Virginia’s Albemarle County, formed in 1744, has a progressive attitude toward sharing information with its citizens. The county’s IT Department is creating an “Access Albemarle” Web site portal using Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007, which will, among other services, provide access to information managed in a new deployment of the Microsoft Dynamics® GP business management software. As the county rolls out the new solution, it needs guidance on creating, implementing, and managing policies to safeguard data security and proactively address other issues. The county found the guidance it needed with Microsoft Solution Accelerators, including the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide, the Security Compliance Management Toolkit series, and Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0. Solution Accelerators are created by Microsoft and offered as free downloads to help organizations deploy and manage IT infrastructure.Situation
Albemarle County is part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state often referred to as “The Mother of Presidents” because it has given birth to eight U.S. Presidents. Albemarle County includes the birthplace of one of the most famous of all U.S. Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, as well as his famed home, Monticello.
||Using Microsoft Solution Accelerators helps us identify potential security risks before we deploy a new solution or begin a new internal application.
Information Technology Director, County of Albemarle, Virginia
Formed in 1744, Albemarle County preceded formation of the United States and is known for natural beauty that runs from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the tidewaters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Like just about every county in the United States and other regional governments around the globe, the Albemarle County Information Technology Department faces the challenge of uniting a complex, heterogeneous IT environment to maximize service provided to the many agencies, departments, and other county organizations it supports. Part of this challenge is to identify and implement best practices to help ensure data integrity, system security, and regulatory compliance.
Albemarle County IT has a mandate to provide a full range of communication, networking, core business application support, and development as well as custom application support and development for all departments within local government. This mandate also includes core system support (Financials, Purchasing, Human Resources, Payroll) for the School Division employees. To provide these capabilities and enable role-based access to information, the IT Department is in the process of deploying a unified set of applications that are accessed across a Web-based portal.
As Albemarle County IT implements this major infrastructure project, which is being rolled out in phases over the next few years, it needs a guide to help it plan, implement, and manage guidelines and best practices to help ensure data security and system integrity. It also needs to track compliance with its internal policies and any applicable regulatory policies.
|A County of Beauty—Albemarle County is famed for its natural beauty, such as Beaver Creek Lake.|
Albemarle County IT is deploying a unified information solution it calls Access Albemarle, which integrates its existing intranet with core business processes to facilitate taxpayer interactions with the county. The solution, when fully deployed, will also include basic functions such as supporting an inventory system for assets and supplies and providing for an Enterprise Project Management system tied to product and people expenses.
Access Albemarle is being deployed on the Microsoft® Application Platform, including Microsoft Dynamics® GP, a business management solution that offers financial management functionality that ranges from general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable modules to bank reporting, cash flow management, and reconciliation. Microsoft Dynamics GP also supports advanced consolidation, robust business intelligence, rich reporting, forecasting, and budgeting.
To enhance the security and compliance of its solutions, Albemarle County IT is using Microsoft Solution Accelerator resources including the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide, the Security Compliance Management Toolkit series, and Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) 4.0.
“We’ve deployed the Fixed Assets module of Dynamics GP, and our next big rollout is planned to be the GP Financial Management System, which includes General Ledger, Accounts Payable, and Procurement,” says Mike Culp, Information Technology Director for the County of Albemarle, Virginia. “One of the biggest values we see in using the IT Compliance Management Guide and the other Microsoft deployment resources is the consistency we gain. Rather than configuring each of these modules separately, we use the guide as our gospel, which results in consistency that helps ensure integrity across our operations. All of these Dynamics GP products and supporting infrastructure are being deployed to replace our legacy mainframe system.”
|Workflow—A workflow diagram from the IT Compliance Management Guide.|
IT Compliance Management Guide
An important element of the deployment is use of the IT Compliance Management Guide, a Solution Accelerator created by Microsoft as an authoritative resource to help IT professionals plan, deliver, operate, and manage IT systems that address real-world scenarios. Solution Accelerators, created as part of Microsoft governance and compliance efforts, provide free prescriptive guidance and automation to accelerate cross-product integration, core infrastructure development, and other enhancements.
Albemarle County IT is using the IT Compliance Management Guide to help shift governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) efforts from people to technology. This Solution Accelerator helps the county plan and implement an IT management framework to address GRC requirements that apply to its organization and that will guide creation of Access Albemarle.
The IT Compliance Management Guide includes the following components:
IT Compliance Management Guide.docx. This guide helps prepare the Albemarle County IT team for conversations with GRC subject matter experts such as attorneys, auditors, specialists, and consultants working for the county and related agencies. It introduces an approach based on MOF 4.0 that helps address compliance requirements as well as organization-wide governance initiatives.
IT Compliance Management Resources.xlsx. This Microsoft Office Excel® workbook contains four worksheets, and the Instructions worksheet provides reader instructions on the use of the tabs within the workbook. The GRC Control Objectives worksheet contains high-level objectives that apply to an IT department assigned GRC duties. The GRC Configuration Job Aids worksheet contains GRC objectives and associated Microsoft product configuration guidance to meet these objectives.
Microsoft Security Compliance Management Toolkit
||One of the biggest values we see in using the IT Compliance Management Guide and the other Microsoft deployment resources is the consistency we gain.
Information Technology Director, County of Albemarle, Virginia
The Security Compliance Management Toolkit series builds on previous Solution Accelerators to provide IT professionals with expanded best practices and additional automation tools to help configure and deploy security settings for the following operating systems and applications: Windows Server® 2008, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows Vista® SP1, Windows® XP Professional SP3, and the 2007 Microsoft Office suite SP1.
After deploying the security settings, IT professionals can verify the accuracy of the setting policies and monitor policy changes by applying one or more of 26 Configuration Packs using the desired configuration management (DCM) feature of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 SP1.
Each of the Security Compliance Management Toolkits includes the following resources:
Security guide. Each toolkit includes an updated version of a previously released security guide for Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, or the 2007 Microsoft Office suites. The guidance provides best practices and automated tools to help organizations plan and deploy security baselines.
Attack Surface Reference workbook. A resource that lists the changes introduced as server roles are installed on computers running Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008, for the toolkits specific to these operating systems.
Security Baseline Settings workbook. This resource lists all of the prescribed settings for each of the preconfigured security baselines that the security guides recommend.
Security Baseline XML files. These files enable organizations to consume the data defined in the security baseline settings workbooks.
GPOAccelerator tool. This tool can be used to create the required Group Policy objects (GPOs) for deploying an organization’s chosen security configuration.
Baseline Compliance Management Overview. This resource discusses best practices about how to monitor security baselines for Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office applications.
DCM Configuration Pack User Guide. This Guide provides step-by-step guidance about how to use the Configuration Packs with the DCM feature in System Center Configuration Manager 2007 SP1.
DCM Configuration Packs. The toolkit series includes 26 Configuration Packs.Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0
MOF 4.0, a Solution Accelerator that is integrated with the IT Compliance Management Guide, delivers practical guidance for everyday IT practices and activities, helping users establish and implement reliable, cost-effective IT services. The guidance in the Microsoft Operations Framework encompasses all of the activities and processes involved in managing an IT service: its conception, development, operation, maintenance, and—ultimately—its retirement.
MOF organizes these activities and processes into Service Management Functions (SMFs), which are grouped together in phases that mirror the IT service lifecycle. Each SMF is anchored within a life cycle phase and contains a unique set of goals and outcomes supporting the objectives of that phase. An IT service’s readiness to move from one phase to the next is confirmed by management reviews, which ensure that goals are being achieved in an appropriate fashion and that IT goals are aligned with the goals of the organization.Architectural Elements of Access Albemarle
Albemarle County IT describes its Access Albemarle solution as “a complete suite that leverages the power and productivity of the Microsoft platform.” The solution includes a portal to be created using Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007, and Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 Enterprise Edition as the data repository. Servers are supported using the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition operating system. Internal development is performed using Microsoft Visual Studio® 2005 and the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0. Client systems use Microsoft Office productivity software. Active Directory® Domain Services is used to support role-based access to information.
“We are working with the IT Compliance Management Guide accelerator and Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0 to prepare for deployment of Dynamics GP and the rest of our solution,” says Culp. “Since we already have a large base of Microsoft products, we believe it will be beneficial to use the Solution Accelerator as our guide for all new projects.”
|Complete Suite—Architectural components of Access Albemarle. |
Microsoft Solution Accelerators, including the IT Compliance Management Guide, the Security Compliance Management Toolkit series, and the Microsoft Operations Framework, provide Albemarle County IT with information for creating and implementing policies and other guidance, as well as the information it needs to deploy enhanced security and change controls. The IT group plans to use the guide to achieve better utilization of enterprise architecture and to implement efficient project planning and management.Guidance for Creating and Implementing Policies
As Albemarle County IT began working on its Access Albemarle project, it recognized the need for creating and implementing policies and other guidance for working with and providing access to county and taxpayer information.
“The need for regulations and standards—and ensuring compliance with these standards—became especially clear as we began planning our portal and considering the prevalence of Web 2.0 thinking, which is to provide everyone with broad access to information across the Internet,” says Culp. “But this led us to realize that in many cases we lacked specific guidance for storing and granting access to confidential information and other data.”
Albemarle County IT needed to establish how a county department, for example, would request making information available to others. A system needed to be in place to determine what information was considered publishable, and what was considered confidential. The IT group also needed to set standards for the infrastructure used for publishing: What operating system was used? What applications? What authentication methodology and security was implemented? What virus protection? What best practices should be implemented? What internal or other regulations needed to be monitored to ensure compliance?
||We can point to the guide as a tool for local government, as educational material, and as best practices that in the long term will help us create a better information environment.
Information Technology Director, County of Albemarle, Virginia
“The great value in the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide
is that it covers all of this ground and much more for you,” says Culp. “It gives you a framework and a set of carefully considered best practices. This saves our organization a lot of time. Rather than having to research and create these guidelines and best practices ourselves, we can take advantage of what Microsoft had researched and go to the next phase of implementation. The guidelines also point to where HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] and other regulations might be relevant from a compliance standpoint. And you can’t beat the price. Microsoft gives away the IT Compliance Management Guide
as a free download from the Web.”1
The IT Compliance Management Guide is effective in gaining acceptance within Culp’s organization simply because it has third-party validation. “It helps when we can say these suggestions aren’t from our team in IT but are industry best practices as researched and published by Microsoft,” Culp says. “We can point to the guide as a tool for local government, as educational material, and as best practices that in the long term will help us create a better information environment.” Security Information for Deployment Partner
Albemarle County IT will work with a partner to deploy Microsoft Dynamics GP Financial Management in the next phase of the project. The group is using the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide and Microsoft Operations Framework to help it define its security needs and other operational and administrative requirements to its vendor.
“We are pulling information from the guide to use in directing the vendor that will be handling the implementation of Financial Management,” says Culp. “We will use the guide in working with the vendor to define security for the data, user security, the different levels of access users can have to the system, and how data can be used. So the guide will also help us set priorities with the vendor in these three key areas: security for the data, security for the user, and the priority and order of deployment of each of the modules. The IT Compliance Management Guide will be a huge asset for our project.”
All of this helps ease the anxieties of managing a large deployment project. “As we work with our partner in rolling out Microsoft Dynamics GP, the Microsoft Solution Accelerators including the IT Compliance Management Guide and the Security Compliance Management Toolkit provide great cross-checks for implementation. As a first step we can use the guide to check our vendor’s implementation plan, and once implemented, we can return to the guide to verify that everything was properly configured to enhance security and policy compliance.”Enhanced Security and Change Control
Albemarle County IT is using the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide, the Security Compliance Management Toolkit, and the Microsoft Operations Framework to enhance data security and to implement standards for dealing with change control. Culp is impressed with the scope and depth of the information.
"The IT Compliance Management Guide and the Security Compliance Management Toolkit provide excellent information on how to conduct your own security audits to identify weaknesses in your system, and provides prescriptive guidance for resolving those weaknesses,” says Culp. “Microsoft provides information on how to build a perimeter network (also known as a DMZ), how to run a Windows Firewall, how to get the most from tools such as [Microsoft] Forefront™ Client Security, Data Protection Manager, and a spectrum of other security issues.”
The IT Compliance Management Guide provides best practices for identifying potential security problems prior to implementation, so that security becomes part of the design process.
“Using Microsoft Solution Accelerators helps us identify potential security risks before we deploy a new solution or begin a new internal application,” says Culp. “This front-end verification is very reassuring because it is better to identify and resolve potential problems ahead of time so you aren’t in the position of having to address security concerns after deployment.”
Albemarle County IT will use the IT Compliance Management Guide to enhance change management so that a requested change in an existing application doesn’t inadvertently result in diminished security. “We know that once we introduce Microsoft Dynamics GP there will be requests for additional modules, for customizing forms, and for integrating third-party applications created internally, or obtained from vendors,” says Culp. “To ensure security and data integrity throughout all of these processes we plan on implementing a change management system that’s outlined in the IT Compliance Management Guide.”
Better Use of Enterprise Architecture
||The IT Compliance Management Guide and the Security Compliance Management Toolkit provide excellent information on how to conduct your own security audits to identify weaknesses in your system, and provides prescriptive guidance for resolving those weaknesses.
Information Technology Director, County of Albemarle, Virginia
One of the challenges Albemarle County IT faces is encouraging the use of its enterprise architecture when local agencies ask the group to support solutions on other computing platforms. Although the group already supports a heterogeneous environment, including mainframe-based applications, it has steadily moved its infrastructure and applications to the Microsoft Application Platform.
“After we complete deployment of Microsoft Dynamics GP we plan on making a big push with our internal customers for using the Microsoft Application Platform,” Culp says. “We will publish our preferred server and application guidelines on our Access Albemarle site, and explain the efficiencies we see in using this as our preferred platform.”
One of the benefits is avoiding creation of stand-alone applications and databases that can’t be easily integrated with other county infrastructure. Using defined data sources, such as specific repositories hosted on SQL Server, helps provide what is often termed a “single view of the truth,” meaning that when different agencies create their own applications, they make use of the same centralized data repository so that customer information, for example, and definition of attributes remain consistent.
“If someone wants to deploy a solution using a database that isn’t Microsoft SQL Server or a communications solution not based on Microsoft Exchange and Outlook®, I’ll point them to our published standards, explain why we all benefit from using a common set of servers and applications,” Culp says. “The IT Compliance Management Guide will be a big help in communicating with our internal customers. We can point to the best practices we have and at how we implement security and authentication. We can show how all organizations within the county benefit from this common approach.”Efficient Project Planning and Management
Albemarle County IT is creating an enterprise project management system to provide county organizations with a complete view of all projects and their impact on capital funds, operating funds, and employee time. The project management system, which is being deployed using Office SharePoint Server 2007, includes a process for submitting IT project requests and a methodology for prioritizing projects on set criteria that have been agreed upon by a governing board. Analyzing factors could include budgetary constraints, applicability to the county’s strategic plans, security, policies, mandates, and other factors. Each factor includes a rated scale, enabling all projects to be judged on the same criteria and fairly ranked.
“Today we don’t have the optimal structure in place to best allocate our development resources, or to review project requests to make sure security issues have been addressed,” Culp says. “For example, a group might ask us to create a table input form that allows office administrators to key in their payroll information on a Web-based form versus sending in spreadsheets. This might be a great idea, but currently such a request wouldn’t go to a committee to ensure that all the fields are secured and used properly. Nor are these requests weighted against other project requests.”
The IT group will use the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide to develop the structure for project evaluation, planning, and management. “The IT Compliance Management Guide provides a set of criteria that helps you to rank individual requests and to ensure that variables ranging from security concerns to server capacity have been addressed,” Culp says. “Once the projects are in place, Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0 takes over and shows how the project can best be managed through completion.”
An early success story is the use of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, which has already been rolled out for the county’s police to use. “Our Police Department likes SharePoint Server,” says Culp. “Reporting officers send their incident reports to a SharePoint Server site, where their supervisor reviews the report and rejects or approves it for publishing. This replaces a paper-based system and provides great efficiency. Obviously security is a big concern. We provide them with a dedicated instance of SQL Server and SharePoint Server and we will use the IT Compliance Management Guide and the Security Compliance Management Toolkit to safeguard the solution.”Summary
In summary, Microsoft Solution Accelerators, including the Microsoft IT Compliance Management Guide, the Security Compliance Management Toolkit, and Microsoft Operations Framework 4.0 are helping the Albemarle County IT Department gain important guidance for creating, implementing, and managing policy and standards that will help it to enhance security, enforce internal and regulatory compliance, and gain greater efficiencies from its IT infrastructure.
Microsoft Solution Accelerators
Microsoft Solution Accelerators are freely available knowledge and expertise through fully supported and sustained tools, scripts, models, and best practices designed to help IT professionals who are proactively planning, deploying, operating, and managing IT systems using Microsoft products and technologies.
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