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Life after PSN: How to make your next move

PSN, a secure, robust, high-performance network, which is accessible only by the UK’s government departments, agencies and public sector organisations, is on its way out and we all need to be ready for that. As we enter the withdrawal phase, today’s watchwords are ‘the internet is OK’ and ‘cloud first’. That’s a way forward, but will it mean sacrificing speed, availability and, most worrying of all, security?

We have seen, over recent years, the leaks and misappropriation of astonishing volumes of data. And this is from high-tech companies which are at the top of their game – businesses for which the internet and the cloud are not just useful tools but their very essence. You are right to be cautious.

In truth, the internet is not irredeemably insecure. And there are some very dependable ways to manage and mitigate any security risks, although they go beyond the scope of this article. And, also on the plus side, the internet is widely understood. It is proven, it is resilient, it’s inexpensive and it’s getting faster all the time. Could it be a suitable platform for your department, though?

The short answer is ‘yes’. The long answer is ‘yes, but only if you take the right approach.’ This inevitably means finding the right technology partner. 

Just as with any technology transition, there are pitfalls which lie in wait for the unwary and traps for the unprepared. Thales has found that the most pressing issues that deserve your attention in a project of this consequence are:

Minimising disruption

One of the challenges you’ll face with the implementation of any new system is disruption. Change makes people uncomfortable and there is often resistance. The knowledge gap between your department and the network supplier - a gap which can exist on both sides of the table – can lead to misunderstanding and a poor implementation.

Maintaining compliance

Maintaining compliance is likely to be high on your list of priorities, and rightly so. Determining if new apps and workflows will support your legal responsibilities and obligations can be a real challenge, and there is no room for error. 

Assuring availability

What happens if something goes wrong? Do you have the in-house expertise to solve problems if and when they crop up? If you opt for a managed service, do you know how responsive and knowledgeable your supplier is?

Limiting cost

The internet is much more affordable than PSN, but you don’t want to throw that cost advantage away on new applications and systems which are hard to learn or difficult to manage, or which require expensive remedial action if they fail to fulfil any of your other requirements.

Future proofing

There will always be new challenges; there will always be change. Technology doesn’t always keep up and isn’t always compatible with the next generation. As far as possible, make sure that the solution can scale easily to cope with whatever the future holds.

Preparing to move from the PSN

Even though no direct, like-for-like replacement has been suggested for PSN, the future isn’t as confusing or risky as it might seem. The IT industry will catch up and, in fact, two government departments have already made the transition to internet and cloud-enabled services. There are lessons to be learned here.

First and foremost, don’t take the risk of creating something which is ‘cobbled together’ in-house, and may or may not meet your current or future requirements. Aim for simplicity and look for a technology supplier which has a verifiable history of working with the public sector. This is not a time to be brave.

Performance and reliability are fairly easy requirements to fulfil with internet-based solutions, but security takes a great deal more experience. Your preferred technology partner should have the skills, expertise and resources to deliver the highest levels of security. For the most sensitive environments, this will mean hosting your data in a secure datacentre and monitoring it 24/7.

Don’t throw everything away. With the right solution, it is quite possible to migrate the vast majority of your applications, data and workflows to an internet-based environment, without scarifying security, availability or performance. This will have the added benefit of minimising disruption whist reducing costs and maintaining or improving productivity.

Think of this as an opportunity. Embracing the internet and the cloud will help your department to become more agile and responsive. There is life after PSN. You just need to plan your next moves carefully.

Thales Cyber Consulting and Digital Trust
+ 44(0) 1172 515176