USPS augments computer network to handle ever-expanding services

Tuesday - 9/3/2013, 8:28pm EDT

Stacy Schwartz, vice president, federal government business unit, AT&T

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The Postal Service offers mobile apps to do everything from looking up a ZIP code to scheduling a next-day pick up to tracking the status of your package. One way USPS is trying to stay ahead of the public's expectation curve is by upgrading the bandwidth and security of its computer network.

The Postal Service recently awarded AT&T two contracts worth more than $53 million to improve and better secure its back-end infrastructure.

Under the first deal, AT&T will upgrade USPS' data network connectivity across the country. The contract is worth more than $50 million over the life of the contract.

The second contract is for cybersecurity services, known as Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS). AT&T will implement MTIPS at the Postal Service's two major data centers in California and Minnesota. The deal is worth about $3.5 million.

Stacy Schwartz, the vice president of AT&T's federal government business unit, said the network connectivity contract is a follow-on contract from previous work with some additional services added-on.

"Our network supports everywhere from a retail postal location to a business partner location to distribution centers for the Postal Service as well," she said in an interview with Federal News Radio. "What's new is the network and the size of the network is growing as the Postal Service requirements are growing relative to some of the new applications they are extending across the network. They are looking for an increased amount of bandwidth to support those applications to make sure they have enough capacity to really send those applications across their entire environment."

USPS did not go through the Networx telecommunications contract run by the General Services Administration to upgrade its network bandwidth.

The service, however, did use Networx for the MTIPS award to AT&T.

Schwartz said USPS becomes one of AT&T's largest MTIPS clients. MTIPS are cybersecurity services used to protect federal networks at the front end under the Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) initiative.

AT&T is one of four MTIPS providers along with CenturyLink, Sprint and Verizon.

According to GSA, as of November 2012, 56 large and small agencies are using MTIPS. Most large agencies created security operations centers to implement MTIPS.

Schwartz said MTIPS will help USPS secure a lot of personal or sensitive data that travels across its network.

"I believe they felt it was critical that they move to MTIPS service," she said. "We have not yet implemented it, but we are in the process of doing so."

Schwartz said it's hard for her to say how much better USPS would be because of MTIPS, but it's part of how the service is increasing its focus on data and information security.

USPS is counting on the security and reliability of its network to introduce new products and services.

For instance, the service says it handles 13 million emails a day, supports 125,000 desktop computers, 21,000 laptops, 11,000 BlackBerry devices and 310,000 handheld scanners.

USPS also holds 23 petabytes of storage capacity, holds more than 50,000 online meetings a month and maintains more than 47,000 point of sale terminals nationwide.

Schwartz said AT&T's work to upgrade USPS' network will help it stay ahead of any problems or latency.

"This is a managed service environment," she said. "We are actually calling the Postal Service to tell them we see some anomalies, and we are actually trying to determine where there might be some utilization issues or other troubles. It's a proactive managed network service for USPS. It's related to the operational functionality and making sure from a maintenance and lifecycle perspective we are making them hum, basically."

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