Sidebar: Beware the Rogue ASP

A CIO at a Fortune 100 retailer said the relationship between his IT shop and end users over rogue IT was so sensitive and controversial that he didn't want to be named. But he was willing to sound warnings about two special dangers -- rogue application service providers (ASP) and runaway systems built around Microsoft Corp.'s Access tool for analyzing data.

"ASPs really started to crop up in a number of our end-user departments," the CIO says. "But end users aren't well equipped to negotiate technical contracts. They don't know what questions to ask." His company's legal department won't approve an ASP contract that hasn't been OK'd by IT, he says.

And a good thing, too. The CIO says he recently intercepted a draft ASP contract from a user department in which there were no service-level guarantees.

"I went to the user and said, 'Do you understand they don't have to provide you any service?' They looked at me and said, 'No, they have to give us this,'" he says. "I said, 'No, they could be down for the entire time, and you are still out your money.' They said, 'Oh, I didn't understand that.'"

The CIO says Microsoft Access can also be a troublemaker. Often, an end user will develop a quick and dirty Access application, but over time, more and more people become dependent on it. Then the developer leaves the company, and undocumented code is thrust into the hands of IT with demands to maintain it.

Using Access for data access is relatively harmless, the CIO says, "but what people will sometimes do is wrap other things around it and turn it into a transactional system."

One such Access application had hooks into the corporate e-mail system. It began looping one day and brought down the corporate Exchange server for four hours. "Our guideline is to not use Access for more than analysis, but unfortunately, people will take 'analysis' and stretch that," the CIO says.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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