Modernization and Cyber Security — 2018 IT Priorities for the Federal Government

The push for IT modernization at federal agencies is converging with the need for stronger cyber security. And the demands to achieve those goals as quickly and cost-effectively as possible are equally pressing.

Enhancing security, improving service delivery, and making more efficient use of resources are the key goals in the American Technology Council’s draft report on federal IT modernization. The White House’s executive order on cyber security also stresses the importance of building and maintaining “a modern, secure, and more resilient executive branch IT architecture.”

Furthermore, the recently signed Modernizing Government Technology Act promises to further drive agencies’ commitment to revamping their systems so they can take advantage of the latest advances in security and other technologies. Federal IT leaders actually ranked vulnerabilities from aging applications and technology as their number one cyber security challenge in the 2017 Federal CIO Survey by the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton.

But many agencies are still focused on achieving the goals of the Data Center Optimization Initiative; partly because of its potential for improving cyber security. Minimizing the number of data centers in the federal government, which saves money in the long run, presents a smaller cyber attack surface for agencies to manage and safeguard. And I should add that when I say modernizing, that goes beyond hardware to include replacing legacy software with cloud-based offerings that are updated as cyber attacks happen. If you have older software or an operating system that’s no longer being updated, eventually all these glaring holes are going to be opened and you’re going to get compromised.

Modern systems and as-a-service solutions are also fluid in ways that are impossible for their predecessors. For example, if you designed your Active Directory early following Microsoft’s best practices and you look at those best practices today, they’re not the same. That’s really what modernization is all about. Those practices are constantly being updated, but you didn’t have to rebuild your infrastructures to support that.

Ease the Transition                                                                                 

Whenever you are consolidating data centers to reduce IT footprint or moving operations to a new, a more cost-efficient platform, agency IT leaders should begin by identifying what’s currently in their environment and evaluating its usefulness. In other words, they must avoid the trap into which many people fall when they move to a new home. The best practice we always give our customers is to discard everything you know you don’t need. But you’re often so focused on the move, you box everything up and move it anyway. If you think about it from a security perspective, you might end up moving some back doors or vulnerabilities to the new environment.

Furthermore, by selecting federal government software that makes it easier and faster to streamline and secure IT infrastructures, agencies can reduce the cost and complexity of migrating to a new platform or consolidating and restructuring an environment.

The bottom line is: the more you can automate the process of data migration, the less likely you are to break things. And if it’s automated, it takes fewer hands to execute it, giving your employees time to deal with the things that will ultimately break or fall out.

Quest provides software tools and services that can help agencies clean up their environments ahead of time by providing information on users, groups, and privileged access. We can also identify the resources agencies need to move (and the ones they should leave behind). Other solutions simplify the process of determining optimal configuration settings and speed the recovery of data that is lost or deleted during a migration.

Quest federal government IT solutions can also help agencies move data and workloads from one platform to another and even keep two platforms running side-by-side to ease the transition. Quest solutions facilitate migration and consolidation for the most critical Microsoft platforms, including Active Directory, Exchange, Office 365, and Windows Server.

The right strategies and tools facilitate the swift adoption of new technologies so agencies can reap the benefits of IT modernization and focus on more strategic endeavors.