While federal agencies may not be undertaking a wholesale upgrade to Windows 11 in 2022, IT leaders can start getting prepared for that and other hardware refreshes. 

Dec 22 2021

How Federal Agencies Can Successfully Undertake a Major Hardware Refresh

While a significant shift to Windows 11 isn’t likely for a few years, IT leaders can begin planning now.

Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled Windows 11, its first major operating system update in six years.

There are several features that could be beneficial to federal agencies, including more direct integration with Microsoft Teams, an easier ability to configure virtual desktops, improved accessibility features and security enhancements that could help Windows devices integrate more easily into zero-trust architectures.

However, it is unlikely that we will see a massive migration to Windows 11 in the near future like we saw with the shift to Windows 10. It took a few years for agencies to roll out Windows 10 ahead of the end of support for Windows 7 in January 2020. Agency IT leaders needed to understand their organizations’ IT requirements and plan for a major upgrade.

RELATED: How to update mission-critical IT systems without taking them offline.

As a result, and since Windows 10 is being supported until Oct. 14, 2025, it will likely be two to three years before Windows 11 starts getting widely deployed across the federal government. That timeline may be accelerated by the shift to zero trust for cybersecurity, since Windows 11 includes support for a Trusted Platform Module, an integrated cryptographic key that protects encryption keys, user credentials and sensitive data.

Essentially, TPM gives agencies authentication credentials and ensures that specific endpoints trying to access the network are the correct, validated endpoints.

While it will likely be a few years before agencies need to widely roll out Windows 11, there are some basic steps that IT leaders can take now to prepare — for this or any other major hardware refreshes.

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How to Prepare for a Major Hardware Refresh at Your Agency

To prepare for any major hardware refresh, IT leaders need to have a clear understanding of an agency’s business needs. They need to speak with program management offices and key leaders in the mission areas to determine users’ needs and what will drive technology use over the next five years.

IT leaders should also evaluate their current needs and consider how they could be better met with newer versions of hardware. This is especially valuable to do for data center hardware: Perhaps newer versions of equipment can accomplish in one appliance what older hardware required five appliances to do.

Then, IT leaders need to evaluate and document the current specifications and performance of the hardware they do have to ensure that any upgrades play well with it.

Additionally, IT leaders should conduct a thorough cybersecurity review and determine how a hardware refresh will impact the agency’s IT security posture. What new technologies, policies and procedures will need to be put in place and enforced?

A hardware refresh doesn’t just include refreshing equipment. It involves a wide-ranging strategy refresh. It should be an opportunity for IT leaders to think ahead to the future and plan out an agency’s future needs.

This article is part of FedTech’s CapITal blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #FedIT hashtag.

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Photo courtesy of Microsoft

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