoft’s data centers. There are very few infrastructure requirements besides the infrastructure needed to migrate to SharePoint Online. You will need to review your business operations to determine if you need any new equipment or additional team members to ensure you’re following your business objectives.

Pros and Cons of SharePoint Online

When it comes down to choosing between SharePoint Online vs. On-Premises, there are a few things that will point you toward the online option.

If you have a smaller team and you don’t have extra-sensitive information to protect, SharePoint Online could be an ideal platform. It’s also a great option when you don’t have a full IT staff to support a physical server, thanks to the additional help Microsoft’s team extends with the online edition.

Lastly, if you have a smaller budget and you aren’t working with many customizations, SharePoint Online could be the best option for you.

You might not want to go after SharePoint Online if you need better control of your data and how it’s stored or have a large staff that can both support your specific needs and create custom solutions.

Pros and Cons of SharePoint On-Premises

SharePoint On-Premises is best when your company needs a more robust server option. If you need to keep sensitive data under lock and key and you already have customizations you’re using specific to your needs, then a physical server is your best bet.

Plus, if you’re already using a physical server and have the budget, staff, and hardware prerequisites in place, then migrating to an online solution might not make the most sense.

Don’t bother with on-premises, however, when you want people off-site to have access to your servers, don’t have the right pre-requisites in place, or don’t have a large enough budget for staff and equipment.

Get Expert SharePoint Consulting and Migration Help From KMicro

As you re-evaluate your server needs, choosing between SharePoint Online vs. On-Premises can seem almost impossible. If you’re not ready to make a decision, contact an expert at KMicro.

We have the knowledge and experience with SharePoint that you need to choose the best option for your company. And once we’ve helped you choose, we can assist in your migration so that you can focus on your business or IT department.

Managing Multiple Retail Stores: 5 Tips to Solve Your Communication Problems


Managing Multiple Retail Stores: 5 Tips to Solve Your Communication Problems

When your retail business is booming and customer demand is at an all-time high, expanding your retail business to new locations can be a lucrative move. But managing multiple retail stores isn’t as easy as one might think.

Communication gaps, data security risks and inconsistent procedures can cause more harm than good. When brand communication and procedures are inconsistent both internally and with customers, companies open themselves up to bad reviews, which impact nearly 70 percent of purchasing decisions.

Plus, just 26 percent of retail stores use encryption, even though they’re more inclined to share sensitive data on the cloud. Data breaches cost businesses millions of dollars, and almost 60 percent of those businesses wind up closing as a result.

All of this can be overwhelming, especially as you manage your first set of additional stores. But it doesn’t have to be. In this blog, we’ll offer you tips for solving common issues faced by retailers with multiple stores so you can continue expanding without unnecessary stress.

5 Tips for Managing Multiple Retail Stores

So how can you successfully manage multiple locations and continue to grow your business? Here are five tips to a smooth transition when expanding retail stores:

1. Create Standard Operating Procedures

You can’t be everywhere at the same time, no matter how much you wish it were possible. But you do need to make sure each of your retail locations is operating effortlessly. To do that, it’s important to create standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The rules you create must apply to every person in every store, including your hours of operations, working hours, refund policies, how employees communicate with customers, when to offer a discount, etc. To get great reviews online, your customers have to see a consistent experience from store to store.

2. Hire Reliable, Professional Managers at Each Location

When you’re hiring, focus on competency, not credentials. In other words, you want employees who are reliable and capable of representing you and your business — and a certain degree or amount of experience may not be able to predict their ability to do so.

Instead, conduct consistent training sessions to improve your team’s abilities, especially as they deal with customers. And everyone on staff should know the company’s mission and vision in order to work toward fulfilling both.

3. Make It Easy for Everyone to Communicate

As you manage multiple retail stores, your goal should be to create consistent communication between yourself and between stores. Your retail teams should be easy to get in contact with one another despite being in different locations. You never know when they’ll need to share inventory or get a quick answer to a question that wasn’t established in the SOPs.

Use a cloud-based portal to share important business information and give your employees a place to connect. And, when possible, make in-person stops at each of your stores to get to know your company’s employees and learn more about how the stores are doing individually.

4. Collaborate and Share Best Practices

When you have different locations, it’s natural for store managers to work on best practices for making their individual retail spaces operate efficiently. That’s great, but it also starts to break up your company’s ability to be consistent. Instead, encourage all your team members to share the best practices they’ve created. As a result, managing multiple retail stores won’t be a jumble of different operations styles, and your company will be more innovative.

Plus, your team members won’t run into the exact same situations or types of customers, so those best practices help set everyone up for success when a difficult problem arises. You can help facilitate such conversations through the shared online portal or even by having quarterly strategy sessions.

5. Streamline Document and Data Sharing

To keep your data safe, you need to store all of your documentation and data within one system. When you use an encrypted, cloud-based system for document sharing, your team will be able to access information without interfering with anyone else’s work, and they’ll be able to keep sensitive data away from prying eyes.

Beyond keeping data safe, though, storing customer data in multiple systems across retail locations is unproductive. Every store will have to take down the same information, frustrating the customer, and it opens your business up to risk if someone can gain access to just one file. But with an integrated system, you can save all of your data from all of your retail stores, helping your company stay efficient and accurate and keeping your customers happy.

Solve Your Communication Challenges With Retail Connect

As you learn how to manage multiple retail stores, it’s easy to think the challenges outweigh the solutions. Luckily, however, a SharePoint solution could resolve all of these issues without you having to purchase multiple tools and software.

Retail Connect, KMicro’s SharePoint Online customization service, helps you build a custom portal to help you manage multiple retail stores. It acts as a one-stop-shop for your corporate employees, retail managers and salespeople to communicate and share information, create and collaborate on documents, learn about new products and best practices and even secure personally identifiable information (PII).

Managing multiple retail stores is hard enough without the right solutions to back you up. But KMicro is ready to help. Drop us a line to learn more about how Retail Connect can help your business grow.

The Best SharePoint Migration Tools for a Seamless Transition

SharePoint is the content management platform of choice for more than 250,000 organizations today. It helps businesses like yours organize, manage and collaborate on content to boost productivity and unite communication efforts.

But all software becomes obsolete at some point. Eventually, you’re going to need to migrate to the latest version of SharePoint from an older version of the application or a different enterprise content management (EMC) system. And while that can seem like a tricky process, you’re in luck: modern businesses have access to a variety of SharePoint migration tools to make it easier than ever.

But there’s still a lot to consider if you want to securely and accurately migrate your content to a new platform. In this post, we’re going to cover everything from preparation to the best tools to use so that your SharePoint migration is quick and seamless.

How to Prepare for a SharePoint Migration

Before you can choose which SharePoint migration tools are best for you, there are a few activities you need to check off your list. Here are some SharePoint migration tips to help you get started:

1. Gather Your Inventory

In general, you should always keep a detailed inventory of your SharePoint assets. If you don’t stay on top of this information, you could lose important data both during the migration and during temporary transfers. Your inventory should include running workflows, as well as a list of what needs to stay, go or be rebuilt from scratch. Make sure your inventory is stored outside of your server so you don’t lose it during the migration itself.

2. Review New SharePoint Features

If you’re migrating to a new version of SharePoint, you’re most likely doing it because it contains new features that you’re excited to use. But sometimes, those new features require you to reorganize or update your information architecture. For example, sometimes two or more older features are replaced by one new template to streamline your organization. Review the new features to see what might need to move around as a result of the migration.

3. Craft a Communication Plan

The last thing your company needs is to find out that there was a SharePoint migration overnight without its knowledge. Not only will it cause confusion, but you’ll likely receive a ton of complaints, even if the migration is ultimately for the betterment of the company.

You need a communication plan so that everyone is on the same page before you make the switch. Provide your company with constant communication of changes as well as why those changes are necessary and how they will help everyone be more successful in their roles.

Once you’ve completed these three steps, you can finally move into the migration phase.

The Best SharePoint Migration Tools

Rather than attempting to move all of your content over by yourself, you can leverage SharePoint migration tools to help automate some of the tricky processes and relieve you of time-intensive tasks.

Here are a few recommended tools to consider:

Microsoft SharePoint Migration Tool: Of course, SharePoint is developed by Microsoft, so this tool helps alleviate a lot of the steps associated with your migration. The Microsoft SharePoint Migration Tool helps users migrate from one version to the next, whether they’re part of a small business with a few assets or working on migration for a massive enterprise business. And the best part is that it will scan, package, upload, and import all of the files submitted for migration at once.

AvePoint’s DocAve: AvePoint’s DocAve is a well-established tool for migration. It currently offers modules that help 14 different legacy systems to transition to the latest version of SharePoint Server or SharePoint Online. DocAve also provides replication control, administration, and protection. Users can manage the tool through a browser-based interface if needed.

Sharegate: Sharegate has been around since 2011 and is well-known as one of the easiest migration tools in the market. This tool can help with full migrations, migrations done in phases or even manual migrations depending on the user’s needs. And it doesn’t require a server-side installation, removing some of the pain points of having to download yet another piece of software.

Dell: Dell’s Migration Suite for SharePoint is another popular SharePoint migration tool. Dell helps users migrate both on-premises and online, allowing for bulk or phased migrations. Users can even consolidate data and schedule migrations with this tool, creating space for automation.

Should You Hire an IT Company to Help With Your SharePoint Migration?

Software migration is a lot of work — just figuring out which tools to use is going to take some time, and that’s without thinking about the inventory management, communications plan and infrastructure reorganization that must happen first. Not to mention, you already have your regular job duties to do outside of the migration itself.

Hiring an outside IT company to execute your SharePoint migration instead of using a SharePoint migration tool on your own will save you time while helping you avoid mistakes that could lead to downtime. You get access to a team of SharePoint professionals who know what they’re doing and can execute the migration quickly while you work on more pressing tasks.

Plan a Stress-Free SharePoint Migration With KMicro

Whether you’re migrating to SharePoint for the very first time or you’ve gone through the process before, it’s not an easy task.

Let KMicro help you out so you can concentrate on running your business or IT department. We can work with you on your transition to the cloud, optimize your workflows and even identify any risks or bottlenecks you might have. Schedule a call with one of our IT experts or give us a call now for more information: 949-284-7264.

Ready to make the move to SharePoint Online?

Let Kmicro give you the tools you need to unify business communications once and for all. Contact us to learn how we can migrate your internal communication platforms to SharePoint.