Achieving High Availability for Federal Agencies in a Time of Unprecedented Demand
Federal agencies are facing extraordinary demands on their IT systems. To serve citizens and communities effectively, they are expected to remain available 24/7, compliant to security and data protection standards, and prepared to face increasingly severe cyberattacks. Meeting these demands means that having resilient systems is more critical for federal agencies than ever before. An unexpected event, like the pandemic the world is facing right now, increases the challenge of staying ahead of IT demands.
So how do federal agencies keep up with the demands?
With technology evolving rapidly as threats and demands on federal IT systems continue to grow, solutions for things like disaster recovery and scaling in the cloud must respond in a way that leave no gaps in data protection. This means persistent data protection that minimizes downtime and risk to production environments.
While this seems like a daunting task at face value, we can make it easier by examining the four major IT concerns that need to be addressed by federal agencies in order to succeed: reducing downtime, meeting compliance standards, automating to save time and resources, and remaining flexible while working within your individual agency’s priorities. By ensuring that these essentials are met with an eye toward the future, federal agencies can thrive.
Reducing Downtime is a Must
The vital nature of the work that federal agencies do demands the highest level of uptime possible. With traditional backup and replication solutions, critical servers and applications can be down for hours, even days. And unlike the private-sector, one can argue that the cost is far greater. In 2018, for example, the online tax-filing system of the IRS went down on April 17th—the final day Americans were able to file their taxes for the previous year. While the financial cost to bring the system back up (as well as the added man-hours required to process the submissions late) was enormous, the governmental and public repercussions were equally as damaging. Citizens were understandably upset, and the IRS was made to explain the disruption to the press as well as the federal government.
But it’s not only unplanned outages that federal agencies have to keep in check. In order to create a traditional backup, servers are impacted on a regular basis so that a snapshot can be created. While this may be acceptable for a business with limited hours, the very nature of federal sites and public resources demands that they be available at all times.
Keeping Ahead of the Compliance Curve
A large concern for federal agencies looking to upgrade their dated systems is ensuring that they remain—or become—compliant with NIST standards. Ensuring IT Solutions meet compliance standards can make upgrading dated systems a hassle. Not only do many federal agencies struggle to meet existing standards for cybersecurity and availability, but these standards frequently become more stringent. Just in 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13800: Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure. This order required that stricter cybersecurity measures be taken and that federal agencies must provide the Department of Homeland Security a plan for future improvements.
While these changes are difficult to implement for agencies already struggling to keep up, what is clear is that the federal government realizes the importance of cybersecurity and modernization—and that it will continue to push agencies to meet higher standards at a breakneck pace. This is why federal agencies can’t afford to settle for barely meeting each new standard as it is issued—rather, they must move forward in strides to stay ahead of an ever-moving curve.
Minimizing Resources through Automation
Keeping data protected and available at all times is no easy task—doubly-so for many federal agencies, as they operate under fixed budgets that don’t have room to expand IT spending. While securing more budget can be tricky, one way to make ends meet is by operating more efficiently. Since cutting back on security and availability isn’t an option, one option for increasing efficiency is to employ solutions that make things faster and easier. Choosing solutions that allow for automation of regular tasks and maintenance can be a huge step in this regard, as it not only saves IT administrators time, but frees them up to work on more critical concerns. And when employees do need to step in, it’s also important that a solution is quick and intuitive. Federal agencies don’t have time for simple tasks to take any longer than absolutely necessary—being able to control multiple systems through singular interfaces is a must for reaching maximum efficiency.
Flexibility Makes Upgrading Easy
Another hurdle that often keeps governmental agencies from upgrading their IT solutions is the requirement that they change the way their data is stored in order to use a new solution. This means more man-hours, time, and money to migrate whole systems. An easy way to avoid these wasted resources is to find a solution that is vendor-agnostic with the ability to work both on premises or in the cloud and across hypervisors. By using this kind of solution, federal agencies can make their IT systems more resilient without having to redesign their entire system each time, both saving resources and making regular updating more feasible.
Catch the Webinar
Want to learn more about IT resilience for federal agencies—and what Zerto’s IT Resilience Platform can do to help? Tune in to our webinar: Delivering Availability, Compliance and Cyber Resilience During a Crisis on May 14th at 1:30pm ET and discover how Zerto mitigates risks, saves resources, and exceeds compliance requirements—all in one elegant package.