Jun 27 2016

Small Business Administration Shifts to the Cloud

The SBA is updating its network infrastructure, which has enabled a move to cloud-based productivity apps.

Technology transitions often take place in stages that are contingent upon one another. For the Small Business Administration, the agency needed to modernize its networks before it could make a move to the cloud.

The SBA is in the midst of upgrading its network infrastructure to support new cloud offerings. Keith Bluestein, the acting CIO of the SBA, told Federal News Radio that the agency’s senior leadership recognized that the agency had put off IT updates for too long, “so they put their money where their mouth is and led the procurement of all new routers and switches across the U.S., which is a significant undertaking.”

According to Bluestein, that network update project is now about 60 percent complete and should be finished by the end of 2016.

Moving to a Cloud Environment

“We knew we had significant legacy issues with the local data center here so we have been very focused in moving as much of the stuff we have here to a cloud environment,” Bluestein says.

Along with the new routers and switches, SBA is making sure its employees have modern cloud productivity software. Over the Memorial Day weekend, SBA’s IT staff and contractors moved the agency to Microsoft Office 365 in the cloud for the agency’s email needs, according to Federal News Radio.

Over the next few months, SBA will take advantage of other Office 365 capabilities, including Skype for Business, and document collaboration by utilizing Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service.

With Office 365, the SBA now has 50 gigabytes of storage, 100 times more than the 500 megabytes they previously had. Bluestein says employees will not need to archive documents as a result and this will lead to an improved user experience.

SBA is also consolidating and updating its SharePoint instances so that it can have a more modern version of Microsoft’s office collaboration and document-sharing software.

Bluestein says that when he joined SBA in May 2015, he found “several instances with SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. We are migrating all of that to coexist with the Office 365 instance, and we are going from 2007 instances to 2010 and taking all 2010 instances to 2013, so we can shift that into the cloud as well.”

Walking Before Running

Bluestein told Federal News Radio that the SBA needed to update its network technology and data center before it could adopt cloud apps. Network and data center updates had to get started before SBA could take advantage of the cloud. Before he arrived, Bluestein says that SBA had a critical issue with its data center, which spurred the agency to make the changes.

“Our youngest switch in our network was going end of life in July of last year, so it was clear we needed to update the transport out there. Even though we are driving a lot of things to the cloud, not everything will be in the cloud, so people can reach back to the network,” Bluestein says.

“The other thing that we did when we bought the equipment for the infrastructure refresh was buy some overhead in here. Fortunately our leadership was forward thinking,” he says. “We want to give services such as unified communications and desktop video teleconferencing, and let people operate in a modern environment. We will only be able to do that if we pipe lots of data across our data and across the U.S. They agreed to that and bought the equipment that can handle that.”


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