Cloud migration is a top priority for federal agencies, making for a rising demand for As-a-Service offerings. Meanwhile, agencies are still trying to plan and budget for cloud strategies, often from scratch. This creates a unique challenge for federal IT teams: Agencies can’t simply wait until they have that strategy in hand for migrating workloads to the cloud. This is especially true with cloud collaboration and communication technologies.

Today’s workforce more team-oriented than ever. Sharing ideas is critical to day-to-day operations and to driving the mission forward. The result? Agencies are still making large investments in traditional, onsite communications systems, with purchases ranging from specialized hardware to software licensing, endpoints and network architectures. And therein exists the problem.

These traditional solutions typically have short lifecycles, limited capacity, no interoperability, and they lack advanced features. Purchasing the wrong solutions today can severely impede an agency’s future cloud migration.

So, how can agencies avoid hampering their modernization efforts and make the right cloud collaboration and communications decisions? Here are the top 4 ways to start investing in your cloud collaboration future.

1. Move away from specialized hardware

Among the most common purchases with limited returns are private Branch Exchange (PBX) telephone systems based on Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology, along with video conference bridges leveraging Digital Signal Processors (DSPs). This kind of specialized hardware was built for a single purpose and ties together both hardware and software into a single platform.

As customers look to upgrade or expand these technologies, it’s not uncommon to completely replace these products with the latest generation of “special hardware.” This can be an extremely costly and time-consuming endeavor.

Server and application virtualization emerged well over a decade ago. This technology allows for the decoupling of hardware and software. Agencies rely on virtualization today for everything from directory services, database servers, business applications and even disaster recovery. Many agencies already have virtualization solutions available, along with the personnel and technical know-how. This makes moving your collaboration services to a new or existing virtualized infrastructure much easier. Virtualizing your communication and collaboration technologies’ environment is the first step towards gaining the flexibility necessary to consume these services from the cloud.

2. Look into flexible consumption models

Traditional software buys are perpetual: You buy a license, pay for annual maintenance, and it’s yours forever. This is how on-premises communication systems have always been purchased and consumed. But what happens when a perpetual software purchase no longer meets organizational needs? How do you account for future growth and different types of users with varying communication requirements? When moving to the cloud, do you just throw these perpetual licenses away and repurchase the next-generation solution?

New and flexible software models are arising to address these challenges. They provide one simple, organization-wide subscription with a mix of on-premises, cloud and hybrid collaboration. You pick the services you want to deploy, choose how you want to deploy them, and grow at your own pace. Depending on your agencies size and requirements, varying subscription options also exist. Ready to go all-in? An enterprise agreement will cover every single employee and deliver maximum solution value. Not quite there yet? Active and named user models offer a cost-effective starting point for determining collaboration needs and usage across the organization.

3. Know the security landscape

When considering any hosted solution, understanding the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) requirements is paramount. FedRAMP is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. To lessen the costly and inefficient process of traditional risk management, they operate using a “do once, use many times” approach.

FedRAMP categorizes cloud service offerings into one of three impact levels; low, moderate, and high. Each impact level brings increasingly stringent security controls based on Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 199. The impact levels are defined by how the loss of data confidentiality, integrity and availability would affect an agency’s mission and assets. For Department of Defense (DoD) cloud services, additional provisional authorizations (PA) and security controls/enhancements are often required, sometimes referred to as FedRAMP+.

The wide range of cloud security requirements raises important questions for agencies investigating cloud collaboration as a service. How do you balance pervasive, anywhere communication with an increase in security controls and visibility? To ensure the integrity of communications, endpoints must meet FedRAMP specifications for security algorithms and ciphers. Additionally, providing critical communication services in the event of network downtime and interoperability with systems outside of the cloud security boundary must be considered.

4. Prepare your network

Agencies on legacy PBX systems and dedicated voice-only networks have not addressed the challenges of converging voice, video and data. As the need for anywhere communication continues to extend beyond traditional borders, a reliable IP-based transport must be in place. When combining voice, video and data on a single network, issues such as packet loss and jitter can wreak havoc on real-time communications. Assessing your network’s ability to handle increased traffic loads and ensuring a proper Quality of Service (QoS) implementation is key to preparing your network for any collaboration solution.

The increase in cloud-dependence makes Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity even more important. Existing circuits are typically saturated and cannot easily handle the addition of voice and video traffic. Do you bring in new connectivity methods to serve these purposes or expand your existing transport? How do SIP trunking and public switched telephone network (PSTN) connectivity come into play with this new model? Redundancy of these connections are equally as critical. By eliminating single points of failure, you can increase the accessibility of communication services agency-wide.


Joseph Lazzaro is a collaboration solutions architect at Force 3. Contact us to learn more about cloud collaboration solutions from Force 3.

Related Blog Posts

See All Blogs

Keeping Your Agency Secure in the Cloud

Like it or not, no government is permanently safe from cyberthreats. The agencies that protect their citizen data the longest are the ones that best assess the risks facing them daily. It’s a situation that doesn’t change after organizations adopt…

A Bridge to the Cloud

For federal agencies, the move to the cloud can be a daunting task. CIOs face an array of challenges in making the transition — from worries about data security, to concerns for budget and resources, the task requires a concerted…

GCN: Securing Data in the Cloud Requires Planning, Constant Vigilance

Government agencies know -- and have largely accepted the fact -- that moving to the cloud is inevitable. Where many start struggling is with the “how.”  How do they move legacy systems to the cloud? How do they choose the…

TechTarget: IBM Business Partners Mull Benefits, Risks of Red Hat Acquisition

IBM business partners have begun recalibrating strategies in the wake of the vendor's announcement that it would acquire open source software vendor Red Hat. IBM, which plans to purchase Red Hat for $34 billion, sparked a wildfire of questions this…

NextGov: It’s Time to Tackle the Problem of Unapproved Cloud Apps to Keep your Agency Secure

It’s a problem seen across all federal agencies: Employees are using cloud-based applications that aren’t approved or protected by IT teams. These apps range from sharing tools, such as cloud storage platforms, to social media sites or personal email accounts…

GCN: 3 Considerations Before Moving to the Cloud

Despite the urgency of IT modernization and the federal government's cloud-first mandate, many agencies unfortunately still find themselves lagging when it comes to cloud adoption. While cloud migration is a massive endeavor, it doesn’t have to be unmanageable, let alone…

NextGov: How to Integrate TIC Security with the Federal Cloud-First Mandate

When the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) initiative was first introduced more than a decade ago, the goal was to improve security in government IT systems by limiting the number of individual external network connections to the internet. Before implementing TIC security…

TechTarget: JEDI cloud contract looms large for customers, providers

Public sector IT and private sector IT can be very different animals, but a looming decision by the Department of Defense has the potential to send shock waves through both sides of the IT world. In this article from TechTarget,…

GCN: Building a Better Agency Through Software Orchestration

In federal IT, there is sometimes fear that software orchestration will render the technology professional’s role obsolete. This mindset, however, is misguided. In reality, the exact opposite is true: Orchestration has the potential to not only make federal IT workers’…

GCN: How to Leverage Containers for Cloud Migration

With the passage of the Modernizing Government Technology Act in December, federal agencies find themselves with a unique opportunity to innovate and update their legacy IT infrastructure. A top priority in their modernization endeavors? Transitioning legacy applications to the cloud.…

Platform-as-a-Service and Application Development Key to IBM Transformation

With IT customers increasingly turning to Platform-as-a-Service offerings, major technology manufacturers are following suit — including IBM. In this article for TechTarget's SearchITChannel, Force 3's senior director of software sales engineering Charles Fullwood discusses IBM's evolution to include as-a-service platforms…

NextGov: Overcoming Cloud Adoption Obstacles

Federal agencies face many challenges when modernizing their technology infrastructure, particularly when transitioning to the cloud. But those challenges are hardly insurmountable, and the fear surrounding cloud is largely unwarranted. Whether it’s security, compliance or overall strategy, the first step…

GCN: The Hidden Challenges of Federal IT Modernization

In the next three years, an estimated $3 billion worth of federal IT equipment will reach end-of-life status, according to former U.S. Federal CIO Tony Scott. It’s an intimidating number, and one that indicates just how far-reaching the need is…

IoT in Federal: From Concept to Reality and Risk

The way we reconcile our security concerns with IoT’s inevitable integration will determine whether the revolution upgrades our lives or creates chaos.  Remember when the Internet of Things was more concept than reality? Those days are long gone. Demand for…

Cisco & Google Partnering on Hybrid Cloud

Cisco and Google Cloud executives took the stage at the 2017 Cisco Partner Summit to talk about the companies' collaboration on hybrid clouds, containers and Kubernetes. In this article for TechTarget's SearchITChannel, Force 3 Senior Vice President of Client Solutions…

GCN: What Federal Agencies Need to Know About Cloud Utility Models

When it comes to cloud adoption, federal agencies continue to lag behind the corporate world, where cloud computing passed the point of ubiquity some time back. It’s no wonder, as federal IT teams face constant challenges -- excessive workloads, staff…

InformationWeek: Containerization Gains Traction & We’re Better for it

Cloud-based application development has taken big strides, and it's delivering benefits for enterprises such as federal agencies. Application development has forever been a thorn in the side of federal agencies. It’s tough, after all, to innovate when hampered by the…

Cisco IoT Strategy Will Unleash Services Opportunities, Forge Ties With Technology Vendors

In this article from CRN, Force 3 CEO Mike Greaney joins other industry channel partners to weigh in on Cisco’s IoT Strategy featured at this year’s Cisco Global Partners SummitCisco Systems is putting its Internet of Things strategy into higher…

Securing Your Unified Communications Infrastructure

So far in our security series, we’ve explored best practices for securing your network and data center. A few of these included: Look at What You’ve Got: Take inventory of how many servers you have, what applications are running and…

‘No Respect’ for Critical Communication Infrastructures

"That’s the story of my life, no respect! I don't get no respect I tell ya!" - Rodney Dangerfield Much like the late Rodney Dangerfield, business phones tend to not get much respect. Considering the mission critical role that communications…

The Power of Cisco’s UC Platform is Changing Businesses

Business Advantages of Cisco Unified Communications Manager 10.5 In today's fast-paced, ever-changing business climate, in order to ensure optimal efficiency and workflow, you are forced to rely on several different business tools that must: Allow you to securely reach beyond…

Force 3 Helps Spread Holiday Cheer at Children’s National Health System

Cisco Scoops Up Collaboration Startup Assemblage

http://www.crn.com/news/networking/300073286/cisco-scoops-up-collaboration-startup-assemblage.htm

Collaboration Wanted; Employee Buy-In Required

See Jason Parry's Article in Information Week   Collaboration technology promises many benefits. Today's advanced solutions remove traditional communication barriers and make it easier to conduct business and speed decision making. Users are able to connect and communicate with others…

Do you see what I see? Collaboration brings holiday cheer!

By Scott Perry, Solutions Architect In my years at Force 3, I have adopted our internal mantra of 100% customer success. This holiday season, I would say that I got to help deliver smiles and happiness along with success. Christmas…

Infrastructure a hurdle for videoconferencing legislation

http://fcw.com/articles/2013/08/05/travel-costs-legislation.aspx

Bargain Videoconferencing Is Here

http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/beyond-telepresence-bargain-videoconferencing-is-here.html

Service Provider Deploys IP Phone Platform for Development Foundation

Business Challenge The United States African Development Foundation (USADF) is an independent federal agency established to support African-designed and African-driven solutions that address grassroots economic and social problems. From creating jobs in Tanzania, and rebuilding lives in Uganda, to supporting…

Mid-size Research Firm Abt Associates Improves Communications Among Remote Offices

Business Challenge: Lack of vendor support on outdated phone system Provide business continuity capabilities Abt Associates, founded in 1965, is one of the largest for-profit government and business research and consulting firms in the world. With a staff of more…

How can we help your agency achieve its mission?

Maximize your IT investments. Learn more about solutions and services from Force 3.