Olivieri has found that not only do the Microsoft tools allow for remote collaboration at scale, they do so without sacrificing security. “When something like this happens, your risk level for any kind of breach or threat goes up exponentially,” he says.
He allows that there’s a balance between security and usability: “We’ve been trying to make stronger network security, but in such a way that it will continue to enable and help our users who are working remotely be productive without locking them down so tight that they can’t do anything.”
Massachusetts Was Prepared for a Shift to Telework
Telework is not new for government workers in Massachusetts. “Our technology organization has been engaged in telework-supporting systems for several years,” says Massachusetts CIO Curtis Wood, citing the traffic congestion and construction projects of Boston as motivating factors. In fact, the state had just reset the baseline for telework last year with refreshed policies.
“In parallel to that, my organization had undertaken a modern workplace environment initiative with Microsoft, where we moved heavily in a single-device model focused on mobility and standardized on a Microsoft 365 platform,” Wood says.
With the onset of the pandemic, then, Massachusetts was well positioned to rapidly shift to supporting a remote workforce. “We were well on our way,” Wood says. “We had a good foundation established. At least some of the workforce was used to working remotely. We had the infrastructure to support it.”
Nevertheless, going from, at most, a few thousand remote workers to 22,000 almost overnight stretched the IT organization.
To make everything work, Wood set an overarching goal of simplification. “We have had a tendency to buy a lot of technology over the years,” Wood says. “Security is a perfect example. We tend to focus too much on buying products all the time — but we want to look at solutions.” Wood’s team committed to a Microsoft framework and is using Azure Active Directory to ensure secure access to resources.
READ MORE: Find out how state governments have addressed legacy IT in a time of crisis.
Strong Network Infrastructure Supports Remote Work
When Portsmouth, N.H., moved its employees to remote work, the biggest challenge the city faced was finding enough resources for end users, says Alan Brady, Portsmouth’s IT manager.
Much of the other work needed to support remote work had recently been completed. Over the past two years, the IT department implemented a Dell hypervisor, providing fast connections to remote workers, and all-new network infrastructure from Ubiquiti.
The upgrades were completed in December and January, just in time to support the ballooning requirements for remote work capacity during the pandemic.