Modern digital tools, powered by IT, have become an integral part of our daily lives. These technologies have changed how we perform various tasks such as accessing information, planning trips, conducting business and communicating with others. The internet and the technologies powered by it have radically transformed how we work and live, becoming an essential part of human existence.
The influence of these digital tools is not just limited to interpersonal and inter-organizational transactions. Government functions in the modern age also depend heavily on digital tools and information technology. These tools help to optimize processes, improve access, enhance communication, and aid in better decision-making. Technology also helps to better serve the needs of the citizens faster, incurring lower costs.
Government facilities in the modern age need to have the necessary facilities to support the IT infrastructure. A resilient and robust communications infrastructure is the core component of that. It enables reliable and secure communication between various branches of the federal government, between employees, and with the citizens who require the service of the federal department. The following sections cover the steps and key considerations you need to adopt while planning and installing communication networks in a government facility.
To plan and build an adequate network infrastructure, you need to have a good estimate of the requirements for the network. The expectations from the network impact the network design, hardware and security protocols of the network for the government facility. Some of the parameters you need to know before you plan the network include:
If you are assessing network requirements for a new government facility, you need to build the list of requirements from scratch. You need to talk with the various stakeholders that will rely on the network infrastructure to determine a good estimate of the requirements. If you need to assess the network requirements for an existing network in a facility, you can start by performing an audit of the existing network infrastructure. The audit will give you an estimate of what needs to be replaced and upgraded.
The security requirements of the government building play a huge part in the network design. The IT infrastructure of a government facility needs to host large swathes of sensitive information. This includes confidential information of various federal departments and the personal information of citizens of the country. When the communication network needs to transmit such information, the security requirements have to be met without fail. The required security level needs to be outlined before the design of the communications infrastructure.
The network design of the government facility describes the outline of the communications network, including the specifications of the hardware and software to be used. A detailed diagram of the network infrastructure is at the core of network design. It shows the layout of hardware components and the rationale for the same. The data carrying capacity, devices to be connected, the type of network connection, and a wide range of information required to select the hardware and software will be a part of network design.
The plan to secure the network of the government facility is also part of the network design. It includes firewall controls, software standards and encryption protocols to be followed. Standard operating procedures, best practices to use the network, and maintenance schedules have to be prepared at the network design stage. Keep in mind that the network design has to be compliant with the cybersecurity framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Adherence to the cybersecurity framework is mandatory for government facilities and industries of national interest.
Hardware and software
The network design gives the specifications for the hardware and software required for the communication network. This is the starting point for selecting the required components. The focus should be on choosing reliable OEMs for hardware devices. The warranties, cost and expected performance of the devices have to be assessed.
In addition to hardware, you need software to maintain and operate the network infrastructure. The software would range from operating systems of the servers to intrusion detection systems for network security. Choose reliable software vendors with a good track record of maintaining and servicing clients.
Since the hardware and software have to be used for a government facility, there are additional considerations you need to make. For example, the OEMs for hardware devices should not have any connections with a hostile government. Similarly, vendors and suppliers for components should have adequate security clearances required to deal with your federal agency. Your department would know other details of compliance required while making a purchase for the government facility.
Once the selection of hardware and software is complete, the next step is to install the network according to the direction of the network design. This involves physically setting up your hardware components, such as switches and routers. You will also need to configure the drives and software to get everything running as expected.
The security measures prescribed in the network design should be in place before the communication network can go live. It is a good practice to test the network infrastructure and security before it is used to transmit sensitive government information. Use reliable network installers with adequate clearances to perform the installation and configuration.
Monitor and maintain
Monitoring and maintaining the network of your government facility is essential to preserve its performance and security. Monitoring tools are available that help in real-time monitoring and tracking of performance issues. This helps you to catch potential problems before they cause failure. Monitoring tools monitor the data speeds, latency, data consumption and other key metrics to determine the performance of the network. Intrusion detection systems can also be used along with monitoring tools to defend against external threats.
Maintaining the network devices and software is required for the long life of the network infrastructure. Maintenance of software involves installing updates and security patches right when they are dispatched. Hardware components need to have scheduled maintenance plans to clean them of dust accumulation to maintain device performance. Conducting security audits and penetration testing at regular intervals helps maintain the security of the communication network.
Security and performance
Security of data that is stored and transmitted in the digital infrastructure is the primary concern for a communication network of the government facility. Matching it with the performance requirements is a complex yet critical task. Accomplishing this requires detailed planning and execution by an experienced team. Monitoring and maintaining the network also plays a key part in maintaining the performance of the infrastructure. With a well-designed and well-maintained network, you can help ensure that your government facility is functioning at its best.
Patrick Chown is the owner and president of The Network Installers, which specializes in network cabling installation, structured cabling, voice and data, audio/visual, commercial wifi, and fiber optic installation for industrial and commercial facilities.