Mar 22 2022

Secure Environments Help Customers Make Decisions on Classified IT

Agencies can test new equipment in a sandbox that resembles their specific technological setups.

In the corporate world, companies often work with vendors in proof-of-concept environments where they can test interesting technology before purchase. This is a practice that government agencies would like to adopt, but the stronger cybersecurity required for federal operations makes it difficult.

The U.S. Navy is among the federal agencies looking to shift the responsibility of IT solution support to third-party vendors. In need of a new videoconferencing solution for Naval Base San Diego, officials turned to a more secure method for assessing, testing and examining IT products: sandboxing.

This particular sandbox looks and feels just like an actual Navy IT environment, allowing officials to see the benefits of new solutions during evaluation in a familiar, secure environment.

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Navy-Specific Environment Led to Teleconferencing Solutions 

Knowing that they’ll be working in a Navy-specific environment, vendors can solve in advance for the mechanics by which the Navy is looking to procure a solution, whether that means buying new equipment or operationalizing the solution as a service. The new environment also allows officials to see how well they’ll work with the vendors, for example, and how receptive the vendors are to their needs.

The process allows both the Navy and the vendor to streamline and assess solutions and technology in advance so that the Navy sees only the solutions with the most potential — the ones it’s most likely to buy.

CDW•G recently used this option to help the Navy upgrade both its videoconferencing and printing operations to solutions delivered as a service. Both are very basic IT functions, but both have advanced in recent years as more federal employees have turned to remote and hybrid work. Demonstrating the new capabilities was key to the upgrade.

EXPLORE: Remote work tools benefit federal agencies’ operations in numerous ways. 

Working within the sandbox, CDW•G demonstrated how well the new equipment meshed with the existing IT environment and how all the extra bells and whistles on updated video and printing technology would work. The facility allowed the Navy to see how Bluetooth-enabled phones can tap into a video call, for example, or how to switch from a touch screen to an interactive whiteboard.

Knowing ahead of time that more advanced functions will work inside the Navy environment enables faster and more certain decision-making when it comes to selecting new IT products.

The sandbox setup also allows vendors to demonstrate various levels of service in the Navy-specific environment. For instance, the branch could purchase the highest level of printing service, in which the vendor will do everything short of adding paper to the printer when it runs out, or it could see how useful a less expensive tier of service might be.

LEARN MORE: DIA CIO Doug Cossa explains how the agency is upgrading its secure intranet.

Military and Intelligence Agencies Benefit from Secure Sandbox Testing

In the case of videoconferencing, the Navy had been set up to use it as a service. But it had been struggling to get help replacing and modernizing its aging equipment, and as the service branch looked to expand the solution, it needed to see how the newer solutions would fit.

Working in the secure sandbox gave the Navy a way to streamline the process and assess the technology and solutions with the most potential, and it also let them see demos and make their assessments in an environment as close to the actual working environment as possible.

An environment-specific sandbox would benefit any agency or military branch that deals with sensitive and classified information. While the federal government does support and promote shared services for financial functions or nonsensitive data, this isn’t a project that’s easily shared among agencies — or that should be.

But for those military and intelligence agencies looking to upgrade IT solutions, the concept of testing in a pre-purchase sandbox adds a layer of security and certainty during a major IT upgrade.

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 the U.S. Navy

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