News Feature | August 29, 2014

"The Drive to Thrive:" Are Federal Agencies Able To Meet Data Center Challenges?

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Government Agency Data Center Challenges

Study says 70 percent of agencies suffer significant downtime that interferes with workload

Eighty percent of Federal IT pros cite data center reliability as a top agency priority, but only 19 percent are completely confident in their agency’s ability to meet their most critical uptime and failover SLAs, according to the latest study from MeriTalk, underwritten by Symantec.

Findings revealed that a full 70 percent of agencies experienced downtime of more than 30 minutes in the last month, and 90 percent of field workers say the downtime affected their ability to do their jobs.

Federal IT professionals are certainly cognizant of the challenges; with 69 percent saying that downtime of more than 30 minutes is unacceptable and only 23 percent giving their agency's data centers an “A” for effectively delivering the right information and resources to the right users on a daily basis.

The Drive to Thrive report surveyed two audiences — federal field workers (employees who spend at least 50 percent of their time in the field/away from a federal office) and federal data center leads/professionals.

In a release, MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, notes other report highlights:

  • The impact is significant, as 42 percent of federal field workers state that downtime leaves them unable to support their agency’s mission.
  • The study examined field workers’ reliance on real-time information in comparison to federal IT teams’ ability to deliver the right information resources to the right users, even in a business continuity scenario.
  • Federal field workers note that real-time information access is critical, saving them an average of 17 hours per week, or 816 hours per year. Considering the number of field workers in the U.S. government, that equates to approximately $32.5 billion in annual productivity savings.
  • Security could also be at risk, as one in three field workers use personal devices or work-arounds like Google Apps when they are not able to access agency applications and systems.
  • Thirty-six percent of field workers give their IT department a grade of “C” or lower for recent downtime management, and just 29 percent believe their IT department fully understands the impact downtime has on their ability to work.

“Federal field workers are dependent on instant information access to do their jobs — from food inspection and traffic control, to healthcare and disaster aid,” says Rob Potter, vice president, federal, Symantec. “Agile data centers — that optimize storage and ensure 24/7 availability, while accelerating virtualization and cloud adoption — are critical for efficient government operations and service.”

The problem is that federal IT professionals say they only have 56 percent of the data storage, 52 percent of the computational power, and 45 percent of the personnel they need to provide a truly reliable and agile data center. They cite greater bandwidth, security, and senior leadership support as the top factors in improving data center agility.

“Nobody’s going to give up their umbrella if the roof keeps leaking,” said Stephen O'Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “The mission trumps IT savings. FDCCI is DOA unless DCs are G2G.”

Click here to view the infographic reflecting results of the study.

Click here to download the full study.