Mobile computing and the cloud bring a number of benefits to the federal IT landscape, but agencies must nail down security before they can enjoy the rewards, speakers agreed during the webinar, Security on the Go: Mobile Devices in the Cloud.
“Security is the biggest hurdle for mobility,” said Dan Kent, Cisco Systems’ director of federal solutions and federal chief technology officer. “We have to ensure the integrity of that data.”
Several products are available to boost security and improve the user experience for agencies looking to implement cloud and mobile computing.
The user experience is an important part of the equation, said Pam Takahama, a product line manager for VMware, who also spoke during the webinar. Users want freedom and flexibility, but government IT shops have a mandate to maintain security and ensure continuity of operations in case of disaster. These goals are frequently at odds with users’ desires, she said.
Mobile computing can be a huge boon for agencies. “When you give people in the field tools like this, they think of innovative ways to do their jobs better,” Kent said. Users demand their choice of mobile devices, and the closer their experience in using those devices is to using their desktop PC, the more they like it, he added.
That’s where the cloud comes in. Implementing cloud computing helps agencies meet their IT needs and still give users what they want, Kent said. Most agencies are looking to establish private clouds, he said, which gives them many benefits but also allows them greater control of the data, which can reduce security risks.
Establishing a virtual desktop infrastructure also bolsters security by moving processing onto the back end and keeping data under agency control. Establishing a VDI for mobile users is resource-intensive, but the cloud lets agencies spin up resources when they’re needed and turn them off when they’re not, Kent said.
“That’s why we’re recommending a cloud type of environment when we implement the mobile workforce,” he said.
- Improved network throughput
- Reduced costs for memory, energy and real estate
- Reduced storage needs
- Better security through an integrated VPN, single sign-on and dynamic policy enforcement.
Agencies that set up a private cloud can further improve security by implementing hardware such as a Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance, which assures secure mobile network access and meets the requirements of the FIPS 140-2 security standard.
Moving applications to the cloud also helps ease the tension between user desires and the demands on IT, Takahama said. Using VMware’s ThinApp and View software can help agencies achieve several goals:
- Lower operational costs
- Centralized management
- Fast provisioning
- Improved security.
Application virtualization also can overcome some of the limitations of mobile devices, Takahama said. For example, iPad tablets are unable to run Flash, but a virtual desktop can run Flash in the cloud and provide the images to a remote user, even on an iPad.
A second webinar on the topic will focus on mobile clients and cloud environments for the Homeland Security Department. To register, click here.