Cloud computing has been a major development in the small business world, but it isn’t without its fair share of challenges. The cloud has been a godsend in terms of taking work on the go, streamlining productivity, and improving workflow. However, there is one tiny problem.

Cloud sprawl.

What Is Cloud Sprawl?

The mere mention of “cloud sprawl” is enough to send most IT managers screaming for the hills. That’s because it refers to the proliferation of an unmanageable number of cloud applications and accounts in a single office. One of biggest advantages of cloud technology is that it doesn’t rely on hardware and can be deployed relatively easily, but that also means you need to be careful not to overindulge.

Often, cloud sprawl is caused by individual employees who provision cloud services without the approval of their IT support department. For instance, you might have an employee who signs up for Google Calendar despite your office investing in Office 365. Or maybe there’s a productivity app that one employee prefers over the ones his or her co-workers typically use.

This may seem like insignificant examples, but when employees are provisioning cloud services left and right, problems can arise. Especially if they aren’t the only ones going cloud happy.

It Isn’t Just The Employees

Managers and IT decision makers may fall victim to cloud sprawl by their own doing as well. It’s easy to be wooed by the trendiest app of the day, and many businesses rush to jump on board before considering whether a tool they already have can do the trick.

At the end of the day, your firm might be using upwards of 10 or more cloud services. When you combine them with the ones your employees are using on their own, productivity suffers.

Why Cloud Sprawl is A Problem

IT support departments discourage cloud sprawl because it can slow down the network and create problems with maintaining efficiency and compliance. Each new app or service requires its own set of login credentials and has its own unique user experience.

If an employee downloads and email attachment, opens it in another app for editing, and files it in a document management program, that’s at least three different cloud-based programs.

If the employee does anything else related to that same task, that number may increase. IT departments struggle to maintain a handle on the integrity of the network by monitoring and maintaining everything it is being asked to do.

For smaller law firms, or those without an in-house IT support team, the problems can be amplified. Without a dedicated IT support provider, no one is monitoring and maintaining your cloud services and ensuring that everything is running efficiently and without risk.

Risk? Yes, there is a certain amount of risk that cloud sprawl brings with it. In our example of cloud email > cloud editing > cloud document management, each program that opens the document will store a copy. This means your IT technician isn’t just securing one file, he or she is running around monitoring 3+ copies of the same document stored in different platforms.

This is especially true of employee-caused cloud sprawl where an employee may provision a cloud service, use it briefly, and then move on to the next big thing, leaving your firm’s data behind.

What Can Be Done?

The fight against cloud sprawl begins with a detailed outline of your cloud strategy, which should be communicated to your employees. If you are working with a dedicated IT support provider, they can assist you with formulating your cloud strategy and defining the policies and procedures that will accompany it.

For small to mid-sized law firms, managed IT services are the best way to combat cloud sprawl. With the massive amounts of data being transmitted and worked on within the cloud, managed IT services safeguard your data, and improve the efficiency of your network.

Vertex is a full-service IT support company that serves Toronto and the surrounding areas and specializes in IT solutions for law firms. From cloud solutions to managed IT services, we help our clients maintain the integrity of their network, increase speed, and amp up performance.

If you’re worried that cloud sprawl might be affecting your firm, contact us today and let us shoulder your IT burden for you.