1. Your email server is critical – arguably the most critical system on your network. We’ve all experienced email being unavailable. Spread that pain across your entire organization – especially if email is down for a considerable time – and you’ve got quite the dilemma on your hands.
2. Your email server has vulnerabilities just like any other system on your network. From weak email account passwords to missing patches to outdated anti-malware protection, there are numerous weaknesses that can put some of your most sensitive information at risk. All it takes is someone with free tools and minimal skills to scan for and exploit vulnerabilities on your server. Weak passwords can be exposed on webmail systems with even less effort. Malware propagation is a given that affects everyone.
3. Regardless of whether you believe you’re a target or really have anything of value that the bad guys want, you are and you do. It may not be sensitive emails and files shared on public folders but instead processor cycles and network bandwidth. Many of the attacks today are not intended to access critical information but rather so the bad guys can setup shop and use your system to attack others.
While cloud computing has been generating buzz for the past several years, this technology will continue to gain in popularity in 2012 – especially among city governments. Leveraging cloud-based technology eliminates capital and operational expenses associated with servers, software licenses, maintenance fees, project labor for software upgrades, and, more. Other benefits of the cloud include:
1. Lower, affordable, monthly costs for exactly what is needed. Pay monthly for needed hardware, software, and services. IT is scalable – add or subtract users as necessary, and the cost is adjusted on the fly.2. Clear, transparent ROI. Information technology has matured into a transparent reportable investment. A cost analysis of the money spent for traditional hardware, software, and services can be outlined and compared against a flat monthly operational-cost model. When this cost analysis is performed, many cities often uncover an opportunity for instant cost savings.3. Included, no-cost hardware and software upgrades. With “pay as you go” IT service models, there is no longer any worry about upgrading hardware or software. With a city’s monthly costs, all upgrades are included. 4. Minimized risk of data loss and security breaches. With an IT environment that is monitored and maintained with consistent, upgraded, quality hardware, software, and services at a monthly cost, the burden of data retention, security, and maintenance falls upon the service provider. Recovering from theft or a disaster can be much quicker and more cost effective for the city.
1. Lower, affordable, monthly costs for exactly what is needed. Pay monthly for needed hardware, software, and services. IT is scalable – add or subtract users as necessary, and the cost is adjusted on the fly.
2. Clear, transparent ROI. Information technology has matured into a transparent reportable investment. A cost analysis of the money spent for traditional hardware, software, and services can be outlined and compared against a flat monthly operational-cost model. When this cost analysis is performed, many cities often uncover an opportunity for instant cost savings.
3. Included, no-cost hardware and software upgrades. With “pay as you go” IT service models, there is no longer any worry about upgrading hardware or software. With a city’s monthly costs, all upgrades are included.
4. Minimized risk of data loss and security breaches. With an IT environment that is monitored and maintained with consistent, upgraded, quality hardware, software, and services at a monthly cost, the burden of data retention, security, and maintenance falls upon the service provider. Recovering from theft or a disaster can be much quicker and more cost effective for the city.
The Changing Face of IT
Many cities have over-spent, under-spent, risked data loss, slowed employee productivity, and jeopardized the completion of major projects during the last few decades while wrestling with information technology. As IT has evolved through mainframes, desktop computers, the 1980s software explosion, and the 1990s Internet explosion, the last decade found nearly all organizations having to harness information technology in some form. Like everyone else, cities have had no choice but to learn and wrap their minds around information technology’s revolutions and evolutions.
“Pay as you go” IT services, reflected in flat monthly operational costs (versus expensive upfront capital costs), will lead to high quality, low cost technology infrastructures for cities. A January 2009 article entitled “Buyer Beware” from Public CIO states:
Despite [service issues from vendors], government organizations still turn to the private sector for help with their IT management. This trend will accelerate as workers currently managing legacy systems retire, organizations update technology, enterprise-wide software applications are implemented and shared services arrangements are adopted, infrastructure and applications become more complex, and securing talent at government salary levels becomes more difficult.
Information technology is evolving toward more of an operational cost and less of a capital cost. This involves “pay as you go” monthly fees for hardware, software, and services that can be turned off and on, saving significant money for a city’s IT budget – and overall bottom line. An expensive upfront capital cost is often an obstacle for cities when they wish to invest in essential IT infrastructure. With a series of smaller, more predictable payments, it is easier to justify such costs to city decision makers.
As can be seen, anyone concerned with a city’s IT budget needs to seriously consider cloud computing as a tool to reduce costs and save money. And with increasing budget shortfalls and greater calls for transparency, the time is ripe for cities to reexamine their IT budgets and find ways to save hard dollars through these emerging technologies.
1. Have you ever discussed the city’s information technology spending in terms of money saved each year (ROI)? 2. Identify a list of hardware and software upgrades you need. Is the upfront cost of this hardware and software prohibiting you from moving forward with upgrading the city IT infrastructure? 3. Look at your city’s IT budget. Are most of your costs related to capital expenses? Operational expenses? “Services” expenses? Do you know where the money allocated for your city’s IT budget is clearly going, and why? 4. Can you say with confidence that all servers, workstations, and network infrastructure components in your city are 100% current with patches, antivirus, antispyware, and security protection? If not, why? 5. Can you say with confidence that the city is not in danger of data loss or significant down time to critical applications at Public Safety or City Hall? Are there risks for security breaches?
Ray Pedroso is a VoIP business specialist for Apptix, a premier provider of business communication and collaboration services including voice, email, and web conferencing. For more information about Apptix VoIP services, visit www.apptix.com or contact Ray at 866.688.0127 ext. 4015.
City of Hinesville, Georgia
Billy Edwards is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the City of Hinesville, Georgia and oversees all City government departments. He acts as a liaison between the City Council and the public by responding to inquiries and resolving conflicts. He is also responsible for oversight of the City Council meeting agenda process and implementing policy decisions made by the Council members. Having served at the City for over 30 years, Billy has a wealth of experience in city administration and shared some of his insights with Sophicity.
Chris LagerbloomCity ManagerCity of Milton, Georgia
Chris Lagerbloom was appointed as City Manager for the City of Milton in February 2009. He also served as the Director of Public Safety and Interim City Manager for the City of Milton prior to being appointed as the full-time City Manager. During his time with the City of Milton, Lagerbloom coordinated the initial deployment of police and fire services, synchronized and implemented policy and employed a top-notch staff. After moving into the Office of City Manager, he took the lead on moving the City of Milton to performing more services in-house, which represented a cost savings of more than $1.5 million. Before joining the City of Milton, Lagerbloom served as an accomplished public safety executive in various capacities with the City of Alpharetta from 1995 through 2006, working his way up through the ranks from Police Officer to Police Captain.
Phil McLemoreCity AdministratorCity of Duluth, Georgia
As the independent focal point for daily City operations, Phil McLemore guides the City of Duluth through surges in residential, commercial, and quality of life growth. Mr. McLemore works with a municipal staff of 138 employees, manages a $42,543,413 annual budget, and advises the Mayor and Council on strategic and tactical planning, budgeting and programming. He has been with the City of Duluth since 1996. Before coming to Duluth, he worked for Polk County government in Florida as the Development Services Director and, prior to that, he worked for Cobb County government and the Atlanta Regional Commission. He currently resides with his wife in Dunwoody. They have one daughter who has made him a proud grandpa of two girls and a boy.
Patrick DaleDirector of Information TechnologyCity of Roswell, Georgia
Patrick Dale has spent over 15 years in information technology beginning with a position as software engineer at a company that developed mobile software for law enforcement agencies. He spent over 10 years handling IT at the City of Coconut Creek, Florida, where he was in charge of data and voice networks, application systems, IT training, help desk support and GIS services. At the City of Roswell, Georgia, he is responsible for all IT projects, capital budgeting, research and evaluation of new enterprise hardware and software, vendor management, strategic planning, disaster recovery planning, and policy and procedure documentation for citywide equipment usage. He earned a B.S. in Computer Information Systems at Florida Atlantic University. His free time is largely spent with his wife and two young children.
What are some of the biggest IT challenges facing Roswell?
We’re trying to do more with less. Right now, we’re getting ready to deploy two major enterprise level applications: a municipal enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and a computer aided dispatch (CAD) 911 system. I’ve got a very limited staff, so we’re taking the people who normally perform specific roles and training them to be able to manage these systems as well as doing their current day-to-day jobs. Budgeting is a big challenge for everyone right now, so I have to be creative. There is limited money available to get everything done.
By cross-training our IT staff and utilizing people for more than one task, we’ve overcome some of these budget challenges. Right now, I’m preparing one of my helpdesk staff members to be a trainer. She will not only be doing helpdesk but will also train city staff on software applications. For example, we’re currently rolling out Office 2010. One of my helpdesk people will temporarily become a full-time Office 2010 trainer and work with different city departments on changes to their Office software. We had no budget to hire an outside trainer or send people to take Office 2010 training, so we improvised internally.
How have you taken advantage of recent technology innovations?
During the last couple of years, we installed a fiber-optic ring around the city. Most of our sites are now connected by fiber. We own the fiber, and it’s managed by another company. We’ve installed point-to-point wireless for some of the sites to which we weren’t able to bring fiber. This has increased our overall bandwidth speeds and allows us to push out VoIP technology to those remote sites.
We’ve also been leveraging SharePoint, and it’s starting to help create some very good process changes for us. We’re currently starting the process for next year’s budget, and the entire budget process is going to be run through SharePoint. All of our project management will be in SharePoint, too. Our processes were previously very disjointed. Multiple copies of documents were everywhere and we never knew whose copy was the right copy. SharePoint is going to help us eliminate those problems and create true workflow.
How have you leveraged GIS?
Many of our departments are leveraging GIS. Our transportation department uses it for streets and roads, our community development department uses it for land permitting and other needs, and our fire department uses it for their operations. We have an internal GIS staff that resides in our community development department, but we also have GIS champions in other departments who work alongside the GIS staff. One of the things we did recently was sign an enterprise agreement with a GIS technology company, and so now we have the ability to push out its GIS software to nearly every desktop. In the next 12 months, we’re going to be pushing this software out to more departments so they are able to access GIS data sets for use in decision making. We even created a GIS users group that consists of a few of us from IT, the GIS staff from community development, and one representative from every department.
How has cloud computing affected your IT strategy?
We’ve looked at this trend on a few levels. We’re using cloud services for our legislative system that creates agendas and minutes for our council sessions. That service is run in the cloud through a legislative management software company. Right now, that’s the only service we’ve pushed to the cloud. We seriously considered cloud services with our latest ERP system, and the company has a cloud option for their software. We took a pretty thorough look at it and there wasn’t enough cost savings. True, we would not have had to invest in any new infrastructure, but in our situation we needed to invest in new infrastructure anyway. In terms of software costs, it was flat even between onsite versus cloud. For Roswell, there wasn’t a good enough justification to go with a cloud solution.
How has the city leveraged its website, eGovernment, and/or social media?
We’re doing a lot of eGovernment now. Utility billing, tax billing, red light camera payments, and tax payments all have online eGovernment components on the City of Roswell’s website. That type of customer self-service will be growing more with the implementation of our new ERP. We also have a decent Facebook presence for the entire city, law enforcement, and smaller groups such as Keep Roswell Beautiful. We’ve even kicked off a program which shoots out alerts via email and SMS about weather, traffic, and any other major alerts that need to be shared with residents. Residents can sign up for this today via email or SMS.
How have you leveraged IT for greater interaction between the city and its citizens?
We were asked to provide free WiFi access at some of our parks. Today, we offer free WiFi to residents at five parks and facilities. It works out especially well at some of our locations where there are classes taking place. For example, we have a physical activity center at our Roswell Area Park where there are many gymnastics, dance, and other classes. Most of those programs are only forty-five minutes long. To drop your kid off at the park, leave, and come back really doesn’t make sense for many people. We found many parents were just hanging out and we had real demand for this service while they were waiting. So we’ve done that.
How has the use of mobile devices impacted your city?
They’ve had a wide impact. We’re running mobile devices in all of our police cars. Those devices allow officers to spend more time on the road. Most municipalities are doing that now. We’ve also extended that mobility to code enforcement, building inspectors, and transportation. For example, our road crews are now mobilized and they can quickly examine the conditions of roads and update the grading remotely. People are spending less time in the office and much more time out where they need to be.
How do you connect with and learn from IT directors at other municipalities?
The Georgia Chapter of the Government Management Information Sciences (GMIS) and SIM International is definitely a big part of my peer-to-peer networking. I utilize the knowledge of many contacts I’ve made through GMIS through its listserv where I can query my peers about current IT issues. I also regularly reach out to my peers by phone and email when I have questions.
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