How to control the expanding government network (ShutterStock image)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How to control the expanding government network

The technology that government end users rely on is increasingly moving beyond the bounds of on-premises infrastructures. Yet employees still hold IT departments accountable for performance.

According to a recent SolarWinds “IT is Everywhere” survey of government IT professionals, 84 percent say the expectation to support end users’ personal devices connecting to agency networks is greater than it was 10 years ago. The survey also found that 70 percent of IT pros estimate that end users at least occasionally use non-IT sanctioned, cloud-based applications.

Here are more insights from federal IT pros:

  • 63 percent claim end users expect work-related applications used remotely to perform at the same level (or better) than they do in the office.
  • 79 percent say they provide support to remote workers at least occasionally.
  • 53 percent say end users expect the same time to resolution for issues with both cloud-based applications and local applications managed directly by IT.
  • 40 percent say end users expect the same time to resolution for issues with both personal and company-owned devices and technology.
  • 68 percent claim to provide at least occasional support for personal

All of this amounts to a tall order for government IT professionals. However, there are some strategies to help ensure that users are happy and productive while agency systems remain secure.

Closely monitor end-user devices

The days of the ubiquitous government-sanctioned BlackBerry devices officially came to an end last year. Now, government IT professionals monitor the myriad of phones, tablets, laptops and other devices that are being used on their networks.

User device tracking can provide a good security blanket for those concerned about unsanctioned devices. IT professionals can create watch lists of acceptable devices and be alerted when rogue devices access their networks. They can then trace those devices back to their users. This tracking can significantly mitigate concerns surrounding bring-your-own-device security.

Gain a complete view of all applications

Administrators must maintain a healthy level of control over all of the applications powering their networks. This requires developing a holistic view of all applications, which in turn will result in a better understanding of how the performance of one application may impact the entire application stack.

This perspective offers several benefits. First, administrators will be able to quickly identify and rectify performance issues and bottlenecks without having to hunt through layers of applications to find the root of the problem. They’ll also be able to better check for slow load times or other factors that might adversely affect the end-user experience and keep an eye out for potential security risks before they become serious threats.

Beyond that, administrators must also account for all of the applications that users may be accessing via their personal devices -- such as social media apps, messaging tools, and others -- to help ensure they are not adversely impacting their networks. Network performance monitoring and network traffic analysis  can help IT managers detect the causes behind quality-of-service issues and trace them back to specific applications, devices and users.

Look out for bandwidth hogs

More users, devices and applications on the network can mean slowdowns and degradation that adversely impact productivity, both inside and outside the office. The complexity caused by the sheer number of people on the network -- and the myriad solutions they’re using -- can also make it harder to manually identify potential anomalies that could turn into threats.

IT managers should make sure their toolkits include network performance and bandwidth monitoring solutions that allow them to assess traffic patterns and usage. If a slowdown or abnormality occurs, administrators can take a look at the data and trace any potential issues back to individual users or applications. They can then take action to rectify the issue.

It’s clear that the walls that once existed between “work” and “personal” are rapidly crumbling. Agency employees are now using their own devices, applications and time to get work done, and they expect IT to be there for them every step of the way.

This is yet another example of how IT managers’ role is changing, making them even more important to the success of their agencies. Fair or not, they’re now officially the go-to people whenever a problem arises, whether it’s on a work-authorized laptop or a user’s Samsung Galaxy. While IT managers may not be able to do everything their end users expect, they can certainly lay the groundwork for tackling most challenges and creating a secure, reliable  and productive environment.

About the Author

Joe Kim is senior vice president and global CTO at SolarWinds.

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