Ushering in an era of more with government IT modernization and managed services
- By Tony Bardo
- Jun 16, 2021
More applications, more devices and more demands on government: For federal agencies, this is the era of more. As agencies shift legacy systems to more modern ones under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) transition, leaders’ priorities must shift as well. A “like-for-like” approach, where agencies opt for services -- which are likely outdated -- just because they are available on their existing contract, no longer has a place in the rapidly changing digital age. Agencies considering a like-for-like model expose their networks to bandwidth bottlenecks, inflated costs and security concerns. IT leaders must expect more and demand better from their networks so they can serve constituents more reliably, efficiently and securely. A tailored transformation plan, implemented in partnership with a managed service provider (MSP), can better meet today’s demands – especially as the need for modernization builds each day.
Today’s federal agency networks, particularly field offices, must be equipped to meet the increasing bandwidth demand of cloud applications, video streaming, teleconferencing and more. The transition to mass telework during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue, pushing some agencies to consider staggered employee work schedules to alleviate the strain on networks. The old way was to adopt a like-for-like solution that replaces T1 lines with identical ones that would still lack the necessary additional bandwidth or the agility to route directly to the cloud services that agencies need. Instead, integrating software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) with support from an MSP into an agency’s existing network allows each site to direct traffic along the most efficient network path and to select the best available broadband option -- ensuring agencies can reliably and cost-effectively meet bandwidth demands.
A managed SD-WAN deployment intelligently optimizes network traffic based on automated policy rules programmed within each branch device to deliver a more reliable, seamless user experience. The lasting shift to telework -- or at least some post-pandemic form of a hybrid work model -- necessitates a modern network that can handle what will likely become a steady hunger for bandwidth. Adopting managed broadband services can help agencies future-proof their networks now with more resilient, cloud-ready systems at affordable rates.
Transitioning to more intelligent networks is a budget-friendly alternative to upgrading existing legacy systems. Agencies can reduce cost up to 65% with an MSP’s managed broadband service than with a legacy multi-protocol label switching connectivity model.
With a like-for-like strategy, agencies assume the costly expense of maintaining an all-MPLS network to distributed field offices under a distance-sensitive pricing structure. The longer the line to reach a remote field office, the more expensive the service and access become. Bandwidth demand exceeding existing T1 capacity means adding more MPLS lines and quickly surpassing budgets. While costs vary by distance, agencies pay on average $400-$600 per month per MPLS T1 line for 1.5 Mbps download speed.
Meanwhile, the average cost of a broadband access line to that same location would fall somewhere between $100– $250 per month and likely deliver 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps download speeds per line. For agencies with hundreds or more locations, the choice is clear: A fully modernized network provides significant benefits to budgets, in addition to bandwidth efficiency.
Today’s news feeds are filled with stories of cyberattacks on government agencies like the recent SolarWinds breach, giving public-sector IT leaders some pause when considering how best to address network modernization. While transitioning to a distributed broadband network does pose a certain level of risk, deploying managed SD-WAN can mitigate security concerns by building advanced firewall protection and intrusion prevention and detection into the network. Known as a next-generation firewall, the devices can inspect site traffic at individual field offices to identify risks or threat patterns, while an MSP provides constant, hands-on management and monitoring. An edge-based approach to SD-WAN security protects networks closest to where vulnerabilities lie – in the devices at the distributed sites (the “edges”) -- and maximizes the benefits of a cloud-based enterprise network. Agencies don’t have to sacrifice network and application performance for network security.
The General Services Administration’s 2023 EIS implementation deadline is approaching fast and the need to modernize is growing with urgency. A like-for-like approach lacks the flexibility and reliability that today’s government networks demand. Kickstarting steps toward modernization, with support from an MSP, will propel agencies into the digital age, allowing them to serve constituents better -- now and into the future.
Tony Bardo is assistant vice president for government solutions at Hughes Network Systems.