Shared Services Canada COVID-19 Questions and Answers
Shared Services Canada (SSC) plays a vital role in supporting the Government departments that are providing critical services to Canadians.
Amid the current COVID-19 Pandemic, SSC is working with Government departments and agencies to ensure that IT infrastructure and telecommunications needs across the Government of Canada continue to be met.
The questions and answers that follow are general, and provide insight how SSC is supporting the work of federal public servants across Canada as they deliver services to Canadians when they need it most.
What is Shared Services Canada role in helping Canadian’s through this pandemic?
Shared Services Canada (SSC) is responsible for providing reliable, secure IT infrastructure and telecommunications (including Email/Workplace Technology, Telecommunications, Data center services, and Cyber and IT Security) to the Government of Canada organizations delivering hundreds of critical services directly to Canadians.
In times of emergency, SSC’s services are critical to ensuring continuous services to Canadians. Given the unprecedented threats posed by COVID-19, SSC is taking action to support the critical services of other departments in addition to general preparedness activities.
How does Shared Services Canada work with other departments during this pandemic?
Shared Services Canada (SSC) is working in close collaboration with the Government of Canada lead—Public Safety under the Federal Emergency Response Plan (FERP) — and other federal partners.
During emergencies, SSC plays an important role in ensuring critical services for Canadians remain operational during emergency events.
In addition, several of SSC’s customer departments are first responders or lead agencies with a primary role to play during a disruptive event. SSC’s support of their efforts is imperative.
What has Shared Services Canada done so far?
Shared Services Canada (SSC) has activated a departmental Emergency Operations Team to coordinate SSC’s Pandemic Emergency Response Plan.
Key actions to date include:
- Providing departments with remote access (Virtual Private Network (VPN)) services so that public servants can access networks and systems remotely. Work is currently underway to increase remote access capacity and network capabilities to support remote access for a large portion of the public service.
- Supporting critical services by prioritizing requests for critical services, especially ones that have links to COVID-19.
- Working closely with the federal Chief Information Officers (CIO) community and implementing measures to reschedule non-essential IT infrastructure changes to ensure continuous service delivery to Canadians.
- Ensuring that critical services and tools continue to be provided for front line staff at all government departments during this time.
What is considered a critical service or application?
Shared Services Canada (SSC) has worked with departments to identify their critical business applications and services. These critical services and mission-critical applications are prioritized for support from SSC. They include applications and technology that many Canadians are relying on during this difficult time, the CRA tax System, Employment Insurance, and Old Age Security.
How many public servants can work remotely over VPN?
Shared Services Canada (SSC)’s current capacity is sufficient to support critical services across the Government of Canada and the department is working with private sector vendors to increase capacity.
Until network capacity is increased, departments are taking action to limit non-critical network usage and reducing non-critical activities. SSC is monitoring the situation in real time and will make adjustments as required on an ongoing basis. Departments are responsible for determining what activities must be deemed critical in order to meet their business objectives. In addition, SSC will enforce auto timeout on idle VPN connections and will also enforce controls to limit video streaming if asked by departments.
What is Shared Services Canada’s plan to deliver extra network capacity?
Shared Services Canada (SSC)’s plan to deal with this unprecedented demand includes:
- Delivering increased IT infrastructure to accommodate a large number of remote workers
- Prioritizing essential network traffic by SSC and working with partners departments CIOs so they can prioritize users
- Developing of a series of best practices for management and employees to improve the experience of Government of Canada employees connecting remotely
- Ongoing collaboration with private sector vendors to:
- seek alternative communications options
- increase capacity to meet growing needs
- expedite procurement and equipment delivery
- The deployment of LTE devices, including tablets, for some users (executives, communications teams, etc.) requiring email access and various internet tools
- The deployment of alternative options for conferencing
Will delivery of online services to Canadians be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Shared Services Canada is working with departments to make sure all critical services to the public are maintained.
What has Shared Services Canada put in place to prevent mission-critical systems from failing?
Shared Services Canada (SSC) has an Emergency Management program to mitigate and respond to emergency events in support of Government of Canada departments, and to protect SSC assets. Some services provided by Government of Canada organizations may require enhanced support from SSC during the pandemic.
A Heightened Awareness Window has been implemented to ensure that technical teams will respond quickly in the event of any incident effecting critical services.
Is Shared Services Canada still making changes to its infrastructure?
Working with Treasury Board Secretariat’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and departments, the GC has imposed limits on IT changes. By limiting changes, Shared Services Canada (SSC) is able to focus on supporting critical services and various preparedness activities across the GC. These include:
- Increased scrutiny (called a heightened awareness window) for critical applications and services impacting SSC’s core response to the pandemic.
- A restriction on changes for enterprise network services (such as Internet, SRA/VPN, Email, EMDM, WAN Backbone, Conferencing Services) and Datacentre Facilities.
- With support of the OCIO, all client department non-essential changes are to be deferred, both on the supporting infrastructure and for applications.
- Increased scrutiny for changes for all departments. The criteria for departmental approval include government priorities (such as Tax Filing, Employment Insurance, Budget Release, Census, Border Security), COVID-19 preparedness efforts and operational responses, critical security patching, and essential application releases or upgrades for GC mission critical services.
What are some best practices for bandwidth usage by employees?
Shared Services Canada shared best practices to ensure the continuity of all critical services. This included:
- Only using applications that you need to do your job;
- Keeping internet usage to what’s essential and only use social media, if needed
- Working offline if and when possible;
- Avoiding large data transfers and using devices on mobile networks to reduce the load on the VPN, and
- Considering alternate work hours to distribute the infrastructure demand.
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