Ryan Petersen is Editor in Chief of StateTech.

Protect and Serve

As IT becomes more imperative to government, the consequences of system downtime have never been greater. As a result, IT leaders face immense pressure to protect their infrastructures from all types of threats. They must preserve continuity of operations amidst a natural disaster or act of terrorism, guard against security attacks and prevent employees from unwittingly leaking sensitive data. It's a tall order.

Fortunately, technology can lend a big helping hand. Whereas a few years ago, disaster preparedness may have meant storing backup tapes off the premises or having a hot site ready to go, today's storage advances, coupled with virtualization, enable public-sector agencies to recover without missing a beat. Among the critical tools for COOP: storage area networks, disk-to-disk backup, data deduplication, continuous data protection and replication.

As you know, preparing for disaster is a continuous work in progress for state and local government. IT departments make incremental improvements as budgets allow. Take the South Tahoe Public Utility District, which provides critical water and sewage service to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., residents. Bill Frye, network and telecom systems administrator, ruled out having a hot site with duplicate servers and storage because it was too costly. However, he has the next best thing -- a Novell PlateSpin Forge recovery appliance.

Shortly after deploying the appliance, which uses VMware to copy server images, Frye was able to recover the district's financial application when the existing version crashed during an upgrade. In all, downtime was about two hours, compared with the two to three days it would have required to restore the application without the appliance, notes Chris Skelly, the information technology systems specialist for the district.

Meanwhile, the city of Gulf Shores, Ala., is no stranger to disaster as it monitors the offshore oil spill. Network Administrator Lee Hartley protects the city's IT infrastructure with an HP LeftHand (now StorageWorks) SAN and VMware virtualization. For more details, read "Continuous Preparation."

Further north, in Wayne County, N.C., IT Director Stephen Cross improved availability by rolling out a Fibre Channel SAN, backup appliances, new power systems and server virtualization. "Even when we've had a power outage, our system kicked in like it was supposed to," Cross says. For more details, read "Infrastructure Overhaul."

Security Blanket

While continuously protecting your organization from disasters is a major undertaking, guarding it against data breaches and accidental loss is no less challenging. For that, many IT pros rely on an array of security technologies to keep their networks free of threats, including web filtering, unified threat management, antimalware, intrusion detection/prevention systems and security information and event management.

At the borough of West Chester, Pa., the IT staff recognized that as employees perused the Internet while at work, they were not only straining network performance but in some cases putting the borough at risk. As a result, the staff implemented Websense Web Filter to restrict employee access to certain sites. This allowed the organization to remain productive while keeping the network and employees safe from malware threats and data leakage. For more about how state and local government IT staffs are applying security tools to better protect their networks, read "Security Stalwarts."

Finally, smartphones constitute emerging attack vectors for malware. Organizations are beginning to set policy regarding use of personal phones for government purposes and are rolling out new mobile antimalware packages to protect BlackBerrys, iPhones, Android phones and other mobile devices. Find the details in the article "Security Smarts."

Ryan Petersen, Editor in Chief

Matthew Gilson
Jun 26 2010