4 ways federal IT pros can help their networks – and themselves – thrive
- By Joel Dolisy
- Jun 01, 2015
Regardless of which new technologies federal network administrators adopt, they will always need dependable, consistent and highly available solutions that keep their networks running -- constantly.
Sadly, that’s not always the reality.
A recent survey of federal IT professionals by my company, SolarWinds, indicates that performance and availability issues continue to plague federal IT managers. More than 90 percent of survey respondents claimed that end users in their organizations were negatively impacted by a performance or availability issue with business-critical technology over the past year. Perhaps more troublingly, nearly 30 percent of respondents claimed these issues occurred at least six times.
What can IT pros do about this?
Don’t worry about doing all of the development or new technology deployments in one fell swoop. Instead, take a piecemeal approach. Focus on a single implementation and make sure that particular piece of technology absolutely shines. The trick to this strategy is keeping the big picture in mind as the individual pieces of technology are deployed. Concentrate on ensuring peak performance for the separate technology implementations while remembering the common goal of improving performance and availability for end users.
Network monitoring is a must. To do it properly, start with a baseline diagnostic that assesses the overall network performance. Before making any changes or adjustments, assess network performance, including availability and average response time. Once this baseline is established, look for anomalies, including configuration changes that other users may have made to the network. Find the changes, identify who made them and factor their impact into the performance data. That’s valuable knowledge that can help identify problems and keep the network running without issues.
Make no mistake: errors will happen, and it’s important to have a plan in place when things go south. That plan should be comprised of three facets: technology, people and process.
First, a well-defined technology plan outlines how to best handle the different components of the network infrastructure. There are two keys to this: the aforementioned monitoring, and building in of redundancies in case something goes wrong. That means having a backup for equipment that’s core to an agency’s network traffic.
Second, make sure the IT staff includes several people who share the same skillset and expertise. Often, organizations will pay particular attention to making sure their technology stacks are complete and ready for backup, but have only a single person specializing in a particular technology. What happens if that person is out sick or leaves the organization? All of that expertise is gone, leaving a very big knowledge gap that will be hard to fill.
Third, develop a process that allows for roll-backs to prior configurations. That’s an important failsafe in case of a serious network error.
In our survey, 24 percent of respondents said that having stronger CIO support when liaising with other business leaders was important to them. This makes sense; IT professionals need to understand organizational objectives to accomplish their own goals, which include optimizing and securing a consistently dependable network. Doing that is not just about technology – it also requires the ability to communicate freely with colleagues so that everyone is working toward the same goals.
It’s up to federal CIOs to ensure that the IT team’s voice is heard. CIOs must build a culture that is barrier free and allows for regular interaction with other business leaders outside the technology realm. After all, isn’t that network or database that the IT staff manages directly tied to agency performance?
Having everything run perfectly all the time is an impossible dream. However, six nine’s of uptime is certainly achievable. All it takes is a little bit of simplification and planning -- and a whole lot of technology and teamwork.
Joel Dolisy is the CIO at SolarWinds.