Managing Cloud Sprawl in Your Organization


Cloud sprawl is becoming a serious problem, but organizations need individual approaches to counter it.

In the modern age of cloud computing, cloud sprawl is a major concern worldwide. This is a situation which is created by the overuse of public cloud for various reasons. Cloud sprawl can also be defined as a side effect of free and accessible public cloud. In this article, we'll take a look at the effect of cloud sprawl and how it can be solved.

What Is Cloud Sprawl?

Cloud Business Reviews (CBR), a website that provides news and analysis on various cloud-related topics, has verified that cloud sprawl is a widespread phenomenon which is occurring as a result of large-scale use of applications and services powered by the cloud. It takes place mainly when employees of an organization use cloud-based apps or services recklessly and without the knowledge or authorization of the company's IT department. It can be said that as the market for global cloud services and apps is increasing, new challenges are being faced by the cloud industry, one of which is cloud sprawl.

Cloud sprawl can basically be defined as the uncontrolled usage of an organization’s cloud resources, whether it be availing of cloud services or even providing them. It largely takes place when the organization concerned has zero control over its cloud computing resources.

What Is the Impact of Cloud Sprawl?

It has been verified that cloud sprawl is a huge problem in modern times. It has become a very large load on cloud managers and IT department employees. Cloud sprawl is especially problematic as it can seriously hamper a company’s work and greatly complicate IT issues. As a result, all work can be slowed down. In such cases, the managers have to properly supervise the number of apps and services based on the cloud which are being used by the employees. They also have to check the cloud from time to time to ensure that it is not being overloaded and is working smoothly without any lag.

Some Facts and Figures on Cloud Sprawl

So, just how severe is the impact of cloud sprawl in the modern world? These are some of the results of a survey conducted by Kelton Research. This research was conducted in the months of March and April in 2011. The target countries included 18 countries from which 573 IT managers, CEOs and executives participated. Here are the results:

  • In Japan, about 35 percent of the participants confessed that they were unable to manage overwhelming levels of cloud sprawl.
  • However, 80 percent of the participants in Japan said that though it is very hard to control cloud sprawl, they are still trying to administer it properly.
  • Similarly, about 60 percent of participants in Singapore and 73 percent of participants in Australia agreed that cloud sprawl will be a major concern and side effect of cloud computing in the future.
  • About 27 percent of the total participants in Singapore said that they have bought a cloud service themselves, as the IT department is painfully slow in deploying it.

Additionally, in Europe, according to a survey by Avanade, in about 50 percent of companies employees purchase cloud services without the knowledge of their IT departments. All these figures indicate a serious problem in the future in the form of cloud sprawl.


How Does Cloud Sprawl Occur in Companies?

Suppose that a new cloud storage solution has been released. The employees are eager about trying this new solution, which promises to offer large amounts of storage at a low price. However, their company is planning to implement for company storage. So, the employees think that as the IT department is so slow in implementing the solution, they may use a newer cloud solution. They believe that by using the latest solution, they’ll do their work more easily at a lower cost, and without having to wait for the company to upgrade.

Now, the problems can start when the employee simply “forgets” to delete the information before moving to the newer server. This can also result in a serious risk, as it can lead to a leak in the company’s information. This can be especially problematic when an employee is fired or unsatisfied with the company. They can even deliberately leak the information to the public. So, the bottom line is that cloud sprawl happens when your employees don’t like your current cloud solution techniques and want to use other, better solutions.

Why Are IT Managers So Worried?

Though the advent of cloud storage and cloud-based apps are essential for a company’s efficiency, it has posed serious problems for the data security of a company. This problem occurs in the form of cloud sprawl. If the cloud-based apps and storage aren’t regulated and supervised properly, cloud sprawl can occur, which can endanger a company’s data. This puts a lot of responsibility on the IT department of the company. It also makes their jobs highly complicated and they have to pay close attention to a number of things. They must do all of these in order to ensure that the employees don’t use cloud storage services other than the company’s own service. Only this can stop the negative effects of cloud sprawl. (For more on cloud security, see 5 Big Cloud Security Features for Enterprise Use.)

How to Manage Cloud Sprawl?

These steps can help you successfully prevent cloud sprawl in your organization:

  • Educating the employees is not enough — A very recent survey revealed that though the employees of a company know about its policies, they don’t realize the consequences of ignoring them. The result said that about 89 percent of the employees realized the importance of data security. However, many employees were still inclined to use unauthorized third-party cloud storage services. Thus, IT professionals will have to make employees understand the consequences of using these services.
  • Providing a suitable solution — It is understandable that employees will always try to use third-party cloud storage solutions if they don’t get a solution that suits them well enough. If a company cannot provide a powerful solution quickly, then it can be problematic. Thus, the company’s IT department must try to deploy a solution that’s suitable and powerful enough to serve the employees, and in a timely manner at that.
  • Choosing the right devices — Nowadays, the IT departments of most companies allow employees to bring their own devices to use the office’s cloud storage. As the people are using their devices from their homes, their work devices are merging with their personal ones. So, to ensure that their company’s data is being accessed in a safe and secure manner. The IT professionals will have to limit this use. (For more on BYOD, see 7 Points to Consider When Drafting a BYOD Security Policy.)
  • Proper administration is the key — One of the best methods for the prevention of cloud sprawl is to establish a special board for the administration of cloud computing issues. Many senior staff can be included on this board, which can use their experience for controlling the situation. Good technology is also essential for the prevention of such conditions.
  • Always know your weaknesses — Cloud storage is slightly risky, so you must think of the possible loopholes that your server might have. Ask yourself questions about its security. Is it really secure? Is the data completely encrypted? What about during transition? Is it trusted by the best companies? Are the encryption keys different? Does this cloud storage vendor's policies adhere to our company’s policy? These questions are very important, especially when you are choosing a trustworthy vendor and really want to protect your data.


It is true that the use of the Internet is ever increasing, and along with it the cloud technologies and services that are available to us. It is also certain that this trend will continue to exist in the near future, considering that society requires data on demand for fast and efficient functioning, and this is largely what cloud services are known to offer. However, cloud sprawl is a serious problem that needs to be countered. Organizations must find ways to control cloud sprawl that are a good fit for their individual needs.


Related Reading

Related Terms

Kaushik Pal
Technology writer

Kaushik is a technical architect and software consultant with over 23 years of experience in software analysis, development, architecture, design, testing and training. He has an interest in new technologies and areas of innovation. He focuses on web architecture, web technologies, Java/J2EE, open source software, WebRTC, big data and semantic technologies. He has demonstrated expertise in requirements analysis, architectural design and implementation, technical use cases and software development. His experience has covered various industries such as insurance, banking, airlines, shipping, document management and product development, etc. He has worked on a wide range of technologies ranging from large scale (IBM…