ITIM and the Public Sector: How Network Monitoring Rises to the Challenge

Government agencies and public sector organizations are a tantalizing hacker target. Cybercriminals go after public sector organizations because they hold confidential, often classified, information – the exact data state-sponsored and other criminal groups salivate over.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, along with the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or CERT, have warned public sector IT of key threats, including:

  • Phishing
  • Unpatched obsolete devices ripe for picking
  • Ransomware
  • Scams

Of course, being based on tax payments, these organizations serve and answer to the public. “The public sector must contend with complicated policy, social, ethical, and legal contexts that don’t similarly constrain private sector actors. Public sector technology projects are accountable to a more diverse set of stakeholders (often with diverse needs) than private employers,” argued Berkeley University’s The Public Sector and the Future of Government Work blog. “Values of transparency and fairness make adopting new technologies much more complex for the public sector, which must ensure that its services are accessible to everyone and accountable to a broad set of public values.”

Here are some of the many other issues public sector IT groups grapple with:

  • Tight funding
  • Tough compliance environment
  • Need for data and network security
  • Demand for network and service availability
  • Unrelenting IT staff shortages

Budget Crunches: Doing More with Fewer People

The Center for Digital Government’s 2022 Digital Cities, Counties and States survey found that all levels of government suffer from IT staffing shortages. One public IT knows this pain firsthand. “I have an IT department, a GIS [geographic information system] department and a broadband utility — and they all have vacancies at the moment,” said Michael Blanchard, director of technology services in Columbia County, Ga. “We and a lot of other local governments are hurting not just in cyber, but in the traditional IT roles — the database administrators, the system administrators, the people who you need in order to make your network work,” the How Can State and Local Government Overcome IT Staffing Gaps blog reported.

“The fiscal and workload pressures faced by governments have led many agencies to see technology as a way to bridge the deficit of resources needed to adequately perform their core functions,” the Berkely report found. “Technology use can normalize the inadequacy of public staffing rather than resolving it. Chatbots might allow clients to interact with a system 24 hours a day instead of waiting in line in a benefits office and never getting to the front, but if the chatbot is ultimately unable to provide entitled benefits, technology has provided only the illusion of better service.”

IT Infrastructure Monitoring (ITIM), also known as network monitoring, helps IT do more with less. You can have a single solution that replaces myriad siloed monitoring solutions and give IT a single view into the state of the network. Network administrators can be alerted as to what is happening and the context of that issue, allowing them to perform root cause analysis and remediate the problem efficiently.

Keeping the Lights (the Network) On

Maintaining network uptime is the most critical function a network admin provides. In fact, when the Progress ITIM/network monitoring solution first came out in 1996, it was called WhatsUp. Now, network uptime has evolved into business continuity, which is keeping all network services up and running, performing well enough and providing business services in a way that satisfies workers, customers and partners.

Business continuity is made more difficult with the increase in remote work and the massive deployment of new IT services, capabilities and infrastructure.

Network availability and security should go hand in hand. “Empowering workers with connectivity, devices and solutions requires that government IT be secure in the remote environment. With that in mind, mobile hotspots and cellular-enabled devices can provide secure internet access. But if there are too few devices for workers to use, leveraging a technology management partner can unlock access to more hardware if needed,” The Verizon article How to Solve Public Sector Technology and Government IT Challenges explained.

Network Security

Hackers go where they can do the most damage or get the biggest headlines. The public sector satisfies both urges. “The public sector provides numerous motivations for security threats. In today's hyper-political state, cyber criminals attempt to breach security to influence election outcomes, access classified information, manipulate or alter data trends, or compromise data tied to funding to name a few,” the Verizon article How to Solve Public Sector Technology and Government IT Challenges explained.

Keeping up with new technologies and the security challenges they entail costs money. “According to Identifi Global, as the Internet of Things proliferates into government IT and more work is done remotely, public sector networks need to grow by 15 to 25% per year. Constrained budgets and ad hoc solutions introduce the possibility of security gaps and manual errors,” Verizon stated.

ITIM is also fundamental to network security, a goal that can arguably not be achieved without monitoring. “The old line ‘What you don't know can't hurt you’ is dead wrong when it comes to network security. What you don't know is exactly what will hurt you. That is why full network visibility is so critical to protecting your business’ assets and avoiding compliance fines and investigations,” argued the Progress WhatsUp Gold blog You Can't Protect a Network You Can't See. “That’s why you simply must know what your network consists of – including connections, segments, devices, and even applications and virtual machines. Network monitoring is part of an expert approach to IT security, one element in what should be a defense in-depth strategy – one absolutely essential element, however. Just as anti-malware and firewalls should cover all your assets, network monitoring should understand and track every network resource, and be aware when new ones come on line.”

Learn How Three Enterprises Got a Network Grip with WhatsUp Gold

Below are three Progress WhatsUp Gold public sector case studies.

Lindesberg Municipality
Lindesberg Municipality’s network spans from its schools, building management department, government offices, health inspectors, city planners and garbage collectors all the way to its pumping station. At any given time, there are about 5,500 users on the network between IoT devices and Wi-Fi.

The 100 LAN network was experiencing connectivity problems that were difficult to troubleshoot. At times a connection could be lost 20 times a day and go unnoticed. The municipality also needed to secure the quality of the network to make way for new techniques like IP telephony.

The Municipality initially implemented WhatsUp Gold to monitor the connections between its switches or routers, and today monitors its servers including Azure, Office 365 and many other business-critical applications. WhatsUp Gold provides the IT team with a network map for support staff to get a better picture of the issues users are really facing, whether it’s the connection, heavy loads, or other issues.

As Anders Widegren, Departmental Manager IT and Telecommunications, Lindesberg Municipality shared, “A good example of where WhatsUp Gold is used to improve the quality of the Wi-Fi network is that we monitor the maximum simultaneous connections of an access point. With those statistics on hand, it is much easier to plan for the expansion of the Wi-Fi network.”

Widegren commented on what reliable network uptime has meant to its users, “We have improved the quality of our networks, we have happier end-users and we prevent a lot of support cases each day. Over time, Lindesberg has moved from a network-centric to a service-centric installation, ensuring first and foremost that the experience our customers are getting is satisfactory. We are now able to focus on the service experience, and not ensuring service availability.”

Learn more by reading: Lindesberg Municipality Improves Network Reliability and Quality

Danville Area School District (DASD)
When Jeff Ryan joined the Danville Area School District (DASD) as the Director of Information Technology in 2008, his goal was to provide a cost-effective yet reliable infrastructure that could sustain business needs while maintaining a thriving learning environment for students.

WhatsUp Gold satisfied the three major requirements for the Danville Area School District, which were:

  • Easy implementation, with the IT team able to discover devices and create a network map within hours.
  • Detailed statistics and insightful reports into device usage, traffic flow, disk utilization and other critical network benchmarks.
  • At-a-glance visibility into the entire network, enabling proactive network monitoring.

WhatsUp Gold enables the district’s IT team to actively monitor nearly 100 devices. With at-a-glance network visibility and real-time alerts sent straight to their phones, the IT team is able to fix errors and identify network usage anomalies well before they’re actually noticed by end-users. “I don’t like to be surprised when something goes down,” Ryan added. “That’s why I love the WhatsUp Gold dashboard. I can customize it with what’s important to me—I get an instant snapshot of my entire network.”

City of Pleasanton
From city hall to the police and fire department, the City of Pleasanton’s IT diligently supports the city’s networked infrastructure, playing a vital role in ensuring these mission-critical functions operate smoothly.

To improve the security of the city’s expansive network infrastructure, the Pleasanton IT team wanted to use log data from its networked devices to identify deviations. However, the third-party syslog tool used to analyze these collected logs wasn’t equipped to do the job effectively. “Log management was a generous name for it,” said Christopher Gerochi, IT Coordinator II, City of Pleasanton. “You still had to sift through the data manually to make sense of what was going on. It was overwhelming just because we didn’t know what to look for.”

Pleasanton’s IT team began looking for another logging solution. As a long-time Progress WhatsUp Gold user, the launch of WhatsUp Gold 2021 came at the perfect time. This release introduced an embedded Log Management add-on that empowers IT teams to monitor, filter, alert on, search and track trends across syslogs and Windows logs. This means Pleasanton’s IT team could sort through logs and understand what is happening. Additionally, having this capability embedded directly within the network monitoring software (NMS) made all this information conveniently available in a single pane of glass.

“WhatsUp Gold 2021 is a huge jump for us in terms of log management,” Gerochi said. “With the NMS, NetFlow and log management in one place, we have all the information we need at our fingertips so we can act instantly.”

Monitoring more than 200 infrastructure devices and 1,200 endpoints, WhatsUp Gold enabled the city’s IT team to:

  • Uncover hidden network problems: Having the status of the entire network accessible in one place enables the Pleasanton IT team to find issues that haven’t even been reported. This prevents them from growing into bigger disruptions down the line.
  • Respond to problems faster: With integrated alert notifications, Pleasanton’s IT team can jump into action and start troubleshooting problems right away. And by customizing alerts to go to certain departments, even outside of IT, the right people are always in the loop.
  • Increase network transparency: The WhatsUp Gold network map adds clarity with a clean visualization of the network.

Learn more by reading: The City of Pleasanton Saves Hours Daily with New Log Management Capabilities in WhatsUp Gold

If you prefer to learn by watching, tune into our webinar Ensuring Effective IT Infrastructure Monitoring in the Public Sector and discover:

  • Industry best practices for monitoring networks, servers and clouds
  • The most common monitoring issues the Public Sector faces
  • Examples of how WhatsUp Gold is used in the Public Sector


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