A third option is for agencies to deploy a software-defined WAN, in which a software agent can be used to connect a user’s home network to the enterprise network, with the home network acting as a “branch” location. Agencies can deploy remote cloud Wi-Fi access points from vendors such as Aruba Networks and Extreme Networks. However, that may not be easy to do right now at scale. So, Kerravala says, it may be reserved for higher-level users who need access to critical applications.
Susie Adams, CTO of Microsoft Federal, says that thanks to OMB easing acquisition procedures and the Defense Department’s Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, “agencies can quickly adopt large-scale telework platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, that enable virtual collaboration.”
Moving forward, she advises, “agencies should test solutions early and often to ensure they meet security and compliance requirements for a remote office environment.” Additionally, Adams says, “agencies should develop their zero-trust architecture to protect their organizations during a fast-tracked digital transformation” and follow guidance from the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Trusted Internet Connections program (specifically, CISA’s interim TIC 3.0) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST’s Zero Trust Architecture).
Dominic Delmolino, CTO of Accenture Federal Services, says that in addition to technology, agency IT leaders need to work on the culture and awareness around telework.
“How do you help your workforce effectively and productively working from home?” he asks, noting that employees no longer have a commute to decompress after a workday and just may need more support in general. “How do you help people collaborate with all the people they interact with — suppliers, business partners, contractors? How do you collaborate across agencies or across organizations?”
IT leaders need to also think through how to help workers whose jobs cannot be moved online.
The Necessary Collaboration Tools for Remote Teams
There are numerous aspects of an agency’s telework toolkit that can set the agency up for success.
“The enterprise toolkit should address the increase in traffic from remote users across the infrastructure and access to the right hardware to maintain the infrastructure, such as servers, routers and other IT equipment at data centers, or infrastructure supporting access to enterprise systems,” the GSA spokesperson says.
According to Adams, the main element is, “if an agency hasn’t already broadly adopted a collaboration tool and chosen collaboration apps, standardizing on a common platform can reduce barriers across groups.”
Videoconferencing Tools for Remote Work
Kerravala agrees, and says that agencies should move away from doing most collaboration over email, adding that this would be a good time to consolidate video and team messaging applications onto a single platform, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco Webex or Google Hangouts.
Additionally, Adams say, agency IT leaders need to do the following:
- Enable users to securely access cloud apps from outside the agency network
- Provide secure access to on-premises apps from outside the agency network
- Scale-up access to desktop and app virtualization solutions
- Support bring-your-own-device policies to enable access to data when agency-owned devices aren’t available
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for telework eligibility and security requirements across the federal government,” she says. “However, Microsoft has various protections built into its products that we hope will continue to provide some relief during this unprecedented time.”
Remote Work Security: Multifactor Authentication and App Integration
Adams notes that exposing on-premises apps to the internet for remote access “leads to increased complexity and a larger surface area that security teams need to protect” and, therefore, “it is important to put the right controls in place so that agencies can have confidence in knowing only the right people are accessing their applications and data.”
One way to enhance cybersecurity is by connecting on-premises apps via app proxy or a partner integration and enforcing per-app conditional access policies, such as multifactor authentication.
Jim Stout, a senior manager at Accenture Federal Services, says that agencies need to be able to simulate, through collaboration tools, the ability for a user to walk over to a coworker’s cubicle and see if they are available for a conversation about a project.