FORT KNOX, Ky. — While many civilian employees at Fort Knox have grown accustomed to the functionality of Microsoft Teams through CVR, a change is coming.
Information technology officials at the Fort Knox Network Enterprise Center recently said they are preparing to migrate to what is considered the end game in secure, remote networking and collaboration – IL5.
“Once IL5 is fully integrated, we’ll be switching over to Office 365,” said Jacob Kline, IT support specialist, Enterprise Systems Division, 7th Theater Signal Command. “Up to this point it’s been about Skype, Outlook and Office products, and they don’t always connect to each other and jive.”
The new IL5, which is slated to come online in mid-June, will provide most of the same functionality as Microsoft Teams. It will also provide a secure, fully integrated commercial cloud-based solution across the entire military force.
There is one setback, though: it will only allow connectivity using a Common Access Card, meaning login using personal devices will not occur.
“That’s an unfortunate loss of capability,” said Richard Jackson, cyber chief for the Fort Knox NEC. “It’s going to have an impact on a lot of us.”
What IL5 brings to the table, however, is smooth, real-time coordination and up to one terabyte of storage space in the Cloud.
“With IL5, because everything is Office 365 and active directory, it’s going to streamline a lot of the communication, tracking and other things,” said Kline.
One aspect of IL5 that is expected to come online in the future is OneDrive, where the user data will be stored. Users understand it more in terms of a Z, or personal drive.
“Right now, the integration is only through the desktop application," said Kline, "or through the web browser.”
Each user will be given 1 terabyte of space within which to store all coordinating files, folders and documents.
“That’s a lot more than what they have today, so that’s a plus,” said Jackson. “And that data’s accessible from anywhere they can log in to that Teams environment ... so no matter where you go, you can just log in and get to your work space.”
The advantage for this is that wherever Soldiers and civilian employees move to, they will always have access to their environment, and if a computer goes down —
“Office 365 is not installed on your computer anymore, so we’re not installing something on a local computer that we have to patch, manage, scan or update,” said Jackson. “Any formatting or changes stay within the Cloud environment, so if you were to lose your computer tomorrow, I could literally drop another computer down on your desk and all your data and settings would be there.”
Kline explained that IL5 with Cloud-based collaboration was always the goal for the Defense Department. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the timeline. Microsoft offered up CVR as a temporary solution until the Army could get IL5 up and running and fully integrated.
With IL5 coming online this year, officials said they are already seeing benefits.
Heather Sidebottom, Fort Knox NEC integrator, said she has enjoyed a significant reduction in cumbersome email traffic.
“If I have a simple question for somebody, I can just shoot them a Teams message rather than sending an email,” said Sidebottom. “Being able to reach people, even if they’re on telework is another benefit because you can make calls through Teams.”
Jackson said IL5 is proving its worth in other ways. One of those is with real-time collaboration and editing capabilities. Another involves attendance numbers at meetings.
In previous in-person information management officer meetings, they may have had 40 people attend. Now, with the meetings occurring through Microsoft Teams, as many as 95 people have logged in.
“Six months ago we were on our way down to Fort Campbell and we needed to attend a meeting,” said Jackson. “We connected with our phones and, while driving down the road we joined in the meeting and provided input.
“It’s crazy how we are able to do that now, where we couldn’t do any of that before.”