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Network Monitoring: Defending the Public Sector During Remote Working

By: Chrystal Taylor, Head Geek, SolarWinds

Over the past year, many workers have transitioned into work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. This is no different for government officials and public sector workers here in the Asia-Pacific region. In Singapore, public servants have taken on a hybrid arrangement, with three days in the office and two at home. The question lies in how they can continue to deliver public sector services without impacting efficiency as governments adapt to new working conditions.

With the additional workload and responsibilities brought about by the pandemic, governments are under increasing pressure. To steer economic policy and ensure online services are running 24/7—all while coping with the workload from the increased digitalisation of services—internal IT applications and infrastructure must work as expected without compromising on user accessibility. Custom apps mustn’t falter; small performance degradations or outages could be disastrous. Lastly, government agencies need to make sure these systems are secure and safeguarded against internal and external threats. How, then, can government agencies best cope with the increased demand for accessibility and visibility?

The answer is in “infrastructure monitoring.” To troubleshoot problems impacting users in a time-sensitive sector like the government, IT teams must prioritize infrastructure monitoring across applications, databases, storage, and the network to do the following:

  • Build defence and stability from within for a frictionless remote working experience
  • Plan for fluctuations in demand
  • Ensure all internal fronts are covered—including security

Let’s take a closer look at how these goals can be accomplished.

Building Defence and Stability From Within

Government agencies first need to ensure their internal networks and teams are functioning optimally before even thinking about defending the public. The secret? The power of cloud. However, it’s not as “secret” as many may think. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian governments have been using cloud to enhance their eGovernment services and agility to respond to the needs of citizens and businesses. Amidst the pandemic, many education ministries—including those of Singapore and the People’s Republic of China—were able to set up a national cloud-based education platform in record time, allowing students to continue their studies during movement control lockdowns. The Republic of Korea also tapped into the power of cloud to develop its Epidemic Investigation Support System to conduct movement and contact tracing.

The success of a digital government hinges on the reliability and stability of a cloud-based IT infrastructure, and for the remote work experience to be truly frictionless, an agency’s applications and data must be readily available the same way they were when public sector workers were operating on-site. The use of cloud-based collaboration platforms must be encouraged if they’re in the agency’s portfolio so the workforce can continue to communicate in real time and collaborate across different departments and workstreams more efficiently. IT teams should also make it a cadence to develop and regularly maintain dashboards to actively monitor system, application, and network health and accessibility.

Planning for Fluctuations in Demand

The pandemic has introduced new fluctuations in demand as workers have shifted to remote work or worked on-site as part of a skeleton crew. Agency IT pros have an opportunity to make use of the quiet time on-site by optimizing the network and computing environment and building in future capacity for the returning workforce. The first step is to monitor the network and computing assets to develop a baseline of behaviour. Next, review the aggregated log and flow data to determine where bottlenecks currently exist, and develop and implement an improvement plan.

Nationwide WFH measures are new to some countries and therefore more volatile—occasional upticks in IT support team requests from time to time are inevitable. This means the agency help desk support teams must be adequately staffed to carry them through the increased workload; the last thing an agency needs is employee burnout. It’s important for staff to request support through multiple channels such as phone, email, dedicated support applications, and collaboration tools. Monitoring each component application and network segment’s performance will help determine whether challenges reported by the remote worker are local to the agency or are due to a shortage of bandwidth on the employee’s end.

With Great Visibility Comes Great Responsibility

We also can’t ignore the fact the pandemic has given rise to cybersecurity threats in the past year. According to the Interpol ASEAN Cyberthreat Assessment 2021, as Southeast Asian public authorities increasingly leverage online platforms to communicate COVID-19 prevention measures from the comfort of their own homes, they become vulnerable to cybercrime, such as data breaches and spread of ransomware. Additionally, as many public servants hold access to critical and sensitive data—and must follow compliance requirements and other mandates—extra vigilance is required in access monitoring. However, access control and management tools must harmonize to audit access rights across both cloud and on-premises infrastructures. The challenge for agencies is to balance the agility and scalability of the cloud without introducing overbearing levels of security or overburdening IT teams.

Traditional security and IT management tools are designed for either cloud or on-premises infrastructures, rarely both. Administrators need an integrated dashboard giving them a comprehensive view across their cloud environments. This will provide complete insight into the overall health, performance, and security of their network, database, systems, and applications so they can swiftly identify and mitigate risks to ensure the continued provision of efficient and seamless services to their citizens where they need it, when they need it.

Meeting Mission Requirements

It can be tough for government IT professionals to manage day-to-day internal operations as well as external functions while navigating ever-evolving government pandemic measures. Secure and reliable network monitoring software helps minimize network failure and downtime, ensuring networks perform at their optimal capacity and staff are able to provide mission-critical service to citizens—whether from home or from the office.

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