US government agencies are interested in unified communications systems that integrate voice, video and data over internet protocol, but they have concerns about funding and security, according to a recent survey.
Twenty eight per cent of US telecom decision-makers surveyed in April said funding was their greatest challenge to achieving their communications goals. Another 20% said security was the top concern, and 17% said educating co-workers about the benefits was the biggest challenge.
“We’re talking to the boots-on-the-ground programme managers, IT directors who are really charged and tasked with getting some of this stuff done,” said Aaron Heffron, vice president of Market Connections, which conducted the survey for Cisco Systems. “They said, ‘There’s a lot of ... concern over security in my agency.’”
A unified communications system could include services such as VoIP (voice over IP), instant messaging, remote access to agency files and mobile data or voice devices, all managed together. There are heavy demands for unified communications in federal agencies, especially in the military, says Brent Byrnes, federal unified communications manager for Cisco. The US military has “increasing needs to rapidly stand up services” in combat zones, he says.
Asked of the benefits of a unified communications approach, 93% of respondents said better security would be a result of integrating IT and telecom systems. Ninety-three percent also believed system reliability would improve, and 91% said productivity and collaboration would improve.
There seems to be a difference of opinion about a unified approach’s effect on security between top-level managers in agencies and the IT and telecom managers, Heffron says. “Those individuals know that bringing these two systems together can improve their security and reliability,” he says. “However, they’re swimming upstream in some cases, with other agency management.”
Another 88% said a unified communications system would allow agencies to improve their plans to continue to operate during a disaster, a major focus of the US government since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
But only 44% of respondents said their agencies have the ability to notify employees in real time.
Twenty eight percent said their agencies have no plans to use real-time notification.