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Network Visibility Proves Critical as Feds Grapple with Explosion of New Endpoints and Cloud-Based Apps

Marlin McFate
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Every federal IT manager wants to deliver the best end-user experience for their employees and agency, including a reliable network infrastructure that provides connectivity and functionality, useful solutions that enable seamless collaboration and strong security. This is especially vital as the federal government continues operations under mass telework, which studies have indicated is likely here to stay even beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

Riverbed recently commissioned a study of 200 federal government IT decision makers and influencers to assess the state and impact of network visibility on performance, productivity and security in the federal government’s increasingly complex network environments. While there were many interesting results, three trends emerged that really stood out.

Network complexity is high

Federal agencies were already making strides in their IT modernization efforts and transition to the cloud under the imperative of Cloud First and Cloud Smart policies, but—as it’s been widely acknowledged—the massive push to telework accelerated the move to cloud to allow greater access and flexibility for staff no longer on-prem.

I was happy to see that 20% of respondents have completed their priority projects for SaaS, cloud and SD-WAN adoption, and another 47% have their priority projects in progress. However, that leaves more than 30% not even considering or still in the planning stage of these transitions. That said, of those surveyed:

  • 87% recognize that network visibility is an enabler of cloud infrastructure
  • 90% already consider their networks to be moderately-to-highly complex
  • 32% say that increasing network complexity is the greatest challenge an IT professional without visibility faces in their agency when managing the network

As cloud and as-a-service adoption continues to advance, federal networks will inevitably become more complex and require advanced network visibility capabilities to effectively manage, monitor and secure them. Network visibility can help expedite the evaluation process to determine what goes onto an agency’s cloud as well as what data and apps stay on-prem. It also allows clearer, ongoing management across the networks to enable smooth transitions to cloud, multi-cloud and hybrid infrastructures—something IT leaders clearly know.

Visibility is the key to security

Network visibility is the foundation of a strong cybersecurity posture. Attackers spend an average of 200 days inside a network before being detected and can do significant damage during this time, from stealing credentials and PII to exfiltration of other highly sensitive data.

Recent high-profile IG reports have pulled back the veil on several federal agencies’ lack of network visibility, but the truth is they’re not unique. My teams have had the experience of finding elements completely unknown, and oftentimes possible nefarious unknowns, on nearly every customer network we’ve put our Network Performance Monitoring (NPM) solutions on. There’s never been a time that our customers weren’t surprised by what we found.

The very first step to securing your network is identifying what is on it and what shouldn’t be there. Federal IT leaders recognize that network visibility is the foundation of a strong cybersecurity posture:

  • 93% say greater visibility facilitates greater network security
  • 96% consider network visibility to be valuable in assuring secure infrastructure
  • They consider cybersecurity to be the No. 1 priority that can be improved through better network visibility

What really stood out to me, though, is that respondents view automated threat detection as the most important aspect of a network visibility solution. Advanced reporting and automated alerting come in as the second and third most important visibility features. Federal IT teams need systems that reach out and alert them when something isn’t right. Riverbed’s NPM solutions allow IT to have a full view of their network landscape in real-time—we inform you of everything and everyone that’s on the network, who they’re talking to and what they’re saying—and we provide the highest-fidelity data to enable automated alerting and threat detection.

Telework cuts traffic and drives change

Forgive the IT pun there… the massive shift to work-from-home may have cut vehicle traffic, but it actually drove an explosion of new endpoints, cloud-based apps and traffic on federal networks—along with the adoption of visibility solutions as IT teams grappled with trying to get their arms around who, what, when and where their networks were being accessed. In fact, 81% of survey respondents noted that the increasing use of telework accelerated their agency’s use and deployment of network visibility. With 90% of federal employees currently teleworking and 86% indicating that they expect to continue to do so at least part-time after the pandemic ends, network visibility has never been more vital.

IT leaders agree that network visibility solutions play an important role in managing and securing their agencies’ increasingly complex and hybrid networks. Riverbed’s market-leading NPM solutions diagnose and troubleshoot network and application performance, and security issues, delivering full visibility to all networked devices, reduction in network and app blind spots and an overall 67% reduction of lost user productivity.

Please check out our website for more information on solutions to help your federal IT team with its network visibility and performance needs, or feel free to reach out to me directly.

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