New shoes for the cobbler's kids

When it comes to getting funding for information technology projects, it's usually easier to sell ones that dramatically streamline agency operations or enable some slick or efficient new online government service. The payoff from the investment is plain for all to see — a feather in the cap for everyone involved.

The selling gets a lot tougher when the recipient of the benefits isn't the public or some high-profile government operation, but the humble IT staff, whose efforts are mostly invisible unless things don't work.

Like the cobbler's shoeless children, government IT departments are often at the end of the line when it comes to getting new productivity-boosting technology for use in their own shops.

But don't fret. There are many ways to make the lives of IT department employees easier without an act of Congress or a budget befitting a new space program. In the stories that follow, and in a second installment next week, we'll take a look at six technologies that can make a big impact — in the IT department and elsewhere — for a relatively small investment.

The best news is that these are technologies and products IT managers can buy and deploy today, and the benefits are there for the taking. They can boost the performance or reliability of aging systems, which, without the assistance, invariably become a growing drain on the IT staff's productivity. They can also cut system management costs or enable the development of new capabilities cheaply.

One example is the new breed of virtual private network (VPN) products that use the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, which is the subject of our first story.

The VPN is already a money-saving idea, because it allows agencies to connect securely with remote employees and trading partners using the public Internet, as opposed to using an expensive, dedicated wide-area network service. Although SSL VPNs can cost a little more to buy than traditional VPNs, they are far easier and cheaper to roll out to a wider range of users, and they cost about half as much to manage.

You probably don't need to be reminded who gets stuck with the burden and the cost of managing an IT system once it's deployed (hint: It's not the personnel department). So, take a look at the products in these stories. You may be using some of them already, and, if you aren't, then maybe you'll find something you can use that can make your job easier. Best of all, you might not even need permission to do it.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

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