How to Pick the Right Storage Solutions for Government Agencies
Apart from businesses and corporations, government agencies are other major consumers of storage solutions nationwide. Before the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, government agencies largely relied on in-house storage systems that compromised of thousands of data storage drives in unconsolidated warehouses. To establish a new branches, government agencies had to build new data centers to service them. Ultimately, hundreds of data centers were distributed all over the country, wasting tax-payers money which would otherwise have been used to improve critical services.
After the president insisted on the need to positively spend every federal dollar, the FDCCI was enacted to facilitate shrinkage of the data centers to reduce the expenditure on underutilized real estate, software, hardware and manpower. Since then, government agencies have been gradually adopting transformational storage solutions like the cloud to consolidate their data, improve their operations and overall efficiency. According to a MeriTalk report titled “The FDCCI Big Squeeze”, more than 60% of government IT managers can now comfortably assign their staff other more critical tasks thanks to the consolidation initiative. The report further indicates that 57% of government agency managers are saving costs on energy consumption, subsequently utilizing the funds in other critical operations. This directive has therefore largely revolutionized government storage systems.
Although the directive applies to all the government agencies, the precise storage solutions depend on the needs of the respective agencies. The storage principles may be similar but the framework and architecture is different in various agencies. That’s why it’s critically imperative for government agents to comprehensively understand how they can evaluate their respective needs to pick the right storage solutions for their agencies. Here are fundamental points to consider:
Type of Data
Although it’s basically a system of 1’s and 0’s, all data is not equal. While some, for instance, may be significantly confidential, other types of data may be open to public access. Additionally, some agencies deal in fairly huge amounts of data on a regular basis while others are confined to small data sets that correspond to their small scale operations.
The answers to following questions should be helpful in evaluating the type of data your agency deals with:
- Is it public or confidential?
- How secure should the data be?
- How much time do you need to retain the data?
- What type of access is required?
- Is it large or small scale?
The type of storage system you choose for your government agency should be convenient and suitable for your type of data. The NSA for instance, uses a fairly expansive, consolidated data center built in Utah that’s very effectual for thousands of zettabytes or yottabytes of confidential data. Smaller government agencies on the other hand, use small scale data centers optimized for their operations.
Data is not static- It keeps growing and changing. Similarly, government agencies keep expanding and shifting to new areas to boost their operations. Since it’s considerably expensive to purchase new hardware to accommodate growth, it’s advisable to use a storage solution that’s flexible enough to accommodate steady expansion.
Government agencies that have already consolidated their data in the cloud are already enjoying its scalability and increased performance. They can efficaciously upload and process data, then scale up the storage space and performance according to their fluid requirements.
To optimize service delivery, the government has implemented various compliance levels in its departments, ranging from data handling to inter and intra-departmental communication. Some of the agencies like security and finance are more regulated than the rest because of the sensitivity of the data they handle.
To ensure complete adherence to the compliance levels, you should critically assess them and compare them to your storage options. If you are outsourcing the data to a third party cloud service provider for instance, ensure that he complies with the respective compliance levels and has the relevant credentials as required.
Due to the sensitive nature of governmental data, accessibility is often controlled with the most confidential data only accessible to individuals with the highest credentials. The 1 million square feet NSA data center in Utah for instance, is secured by high perimeter walls and is only open to high ranking NSA officials. The rest of the agents access data according to their clearance levels through the NSA network that links the database to remote computers.
Accessibility should therefore be a primary concern as you consider the right storage solution. How many people will access the data? Which framework will be implemented to control access according to the credentials? Is the data accessible to third party storage service providers?
Although access control is most critical to sensitive data, all governmental data access should be systematically regulated to avoid data loss, and any other perils which may arise due to unauthorized access and distribution.
According to the Global Information Assurance Certification, cyber warfare is exceedingly developing to be the primary combat tactic of this century. The United States is increasingly facing cyber threats, with a majority of the attackers targeting governmental organizations. Infiltrating the organizations would leak out United States secrets, as was seen with the WikiLeaks diplomatic crisis, which put the State department under immense pressure after leaking out thousands of confidential cables. Additionally, attackers are seeking to cripple the organizations to cut off some of the basic services delivered to the American citizens.
The best and most effectual strategy of protecting your organization from such attackers is securely storing all the data in servers protected by multiple levels of impenetrable security protocols. Of course such protocols comprise of up-to-date firewalls, anti-malware, anti-virus and anti-hacking systems that can detect and repel all types of cyber-attacks. Additionally, physical protection should be provided to prevent physical access to the respective data centers and servers.
As you assess the various critical elements to determine the right storage solution, it’s advisable to engage the experts who will advise you further on how to implement them. You should also to do a keen analysis of the existing storage systems successfully implemented by other governmental organizations to have a vivid comprehension of exactly what you need. Finally, ensure that all the data storage systems are consolidated and virtualized such that they are all remotely accessible to all relevant stakeholders.
In addition to picking the right storage, governments need a good on-premise cloud solution. Many government organizations from NASA to government of India trust FileCloud to run their on-premise cloud. Here are some case studies:
Author: Davis Porter
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