Chris Novak is Director of the Verizon Threat Research Advisory Center and a strategic cybersecurity adviser to multinational corporations and government agencies worldwide.
Federal agencies have come a long way over the past decade in their march from “Cloud First” to “Cloud Smart” to embracing “a data strategy and infrastructure for the future” outlined recently in the Federal Data Strategy.
Implicit in that journey was the recognition that in order for government agencies to serve citizens effectively in the digital age, agencies needed to modernize and more fully secure their underlying digital transformation systems.
This has meant many things, but perhaps chief among them was for federal agencies to embrace a core principle: Ending the practice of building and developing their own IT systems and begin buying more standardized commercially-available systems instead.
The growth of cloud computing during those same years, of course, put a different spin on that principle, and opened the flood-gates to a new era of possibilities. Cloud computing made it possible for agencies to choose infrastructure and software as a service rather than buying and maintaining commercial hardware and software as an asset. That in turn created a game-changing way to acquire and manage IT.
In many ways, government agencies are now weighing a similar choice in deciding how best to staff and manage their IT operations as a whole.
The question at hand is, when does it make more sense to turn over portions of your IT operations to managed services providers instead of staffing them internally?
Federal agencies, of course, will always need experienced digital transformation teams — with the right mix of strategic talent and technical know-how — to translate their organization’s mission into a digital roadmap and deploy the best available technology solutions.
That said, the scale and scope of today’s digital transformation demands, the relentless evolution of technology solutions, the shortage of talent and the growing range of cyberthreats are forcing IT leaders to rethink their options. And it’s prompting hard questions about how to address the full spectrum [link to Article #1] of technology innovation and cybersecurity challenges that agencies face today.
Verizon’s latest annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), for instance, found that across 16 industries, ransomware is a significant and growing problem for public sector agencies. But misconfigurations and errors also pose significant risks, such as an employee spinning up a data store in the cloud without proper security measures. Those and countless other security issues are beginning to overwhelm even the best-staffed IT departments.
Fortunately, agencies don’t need to look far for a viable solution. They can simply take a page from the digital transformation playbooks at commercial firms, which are increasingly shifting day-to-day IT and security operations to managed service providers and bringing in professional services teams to tackle critical projects.
Managed and professional services can bring a number of stabilizing advantages to agencies, including:
Ensure predictability — IT infrastructure, applications and security platforms require constant maintenance and upgrades that can result in unexpected disruptions and unplanned expenses. A managed services model can help ensure guaranteed levels of service and keep costs predictable while scaling quickly when needed.
Leverage automation — Managed services providers can spread their expertise and costs over multiple customers. In addition, the knowledge gained from supporting a broad base of customers allows managed service providers to automate repeatable processes that can actually lower IT operating costs.
Tap deep expertise — When security incidents do occur, managed and professional services providers can access a broader bench of specialists than most agencies can afford. Because these specialists work across multiple agencies or industries, they also have deeper expertise to respond to cyber incidents.
Enable innovation — Managed and professional services ultimately allow agency IT departments to focus more of their time and energy on innovative projects that can add value to the agency, their employees and to citizens. These service providers can also bring added perspective and fresh ideas to agency efforts.
Of course, there are some distinct advantages in working with Verizon’s managed and professional services teams. Foremost among them is our experience in managing and protecting one of the world’s largest network backbones, not to mention our vast wireless networking expertise.
That experience — along with the expertise our security specialists have gained monitoring security threats and marshalling the latest artificial intelligence and other tools to blunt cyberattacks — gives our managed and professional services teams a powerful advantage when it comes to dealing with federal security issues.
In addition, our extensive experience in helping a wide range of federal customers manage their networks has given us valuable insights into the federal agency IT environment. Our specialists not only understand the many nuances of complying with federal security standards, but they also know how to apply proven upgrades and automated processes to help agencies uniquely leverage their existing IT systems and get the most out of their IT budgets.
Managed services, of course, require both parties to have a clear understanding of the service level agreement. But given the hidden costs inherent in project delays, security incidents and service disruptions — as well as the growing complexity of managing today’s distributed networks — now may be the ideal time for agencies to consider the advantages of managed and professional services.
Find out more on how Verizon Professional and Managed Services can provide a full spectrum of digital and security solutions for your organization.
This article was produced by Scoop News Group for, and sponsored by, Verizon.