GSA’s September 2022 milestone is exactly 2 years away. Yet many federal IT professionals report falling behind on their efforts to modernize their legacy networks. According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), only 8 out of 19 federal agencies expect to be done with their transition to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract by the September 2022 milestone.
And it’s not only federal agencies that are struggling, state agencies are equally challenged by their legacy network infrastructure and the daunting task of keeping pace with the rapid move to cloud and hybrid technologies. Agencies – at any and every level – should follow the example of private sector enterprises with distributed offices and adopt Managed Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solutions. Already widely proven, Managed SD-WAN offers agencies a clear path to better performance, increased security, and reduced network costs.
Here, we look at the top challenges that agencies face with their current networks, and how a Managed SD-WAN solution can address those issues.
Top 3 Roadblocks
- Robust connectivity at all locations
Despite the continued growth in broadband availability, speed, coverage, and quality, performance still varies considerably based on geography and infrastructure capability – a fact that nearly all agencies with locations in exurban and remote areas have discovered. One such example is the Department of Interior’s National Park Service (NPS), which has sites across wildly different settings. Yet its employees need reliable, robust connectivity to manage operations and process reservations. Even visiting guests want connectivity. Achieving consistent networking capabilities through a patchwork of different network architectures nationwide poses a huge challenge.
- Security at the edge in a distributed world
Without a doubt, having a continuous, secure and stable network connection is key to an agency’s operations. It enables employees, constituents, vendors and partners to safely access applications and devices. Those network users also have expectations for application performance and their ability to complete tasks efficiently. Unfortunately, many government agencies have been sacrificing network and application performance – and essentially the user experience – for network security, under the mistaken notion that MPLS delivers greater security than broadband, which has seen tremendous improvements in its network security delivery.
- Cost concerns
Maintaining an all-MPLS network to dispersed field offices usually involves a distance-sensitive pricing structure, which is not at all cost-effective. The longer the line to reach a field office, the more expensive the service and access costs. Yet with bandwidth demand exceeding existing T1 capacity, agencies often consider adding more MPLS lines, adding cost without the material performance gains achieved by transforming with broadband. That approach, especially when trying to adopt a “like-for-like” transition strategy, can quickly bust annual budgets. This is an unsustainable strategy.
Managed SD-WAN Paves the Way
Different from an off-the-shelf SD-WAN solution, Managed SD-WAN is available only from a Managed Services Provider (MSP), like Hughes, that can tailor the SD-WAN solution to an agency’s specific needs. That typically results in cloud readiness, robust branch security, substantial performance improvements, and cost savings over legacy networks.
- Connectivity – SD-WAN enables the continuous and robust connectivity agencies with distributed environments demand but struggle to find. By mapping traffic to the best of multiple paths and transport, SD-WAN offers proper use of a variety of available services. Because MSPs have established proven service provider relationships, they are able to stitch together a dependable network from multiple broadband providers. By achieving and maintaining connectivity, an agency can optimize application performance and uptime regardless of vastly different broadband access types and infrastructures. That’s a chief benefit of Managed SD-WAN. Plus, since an MSP’s core business model is focused on keeping customer networks operating smoothly and efficiently, they are quick to identify and solve problems. That too leads to better network performance.
- Security – Experienced providers, especially one like Hughes that is both an MSP and a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), are proficient at delivering security to the edge in a distributed world, as well as to tens of thousands of SD-WAN sites. They are adept at scaling their offerings; deploying different security architectures (even hybrid architectures); and blending on-premises, data center, and web/cloud-based security capabilities to achieve an agency’s needs. The best MSPs will partner with and become an extension of the agency’s IT department – freeing that team up to focus on delivering value-added services to employees and constituents.
- Reduced Costs (and Risk!) – MSPs have also been investing in the capabilities required to manage these multifaceted networks and security architectures effectively. When viewed through the government budget lens, the monthly service plans that MSPs offer move much of the expense into predictable costs and fee structures. In addition to equipment and broadband transport, Managed SD-WAN costs will include network operations, combined billing (across providers), and security. Help desk support may also be included based on service level agreements. All of this means the agency can avoid surprises or large sunken costs.
Managed SD-WAN solutions not only pave the way to better security, better performance, and reduced network costs, but a high performing MSP can help agencies to meet the September 2022 GSA milestone. For all these reasons, it might even make sense to accelerate transformation efforts and put those legacy-related challenges and roadblocks in the rearview mirror.