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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

If telework is here to stay, agencies have more work to do

IT modernization has long been a topic of discussion in the federal government, and the fast and efficient response to new telework requirements is proof those efforts have paid off. Many agencies have been laying the groundwork for widespread remote work capabilities for years -- adopting cloud solutions, implementing scalable commercial platforms, rolling out collaboration tools and streamlining data sharing.

While the dedicated focus to modernization has prepared agencies for this rapid shift, it’s essential to consider the new logistical challenges and security concerns that have been introduced. 

The virtual private networks that remote employees typically rely on to access the government network are operating 24/7, making it challenging to keep them current with the latest security updates and patches. To compound the problem, many VPNs were not designed for this scale of remote work and are causing slowdowns or limited access.

The new and amplified security concerns that have emerged also cannot be overlooked. With employees out of the office – and away from the security of the government network – cyber criminals are evolving their tactics. Agencies must elevate their data protection strategies.

The stakes are higher with ransomware attacks. Ransomware attacks have been on the rise across government agencies, educational institutions and health care providers, but the current climate is putting health care system at even more risk as the mission becomes more critical than ever. Often, organizations are relying on decades-old data centers and storage systems that were deployed before the rise of ransomware, making it difficult or impossible for agencies to recover and use recovered data.

A flood of new access points. Historically, agencies had strict bring-your-own-device policies. The pandemic has forced a change, prompting agencies to loosen restrictions to enable more employees to continue mission-critical work remotely. While essential, this shift exposes a new set of security concerns at a time when government IT and security professionals are already working to maximum capability.

New communication risks. Video platforms have replaced the conference room, and both hackers and security professionals are paying attention. At the same time that some platforms are reporting upwards of 50% growth in the span of a few weeks, the FBI is issuing warnings over the security of these newly popular methods of communication.

What’s next for agencies?

The increase in telework will not snap back when the pandemic subsides, and many of these changes will be permanent. Agencies have rapidly and successfully adapted to the new demand for remote work, but they must ensure they have the right infrastructure in place -- one that creates a robust and secure foundation for permanently expanded telework. They need a modern data experience that enables them to use more of their data, while reducing the complexity and expense of managing the infrastructure behind it.

A virtual desktop infrastructure offers simplified management, enhanced security, better performance and reduced costs. A VDI also allows agencies to become much more agile, gaining the ability to address users that work both at home and in the office with widely ranging compute requirements. New delivery capabilities allow IT teams to completely centralize the management of the VDI, creating a new security paradigm where nothing is stored at the endpoint.

In an environment of elevated security concerns, data protection features such as backup and restore are more critical than ever. These features facilitate recovery in the event of a data loss or system failure. Data cannot be locked on a tape, in a warehouse or on a slow spinning disk when it’s likely agencies will need backup and rapid restore features. Now is the time to leverage data protection broadly.

Establishing and maintaining a telework-ready environment is critical for agencies moving forward. Success starts with the right foundation – a modern data experience that is defined by application programming interfaces and features easy, common management tools and proactive analytics that are actionable at scale. It should also be seamless, spanning.any protocol, any tier of service level and multiple clouds in a single environment. Lastly, it should be sustainable and self-upgrading.

About the Author

Gary Newgaard is vice president, public sector, at Pure Storage.

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