By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering & Global CTO


There continues to be pressure on government IT to optimize and modernize, and I wanted to share a blog written in 2016 by my SolarWinds colleague, Mav Turner.


Federal IT professionals are in the midst of significant network modernization initiatives that are fraught with peril. Modernizing for the cloud and achieving greater agility are attractive goals, but security vulnerabilities can all too easily spring up during the modernization phase.


A path paved with danger, ending in riches


Last year, my company, SolarWinds, released the results of a Federal Cybersecurity Survey showing that the road to modernization is marked with risk. Forty-eight percent of respondents reported that IT consolidation and modernization efforts have led to an increase in IT security issues. These primarily stem from incomplete transitions (according to 48 percent of respondents), overly complex management tools (46 percent), and a lack of training (44 percent).


The road to modernization can potentially lead to great rewards. Twenty-two percent of respondents actually felt that modernization can ultimately decrease security challenges. Among those, 55 percent cited the benefits of replacing old, legacy software, while another 52 percent felt that updated equipment offered a security advantage. Still more (42 percent) felt that newer software was easier to use and manage.


The challenge is getting there. As respondents indicated, issues are more likely to occur in the transitional period between out-with-the- old and in-with-the-new. During this precarious time, federal administrators need to be hyper aware of the dangers lurking just around the corner.


Here are a few strategies that can help.


Invest in training


Federal IT professionals should not trust their legacy systems or modern IT tools to someone without the proper skill sets or knowledge.


Workers who do not understand how to use, manage, and implement new systems can be security threats in themselves. Their inexperience can put networks and data at risk. Agencies must invest in training programs to help ensure that their administrators, both new and seasoned, are familiar with the deployment and management of modern solutions.


Maximize the budget


If the money is there, it’s up to federal CIOs to spend it wisely. Some funds may go to the aforementioned training, while others may go to onboarding new staff. Yet another portion could go to investing in new technologies that can help ease the transition from legacy to modernized systems.


Avoid doing too much at once


That transition should be gradual, as a successful modernization strategy is built a win at a time.


Administrators should start upgrades with a smaller set of applications or systems, rather than an entire infrastructure. As upgrades are completed, retrospective analyses should be performed to help ensure that any security vulnerabilities that were opened during the transition are now closed. Connected systems should be upgraded simultaneously. Further analyses should focus on length of time for the transition, number of staff required, and impact on operations, followed by moving on to the next incremental upgrade.


Find the full article on Federal News Radio.