Report urges network redundancy

To guard against a sudden loss of communications capabilities, the federal government should enact policies to create greater redundancy in their communications systems, according to a new report from The Progress and Freedom Foundation.

"Many federal agency buildings and installation locations apparently do not currently have true telecommunications network redundancy installed in their buildings," wrote the report's author, Randolph May, a senior fellow and director of communications policy studies at the think tank, which focuses on the impact of technology on public policy.

The federal government has taken a lead on developing redundant systems for communications networks on which lives depend, including those used by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Department, said Warren Suss, a telecommunications and information technology consultant and president of Suss Consulting Inc.

"For the government's most critical networks, they've been taking care of this problem for years," he said. "The challenge is applying it to the next level. If an FAA network goes down, the lives of the public can be at risk. We know if a defense network goes down, the lives of our troops are at risk. But there are other levels of risk that are important."

In many cases, vendors develop redundant systems not because the government specifies it but because it's the only way to achieve the demanded reliability, he said. When contracts demand "four nines," or 99.9999 percent uptime, vendors rely on redundancy.

However, new challenges are emerging, he noted. IP doesn't use the same dedicated point-to-point transmission that older voice and data networks were built on. And it's expensive to essential duplicate capabilities.

"The challenge is to identify that critical infrastructure and to make the cost tradeoffs you need to make," he said. "It can be extremely expensive."

In the report, May emphasizes the importance of protecting the communications infrastructure and lays out basic requirements for redundancy:

* Physically separate entry and exit points to a building, separated by a significant distance.

* Separate rights-of-way between the building and the routing center.

* Alternate services should use a physically separate switching or routing center.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.