2 Steps to Mobility Success in Federal Government IT Modernization
This article originally appeared on April 2, 2016, and has been revised to bring our readers the most up-to-date technology information.
The federal government is no stranger to the subject of mobility, although it’s secret that IT modernization has been its challenge. In all, it's estimated that the federal government spends about $1.2 billion annually on about 1.5 million mobile devices and associated services, according to a 2015 Office of Management and Budget estimate. The clarion call to create a more mobile federal workforce is growing louder, but the need to support federal IT agency missions — while adhering to security requirements and remaining within budgets — is paramount.
While the strategies to accomplish that are complex and will vary from agency to agency, they fit broadly into two categories:
Step One: Mobile Device Management (MDM)
As is the case in the private sector, federal IT organizations are recognizing the need for a more holistic approach to mobile device management. A comprehensive, organization-wide solution — known as Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) — provides structure for every aspect of the process, from device procurement and deployment to overall system management. The ultimate goal is increased organizational efficiency as well as cost savings.
One of the key components of a mobile device management program in the government setting is the ability to administer a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) program. While BYOD accommodates existing employee behaviors, there are significant negatives in the federal environment, particularly security threats, given the challenges of protecting government data, and a wide range of device types, operating systems and applications.
CYOD, in contrast, provides employees the choice among pre-approved devices. This strikes a happy medium between digital transformation efforts and simply issuing agency-standard hardware. And it also permits far superior control and security, as well as adherence to federal certifications and standards that prevent security threats. The drawbacks include potentially higher costs — although the expenses of monitoring, maintenance and support can be mitigated by large-scale data plans.
Based on the survey shown in Figure 1, 45% of organizations will cease to provide personal devices by 2020. Given that level of receptiveness in the private sector, it may make sense for government IT organizations without any mobility plans in their IT modernization initiatives to transition to the CYOD model.
Step Two: Address government data management.
An increase in mobile devices inevitably leads to expanded data needs and new stresses on storage, backup and recovery systems. Solutions to consider include:
Distributed backup architecture — Instead of capital-intensive centralized backup hardware, this process allocates government data backup across an entire network. In essence, the network itself becomes the backup device, and the result is improved enterprise reliability.
Federated deduplication — This increases efficiency by allowing data to be moved from location to location over low-bandwidth, affordable links — lowering both the storage overhead and WAN bandwidth burdens. The advantages include flexibility, optimized backup processes, reduced network bandwidth cost and improved backup throughput.
Cloud storage and backup-as-a-service — Whereas traditional backup requires you to physically move backup media offsite, cloud backup requires no such intervention and allows instant access. Benefits include potentially unlimited data retention, ample agility and scalability, and lower capital costs.
While the federal move to mobility is still in its beginning stages in many respects, there are successful implementations and ways to leverage today's technologies. For instance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission initiated a mobility strategy and program that helped cut spending on voice and data services by 50%. While this is just one example, the mobility trend continues to build — and the advantages will, too.
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