This interview is an excerpt from our recent guide, 25 Innovations You Should Know in 2018.
Every day, new technologies hit the market. While they can be breakthroughs for opportunistic individuals, tech innovations often don’t break into the public sector until years later. Agencies have more considerations—highly sensitive data and incessant interest from malicious actors—than their private-sector counterparts, and for government, security comes before risk-taking.
“Agencies worry that they can’t secure the cloud the same way they secure a traditional infrastructure,” said Paul Parker, Chief Technologist for Federal and National Government at SolarWinds, a leading provider of IT management and monitoring solutions. “That they can’t secure fast-paced applications the way they secure desktop or server-based applications. And a lot of times, policy, security accreditation and training are lagging sorely behind the technology curve.”
Of course, government has to prioritize security, but a safety-first approach doesn’t have to stall modernization goals. With strong IT controls agencies can stare down even the most glaring threats, while taking advantage of innovative technologies.
Having strong IT controls can mean ensuring that only authorized devices are permitted on the network, that user provisioning and access rights management policies are in place, and that you’re able to easily track and identify assets on your network.
“All of these things have to work together,” Parker said. “It’s like having instruments in an orchestra – you want them to come together to produce beautiful music, versus one guy just making a lot of noise.”
With bring-your-own-device initiatives on the rise in the public sector it’s become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for IT teams to manage all of the independent devices, processes, and tools.
Rather than addressing modernization and security challenges through patchwork solutions, agencies should consolidate and integrate their IT monitoring and management tools to help reduce duplicate or underutilized tools, training cost, the need to collect data from multiple tools and edit spreadsheets and to improve system visibility.
“Visibility is the biggest part,” Parker said. “You don’t know what the size of the problem is until you get a better viewpoint on everything that’s in the infrastructure.”
SolarWinds, for example, provides a flexible set of IT operations management tools that can work together to provide secure network, system and application visibility that most agencies probably don’t have today or that are covered by a number of different tools that don’t operate well together. SolarWinds products and Orion® Platform can run alongside or replace many of those disparate tools to build a cohesive view. This can allow customers to see where problems exist and where the gaps actually occur – but does so in a cooperative and non-disruptive manner.
“Many times we know there’s a problem with an application or server, and we reboot the server, but we can’t identify and isolate the specific problem. We’re taking it from guess work to evidence-based resolution and reporting,” Parker said.
To get started with IT consolidation and optimization, Parker highlighted five steps agencies can take.
First, agencies have to define the scope, meaning what problems that they’re hoping to solve, what organizations within the agency they want to include and the technical scope.
Second is performing an inventory, which is more than a mere count of what agencies have. This involves deducing where specific components are on the system and for what purpose they were added.
Third, agencies have to perform a needs analysis to determine what tools will drive the most efficiency based on the inventory’s findings.
Next, agencies need to survey the market. Just like buying a car, agencies need to have a set of prioritized features and functions and assess vendors accordingly. Parker recommends that flexibility, security, and automation be at the top of the list.
The fifth and final step is keep moving forward. After you’ve done all the work necessary in the previous four steps, don’t just let everything fall by the wayside. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed after defining the scope and scale of the project, but by taking each problem and turning it into smaller projects, it can become more manageable.
Ultimately, agencies can improve their modernization initiatives, and address concerns around security, by consolidating their IT solutions with the help of ITOM tools and the five-step process. Not only can consolidation help with modernization efforts and security, but it can also improve efficiency and cost-savings.