IT outages are an ongoing problem for the U.S government

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The inability to access data 24/7 hurts federal workforce, survey shows

When Healthcare.gov was launched last October, it gave millions of Americans direct experience with a government IT failure on a massive scale. But the overall reliability of federal IT operations is being called into question by a survey that finds outages aren't uncommon in government.

Specifically, the survey found that 70% of federal agencies have experienced downtime of 30 minutes or more in a recent one-month period. Of that number, 42% of the outages were blamed on network or server problems and 29% on Internet connectivity loss.

This rate of outage isn't anywhere near as severe or dramatic as what Healthcare.gov faced until it was fixed. But the report by MeriTalk, which provides a network for government IT professionals, suggest that downtime is a systemic issue. The research was sponsored by Symantec.

The report is interesting because it surveys two distinct government groups, 152 federal "field workers," or people who work outside the office, and 150 IT professionals.

Because the field workers are outside the office, some of the outages may be result of local connectivity problems at either a hotel, home or other remote site. But, overall, the main reason for loss of access to data was a government outage.

When outages occur, 48% of the workers said they do what they can via telephone, while 33% use personal devices and another 24% try to find a workaround, such a Google Apps.

When asked to grade their IT department, only 15% of the field workers gave it an "A"; 49% gave it a "B"; and 27% gave it a "C."

When asked what caused the most recent outages, the IT professionals said 45% were due to a network or server outage; 20% cited Internet connectivity loss; 13% blamed natural disaster; 7% said a specific application stopped working, and 6% pointed to human error.

Restoring service took more than 30 minutes for 53%, of respondents, the survey reported.

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