Network tools keep FCC humming

The old network paradigm for federal employees was neat and simple: All employees had one desktop PC, and they sent all their e-mail from that one PC.

But those days have gone the way of the diplodocus. Now more feds telework and interface with the agency network through BlackBerrys, text messaging and their home laptops. John Hulede sees this decentralization as a good thing, but it can create headaches ' and slow networks ' for agency network managers.

Hulede is the lead network infrastructure monitoring engineer for SI International on-site at the Federal Communications Commission. He considers himself a service champion, campaigning to ensure that network services are responsive from the users' perspective. Hulede's division supports more than 3,000 users throughout FCC.

About three years ago, more FCC employees began working remotely, Hulede said. This was also part of a larger move to decentralize operations and share data more freely. But around the same time, users of the FCC network complained that its performance wasn't up to par, Hulede said.

The agency uses Outlook Web Access, which lets users access e-mail from anywhere if they have an Internet connection, Hulede said. But accessing e-mail via the Internet also makes the network more vulnerable to attack.

FCC has responded by deploying a series of network monitoring tools, including NetIQ App- Manager Suite, which monitors and analyzes network performance.

FCC also has improved network performance by using RSA SecurID token authentication technology, Hulede said.

Before adopting the NetIQ tools, the network would be running slow, but Hulede wouldn't know what was causing it. Now, NetIQ sends him an e-mail telling where the failure is. The network monitoring tools have helped Hulede and staff members provide a more consistent level of service.

'It's like playing golf,' Hulede said. 'You can play a good shot, but can you repeat it? Repeatability is the key.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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