Improper data center management affects 90% of federal field workers

Federal agency employees rely on high-speed access to information for numerous tasks including delivering data to coworkers out of the country and national security. A recent report from MeriTalk surveyed federal field works and IT professionals and found that real-time access to information saves the average field worker more than 800 hours each year, which equals around $32.5 billion in federal savings.

Data center downtime is not only expensive and a risk to cybersecurity, but it also affects 90 percent of field workers' ability to effectively complete tasks that their job requires. The report found that one in four of these federal staff members use their personal mobile devices to work around data center outages. The result is that 42 percent of employees cannot support their agency's core mission.

Additionally, 69 percent of federal IT professionals said that downtime longer than 30 minutes in unacceptable. Eighty percent of them stated that ensuring data center reliability is a top priority of the agency for which they work. According to the report, the two main reasons for downtime are network or server outage – 42 percent of the time – and internet connectivity loss – 29 percent.

Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, told CRN that these statistics include public government infrastructure outages such as the infamous healthcare.gov problems.

"It's becoming more and more of a challenge," he explained. "There's more weight on these data centers. With downtime, think about healthcare.gov, think about mission critical [Department of Defense] on the frontlines. It affects our ability to look at the services the government provides to America. Even look at the [Transportation Security Administration] in terms of vetting people coming into the country – when you fly in and there are those long lines, if you have a 30-minute downtime, that line will back up and back up."

Prevention of problems
Jim Turner, president of D.C.-based Hilltop Consultants, told CRN that the recent 2013 Internal Revenue Service controversy – when it seemed that conservative groups were extensively scrutinized for tax exemption – is a good example of how inadequate technology solutions impact federal agencies' abilities. Emails and files were lost, but IRS staff members needed to produce them to meet the requirements of a subpoena. Turner believed that if there were sufficient means of disaster recovery solutions and data management, then this would not have been an issue.

Possible causes
There are still problems in the way of achieving maximum efficiency for federal agencies. The MeriTalk report found that agencies only have 56 percent of the necessary amount of data storage available, 52 percent of the computational power required and 45 percent of the personnel crucial to attain reliable and agile data center management.

O'Keeffe told CRN that the funds needed to improve proper data management just are not available and added that he frequently testifies on Capitol Hill in an effort to push spending towards IT service management.

The MeriTalk report listed a few ways to improve data center agility: increase bandwidth and storage by 52 percent, improve security and educate senior leadership on the importance of functioning data centers.

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