By Ray Bauer, Managing Director of Advanced Solutions, Verizon
In times of emergency, citizens depend on agencies at all levels — federal, state and local — to respond rapidly, save lives and provide critical information. But those agencies often have to overcome their own challenges before they can mount an effective response.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters can destroy telecommunications and power infrastructure, preventing critical network access. And as we’ve seen most recently, a global pandemic, such as COVID-19, can force agencies to pivot rapidly from in-office workflows to remote work in order to protect their employees and serve their constituents.
The problem is most government agencies lack the IT infrastructure and capabilities to adjust quickly to changing demands and new ways of working. Moreover, in times of emergency and disaster, constituents rely on information and services from governments more than ever.
The solution: managed services and professional services. The differences between managed services and professional services generally are related to term and scope of work. Managed services are defined by ongoing, contract-defined, long-term engagements that help agencies with the day-to-day operations of certain elements of their IT infrastructure. Professional services, on the other hand, are commonly procured for a dedicated project — often to address a specific challenge or need — though their scope may range from initial planning and strategy design to deployment and continuous support.
Meeting the Mission with Managed Services
Managed services are structured to help enable agencies to pivot and scale quickly. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been widely used to provide offsite connectivity, expand network capacity and enable remote work — all without sacrificing security.
Here’s another scenario where managed services could come in handy: A hurricane can severely damage cell towers, knocking out internet and phone services to thousands of people. At the same time, the ability to make or receive a phone call during a natural disaster is critical: People need to call 911, check on family and friends, and access real-time information such as evacuation routes. Even more critically, government officials — particularly first responders — must be able to use their devices, such as phones, during emergencies.
In a real-life example, when Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s telecommunications infrastructure, citizens found themselves without mail service. To help enable the delivery of potentially life-saving items such as prescriptions and medical supplies, Verizon deployed an agency-specific satellite solution to support voice and data communications for 52 damaged U.S. Postal Services locations.
Managed services can also help ensure the delivery of critical information. Case in point: Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the National Weather Service to provide timely, accurate weather alerts to protect lives and properties. However, gathering this information from the field during severe weather conditions can be challenging. A managed services provider, such as Verizon, can help by monitoring at-risk sites, providing emergency support and offering disaster recovery planning.
Extreme Conditions Call for Preparedness
Whereas managed services help agencies and their constituents recover quickly from a disaster, professional services can be used for planning and prevention. A professional services provider could foster a network of partnerships among federal institutions, emergency management organizations, first responders, volunteers and other stakeholders to provide a wide array of resources and capacities that could be leveraged in a disaster.
Professional services providers can also help agencies prepare for emergencies by designing and deploying unified communications and collaboration solutions. These innovative tools let workers get the job done from virtually any location — functionality that has provided a lifeline to agencies and their remote workforces during the COVID-19 crisis.
Two Services Are Better Than One
An effective approach to agency readiness is to combine managed services and professional services. Managed services offer the scalability, network reliability and disaster recovery plans to help keep workers and constituents connected during emergencies. Professional services, on the other hand, allow agencies to prioritize network capabilities and IT resources, so that when disaster strikes a pool of professionals are ready to quickly implement failover solutions.
Together, these services also forge a formidable safeguard against cyberattacks. Agencies can be particularly vulnerable to cyberthreats during times of disaster. Fortunately, the expertise and experience of a dedicated professional services team, combined with the ongoing security monitoring and threat assessment activities of a managed services provider, can safeguard an agency’s networks and data.
There’s no way to precisely predict the timing or potential impact of an emergency. But with the proper support, agencies can respond rapidly in a crisis, helping support continuity of operations, delivery of citizen services and security of confidential data.
Learn more about how Verizon’s managed and professional services can help your agency improve innovation, security, citizen experience and more.
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This content is made possible by our sponsor Verizon; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of GovExec’s editorial staff.