On Wednesday, the inspector general of the Department of State issued a scathing report on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private mail server during her tenure there, further securing the episode’s legacy as perhaps the most historic case of “shadow IT” ever. Paying a State Department employee on the side to set up and administer her personal mail server, Clinton claims she just was doing what her predecessors did—but you’d be hard-pressed to find any government executive who ignored rules, regulations, and federal law so audaciously just to get mobile e-mail access.
If you’ve worked in IT for any amount of time, you’ve run across the shadow IT syndrome—employees using outside services to fix a problem rather than using internally supported tools. Sometimes (but rarely), it’s actually mission-essential. For example, at a previous employer, when half the company lost access to e-mail and the content management system because a network card was stolen in a smash-and-grab at the telco’s co-location facility, I set up a password-secured Wiki on my personal Web server to handle workflow and communications for a day. (The CIO was not happy, particularly when my boss wanted me to write an article about it. The…