network security

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Optimizing endpoint infrastructure: Why federal agencies must act now

It is easy to get hung up on the price tag of the Department of Defense’s planned $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract to outsource its cloud infrastructure management. Yet cost aside, it is important to note that the government agency tasked with defending the nation has decided to outsource and delegate responsibility for intricate and time-consuming processes rather than handling those jobs themselves. This decision is not particularly novel. Government agencies time and again have moved toward outsourcing certain operations. Decades ago, for instance, they generated their own electricity. But at some point, it became clear this responsibility was better suited to power companies.

But for many federal agencies, loosening the reins on operations does not come easy, partly because of the highly compartmentalized nature of agencies with disparate staffs, budgets and technologies.

While government agencies may have the IT staff to manage these challenges, few have the time, budget or clout to upgrade systems with the latest equipment, applications and services. As a result, many agencies find themselves with antiquated computers, printers and other endpoint devices that may be less secure than currently available products.

From my lens, our nation's security is far too important for the current approach to continue. Government agencies must optimize their technology endpoint infrastructure by outsourcing security and lifecycle management to reliable third parties, ultimately resulting in renewed employee efficiency, safer devices and cost savings.

Returning to mission-critical tasks with time saved

From an efficiency standpoint, managing aging technology frequently involves processes that add complexity to what should be simple tasks. By offloading responsibility for endpoint management to qualified third parties, these same agencies can redeploy human assets to more critical activities.

Many government workers know from experience how difficult it can be to onboard a new employee with basic computing equipment and a network identity. In the private sector, this process is highly automated and requires little staff time. But in many government agencies, separate individuals may be responsible for ordering equipment, receiving computers, imaging them, deploying them and adding an employee’s personal information to the network registry. This example shows the great benefits of  outsourcing endpoint lifecycle management to a third party that can help select and regularly replace equipment to keep it current, optimize software and ensure security.

Shoring up security -- from PCs to printers

Endpoint security is another area where outsourced expertise can add tremendous value. According to a federal agency cybersecurity risk assessment report this year, nearly three in four U.S. agencies are at risk or high risk of a cyberattack from nation-states, hacktivists and other sources. If the private sector offers any indication, many attack vectors will invariably run through less fortified endpoints, which security experts consider the weakest link of any network. In fact, one study found that 60 percent of cyber attacks target notebooks and desktop computers. And network printers are just as susceptible to hacking, with another study indicating up to 60,000 currently deployed printers are vulnerable to attacks that can undermine an organization.

Outsourcing lifecycle management to a third party alleviates such threats. For one thing, some hardware vendors have begun building robust security features into their computers and network printers -- functions that simply did not exist a few years ago. Acting as service providers, they can offer significant expertise in keeping those systems regularly patched and updated. When it is time to replace endpoints with newer models to address current risks, they do it under the contract. Agencies also concerned with assuring a secure supply chain should view this as a key advantage.

Speeding up budget approvals

An often-overlooked benefit of a service-based IT lifecycle management approach is shifting financials from a capital expenditure to operating expenditure. For non-finance professionals, this might seem inconsequential. But with CapEx, high-cost items require well-forecasted budget estimates and involve long approval processes, slowing down equipment purchases. In addition, once an organization buys the gear, it is typically stuck with it for a long time to justify a return-on-investment.

With OpEx, all purchases are covered under the service provider contract. You pay as you go, often on a monthly or quarterly basis. Costs are more predictable, and agencies avoid many forecasting and ROI problems since the provider handles equipment maintenance and replacement as needed.

As technology continues to evolve and developments accelerate, agencies should strongly consider optimizing their endpoint infrastructure and technology management. Ultimately, benefits trickle down to an organization’s most important asset – its people. Every employee, whether in the private or public sector, could use more time and peace-of-mind.

About the Author

Todd Gustafson is president of HP Federal and head of U.S. Public Sector.

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