Even if it’s
not yet law to audit data backups at your city, you will sooner or later be
held more accountable. It’s inevitable. Cities increasingly store critical,
essential, and sensitive electronic information, and so expectations about the
quality of data backup will only grow. In fact, some states already require
local governments to demonstrate proof of rigorous data backup for critical
and/or specific kinds of information.
Law or not,
it’s beneficial in every way for you to make sure your data backup is
comprehensive and stands up to an audit. What do you need to keep in mind to
shore up data backup gaps? Here are five critical areas.
still don’t properly store data backup offsite. They may think that an
“offsite” location such as an employee’s house, another city building, or a
data center several blocks up the street will suffice. But full disaster
recovery means you need to account for disasters that can threaten your entire locale
such as a hurricane, tornado, or flooding. As a result, you need to consider
offsite locations far away from your city. For example, some cities store data
offsite both in East Coast and West Coast data centers.
IT staff or vendor can help with planning, a majority of your plan will rely on
city policies and needs rather than technology decisions. For example:
to these questions will influence how you approach your data backup strategy.
Why do so
many cities fail at their data backup? It’s not because they don’t have any
data backup in place. It’s because they don’t test it. Testing is an absolutely
crucial step to make sure that your data backup works. By testing at least once
per quarter, you will identify major problems (such as failures to restore data)
and minor problems (such as a backup missing certain kinds of data).
recovery addresses information essential to running your city. You need to
clearly identify the data and information that you can’t live without. That
way, after a disaster hits you can focus on the most essential operations first
to get them up and running. If you don’t identity this data, your recovery may
be slowed as information gets restored that isn’t helpful or crucial to city
want your city to remain operational through any technology incidents or
disasters. In case things go wrong, you want to think through situations
ranging from a server failing to how teams may work remotely after a disaster
hits city hall. It also helps to make sure you have IT staff or a vendor with
multiple engineers at your disposal who can recover your city’s data in case
your primary IT point of contact is incapacitated for some reason.
you want to make sure you recover your most critical data as quickly as possible
after a disaster and remain operational. Remember, your citizens will rely on
you even more heavily during a disaster. You need to make sure you’ve got the
data to help them.
Questions about your data backup? Can you recover your critical data after a disaster? Reach out to us today to chat about your data backup and disaster recovery.
In last week’s blog post, we discussed
five benefits related to VoIP. But let’s say you’re already sold on switching
over from your existing landline system. You might wonder, “What do I need to
While VoIP technology ultimately lowers
costs and increases the amount of your features and flexibility, you might face
an uphill battle depending on the current state of your technology.
To see if you’re ready for VoIP, let’s take
a look at three key areas that you may need to modernize.
The most important technology for ensuring
that VoIP works similarly to your landline is your Internet service. You need
good, reliable, high speed Internet in order to take advantage of
data-intensive VoIP services. Remember, VoIP uses an Internet connection to
transmit data—so it needs to be fast and reliable.
Here’s a quick reality check for your
city depending on what type of Internet service you have now.
You need to take a look at the age and
quality of your data network infrastructure such as your switches, firewalls,
routers, cables, and related hardware and software. Basically, these technologies
are like the highway and gatekeeper for all of your Internet data—making sure
it moves through quickly and yet keeps out any unauthorized intruders.
When we tell cities that they need to
update data network infrastructure before switching over to VoIP, it can seem
like a “gotcha” moment. However, you need the right data network infrastructure
to handle the VoIP data that will be routed to your employees’ computers, headsets,
and phones. Without new or modern data network infrastructure, you risk garbled
phone conversations and dropped calls—just as if you had a bad Internet
will reduce hardware and maintenance time. But you still need seasoned IT
professionals to help support your VoIP system. First, the switchover project
will involve a lot of complexity. Especially if you need to modernize your
Internet service and data network infrastructure, then you’ll need experienced
engineers helping you through this transition. Second, after you’re
transitioned over these IT professionals will need to handle VoIP issues and
problems just like any technology you use. If there are issues with your
Internet, data network infrastructure, or users making calls, then you need
responsive IT support to ensure that problems are dealt with quickly.
the move to a VoIP phone system is usually worthwhile (and in time will pretty
much become the norm as traditional landlines fade away), it’s still a monster
of a project. The technology upgrades, implementation of the VoIP system, and
user adjustment involves a lot of moving parts and pieces. But remember, the
benefits are powerful—and the investment definitely is worth it.
switching over to VoIP? Reach out to us today with any questions.
You may have
heard of VoIP and perhaps even already use it. It’s an abbreviation for Voice
over Internet Protocol (VoIP). That’s a fancy way of saying that you make phone
calls over a data network—usually the same connection that gives you Internet
access. So why has VoIP become the predominant technology used for business
revolution started because data networks (such as fiber) have a much higher
capacity to handle data and a greater flexibility to add phone lines and
features when compared to traditional phone infrastructure (such as copper).
should a city choose to move to a VoIP system after using a reliable traditional
landline system for so long? It’s because VoIP isn’t just a nice-to-have
anymore. Instead, this service brings clear bottom line benefits to your city.
landlines may be historically reliable, but they are becoming quite expensive.
First, just the monthly cost of a traditional landline tends to be higher than
a VoIP system. But traditional landlines also saddle you with extra costs when
adding lines, adding features, and maintaining PBX hardware. And as time
progresses, it is going to become increasingly difficult to find support and
replacement equipment for traditional phone systems as they become more
obsolete. Across the board, your VoIP costs are lower. That means lower monthly
costs and no maintenance costs if your VoIP service is hosted in the cloud—and no
long distance charges!
features are one of the biggest pains of traditional landlines. Depending on
what you want, extra features often cost way too much money or they just aren’t
available. With nearly every VoIP system, you get a plentiful variety of handy
features such as call transferring, call forwarding, conference calling,
voicemail-to-email, and softphone capability (meaning you can make phone calls
over your computer like Skype)—all included for no extra cost.
need absolute control over your phone system, there’s no reason to host your
VoIP system onsite. That means it will be hosted in the cloud. Sure, you’ll
still need to buy some handsets. Otherwise, you’re hardware free—no servers or
PBX systems onsite. No more worry about maintaining phone-related hardware.
Think of this technology like an app on your phone. It’s all just data.
One of the
biggest complaints about traditional landline phone systems is the difficulty
of adding new users or a new line. It usually requires someone from the phone
company to arrive onsite and configure your system, leading to more cost and
time wasted while you wait. With VoIP systems, adding new users and lines is as
simple as a click of a mouse. That means you can add users and new lines in
minutes or even seconds.
landlines are isolated in one spot—your handset at your desk. A VoIP phone
system (remember, it’s just data) can follow you wherever you go. For example,
you can install an app on your personal smartphone that acts as a secure
extension of your work phone. Or you can use your computer to make a call. You
can even use any handset in your office as if it’s your business phone. This
aspect of VoIP is especially convenient when you need to make and take calls
while you’re away from your desk or even away from the office.
sold on these benefits, then how do you switch over from a traditional landline
to VoIP? Is it easy or difficult? We’ll talk about moving to VoIP in next
week’s blog post and discuss what you need to have in place.
about your phone system? Contemplating making the switch? Reach out to us today.
A few months
ago, the media was abuzz with reports about Microsoft forcing people to upgrade to Windows 10. If you either read some of these articles or even
experienced Windows 10 upgrade notifications popping up more and more on your
computer, you may be confused and a little frustrated. That’s understandable,
especially when something seems forced upon you.
mean you must upgrade? What should you do? Here are a few tips for cities about
how to handle what may seem like an intrusive Windows 10 upgrade.
This may seem like an odd first tip.
However, it shouldn’t be left up to non-technical employees what to download
and install on their computers at a city. Employees are not IT experts, and it
can be hard to figure out if software updates are going to cause harm to a
computer. IT professionals need to control what software and updates get
installed so that no harm comes to any computer.
One major reason you need IT professionals to decide
whether you should upgrade or not is because of software compatibility. For example,
you don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10 and then find out your accounting
software doesn’t work properly. And when you call that software vendor, they
might not be able to help you because they aren’t supporting their products on
Windows 10 yet.
non-technical employees or inexperienced IT staff attempt an upgrade but mess
it up somehow, then you are at risk for losing data during the upgrade process.
An experienced IT professional will ensure that your data is properly backed
up—onsite and offsite—to ensure that you can make a full data recovery if
something goes wrong with a Windows 10 upgrade.
say some employees want to upgrade to Windows 10. However, anyone with very old
computers (especially over five years old) may not be able to upgrade because
they don’t have enough memory or processor speed. Dated systems (such as those
found on older computers) no longer supported by a vendor are always a risk.
Users may need a little time to
adjust to the new Windows 10 interface and settings. While many things will
look and work like past versions of Windows, some of the differences may lead
to a rough adjustment period. You may want to build in time for a short
training session to go over the key differences with employees. In addition,
anticipate that users may have questions about the new features, settings, and
look and feel.
It’s fine if
a city is interested in upgrading to Windows 10, but prepare for it first
because your software vendors may tell you it’s an upgrade at your own risk. Your
line of business applications may not yet provide support for Windows 10. Like
any major operating system upgrade, a variety of unexpected problems can occur
that cause a lot of havoc. Windows 10 is getting a better reputation the longer
it’s around, but it’s still a good idea for IT professionals to manage any
installation and make sure you’re not breaking software or losing data.
Do you have additional questions about Windows 10? Reach out to us today.
surface, this might seem like an obvious headline. Of course unlimited offsite
data backup storage is awesome. It’s unlimited! Isn’t that the only benefit
worth talking about?
the “unlimited” aspect alone isn’t enough of a reason to compel every city to
move in this direction with offsite data backup. So, if you haven’t considered
unlimited offsite data backup storage, here are some benefits that go beyond
the simple fact that it’s “unlimited.”
As you can
see, many bottom line benefits result from moving to an offsite data backup
solution that includes unlimited storage. And remember, you’re not doing real
offsite data backup if you’re storing your data nearby—even at different
buildings within city limits. You need to store your offsite data backup in
geographically dispersed locations around the country to ensure full recovery
in case of a major disaster.
Questions about unlimited data backup storage? Reach out to us today.
Patch management—what you might know as
the applying of updates to software—is often an overlooked and even neglected
task. Sometimes, cities may be too busy to apply them, don’t want to interrupt
employees, or simply don’t think the timely application of patches is a big
deal. Hey, as long as nothing breaks, right?
However, a recent story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle demonstrates exactly
why patch management is important. Take something as innocent as a wireless
keyboard and wireless mouse that you might use with your laptop. As Urvaksh
“Atlanta-based Bastille has discovered a vulnerability in
wireless mice and keyboards that leaves billions of PCs and millions of
networks vulnerable to remote exploitation via radio frequencies. Using an
attack which Bastille researchers have named “MouseJack,” malicious actors are
able to take over a computer through a flaw in wireless dongles, the company
said in a statement.”
As vulnerabilities are found, vendors
create a fix and make a patch available. But those patches still have to be
deployed or rolled out by your IT staff or vendor. Many patches fix security
holes and bugs in software. Not applying patches means that you are leaving
security holes open for hackers to exploit.
Sometimes, cities turn patching off
because they are afraid that an update will break their software. This is bad
because you’re not fixing security vulnerabilities. As cities (and all
government entities) are continually held to higher cyber security standards, a
simple ongoing task like patch management becomes essential.
Do not think you’re doing patch
management when employees download and install Windows Updates to their
computers. Patch management needs oversight by IT professionals. For example,
what happens if you install a patch and it breaks something in your software?
Would you know how to uninstall it and revert back to a previous state? IT
professionals know how to test and apply patches, understand which patches are
appropriate, and use strict procedures if something goes wrong with a patch.
An amateur sees patches released by a
software vendor and applies all of them. An IT professional knows that all
patches aren’t created equal. Before applying patches, they test them to make
sure nothing breaks or a software flaw isn’t introduced. In our case, we run
vendor patches through a variety of server and desktop configurations to test
for errors. We “green light” those that pass successfully and then install them
on your machines. If a patch creates a problem in our test environment, we
don’t apply it. Instead, we communicate the issue to the software vendor. We only skip
testing when the patch is deemed so critical to your security that it must be
Patch management loses effectiveness when
your employees or IT staff only apply them to machines on your network at your
building and skip machines in other locations. Nowadays, modern patch
management allows IT staff or a vendor the capability to apply patches to
servers and workstations regardless of location. Yes, that means your computer
gets patches applied even if you’re on the road or working from home.
The main takeaway? You need to make patch
management a regular, important part of your IT maintenance. Generally, that
means experienced IT staff or a vendor overseeing patch management as part of
their regular, proactive duties.
Are you patching your servers and computers regularly? Reach out to us with any questions or doubts about your patch management process.
It’s fun to
get excited about ambitious website goals—a new website, a new online payment
function, or a photo gallery highlighting your tourism or downtown development.
Or maybe you’re so focused on day-to-day operational activities that you
haven’t taken a look at your website in a while. Either way, it’s easy to
neglect some obvious things that make your website—and your city—look bad.
your website is often the most common way that people get a first impression of
your city. Whether or not you’ve recently redesigned your website, there are a
few common mistakes that cities don’t realize leave a very bad impression on
citizens, future residents, potential visitors, and businesses.
Here are six
quick, low-budget ways that you can immediately improve your city’s website—no
matter how old or new.
you’re worried about budget for a new website, first take a look at your
current website. Do you have any of the glaring issues listed above? These are
extremely low-budget items to fix that have an immediate, big payoff. Remember,
you’re always on audition. People are researching your website for a variety of
reasons. The difference between getting more tourism dollars, an additional
business relocating to your city, and more residents moving to your city versus
losing them may be that first impression.
Once you fix
the problems listed above, it’s just the beginning of really harnessing the
power of your website. Read our New Year’s post for more tips and advice about how
to make a city website work for you.
things in life, documents have a lifecycle. They are born, they live, and they sometimes
pass on to document heaven. If you have a document management system, you
probably understand the document lifecycle more than most. And if you don’t
have a document management system, your documents still go through this
lifecycle—even if it’s chaotic and hard to track.
Why is the
document lifecycle so important that we should analyze it? Why not just create
the documents you need to create and get on with it? The short answer is that
the more you understand your document lifecycle, the better you can manage the
process in terms of document quality, consistency, and ease of use.
Let’s take a
closer look at the steps and see why each step is important to examine.
all documents need to be created. But have you ever thought about the
complexity behind document creation? For example:
complex, you might need to title documents in a certain way, tag them with
“metadata” (such as identifying the author, date created, city department,
etc.) to make them easier to find, and make sure the document is accessible for
people with disabilities. In other words, there can be a lot more to document
creation than first meets the eye.
create the document, where does it go? Usually, this point of a document
lifecycle is a mess at many cities. Documents may get stored on individual
computers, flash drives, or unorganized shared folders on a server. Some
questions to think through include:
document involves both ease of retrieval and authorization. In some cases, it
may also mean how to access the files in order to transfer or share them
somewhere else. This part of the document lifecycle is extremely important. Ask
becoming finalized, documents need to be edited, reviewed, and approved by
people who are often not the author. Instead of chaotically sending documents
back and forth through email, many document management systems offer some ways
to improve the quality of this step in the process.
steps you will need to set up in your document management system that align
with your policies and procedures, and you can work with your IT staff or
vendor to activate these kinds of features.
This step of
the process is an important legal step for cities. Depending on your city’s
records retention policies that follow state law and local ordinances, you may
have different policies for different documents. These can be set up by
municipal-experienced IT professionals who are trained in following records
you’ll apply many of the same tips above to an archiving strategy that makes
As you can
see, the steps above are obvious but the thought behind each step isn’t. We
accounted for a lot of complexity in certain steps that may not apply to your
city. That’s okay. You may not require meticulous “metadata” or need multiple
people collaborating on documents. However, you should give each step some
serious thought depending on your particular needs. This will make sure you
both comply with the law and also just make your overall document lifecycle process
easier for everyone involved.
Questions about your document lifecycle? Reach out to us today.
Do you think
about hackers in an outdated way? For example, you might imagine lesser hackers
as extremely intelligent yet rebellious teenagers in their basement trying to
hack into someone’s servers or computers. And you might imagine more
experienced hackers as part of international organizations that make concerted
attacks on high-profile targets such as the United States government.
hacking has evolved like most information technology. It might surprise you to
know that modern hacking is largely automated. That means hackers are using
software to probe thousands and thousands of computers in order to look for
weak spots. And once they find a weak spot, they attempt to break in.
your city is a target. You might think, “Why would some hacker target my small
city?” They’re not. They’re scanning thousands of targets. Eventually, that
scanning will find you—detecting your weak spot and exploiting it. Many incidents on the news discussing the aftermath of hackers
attacking smaller, lesser known cities show that’s the case.
So, how do
you avoid becoming a target? Here are five key areas where you may be leaving
yourself open to hackers.
We have to
begin here because even the best security can’t prevent a human being accidentally
giving a hacker access to a city’s information. How does that happen? Many
people still get fooled by malicious email attachments, websites, and online
software. Even “fun” things like online games and social media quizzes can
contain viruses, malware, and spyware. You need to train employees about
malicious online content and regularly review tips and advice with them. The
easiest way for a hacker to get in is when someone lets them in the door.
SplashData got a lot of press recently when
they published the most common weak passwords in 2015. Many, many people still
use horrible passwords such as “123456” and “password,” and then wonder why
they got hacked. Remember, hackers are using automated software to look for
holes. That automated software includes easy tools to guess common and weak
passwords that are easy to crack. You need long, strong passwords with a mix of
letters, numbers, and special characters to help secure yourself.
You ever go
to a coffee shop or public place and look for wireless access on your laptop?
You probably notice some of the connections are secured and you need a password
to access them. But some are “open” and you can hop on without a password.
While open access points make it easy to get Internet access, they are
incredibly dangerous if they’re set up that way at your city. Make sure every
one of your wireless access points is secured—meaning the data is encrypted and
access requires a password. Otherwise, you’ve left open another door for
Think of a
firewall like you’re going into a secure government building like the White
House. Guards at the gates will rigorously check each and every person who
enters and who leaves to make sure that no threatening or suspicious people
cause any harm to the President and his staff. We shudder to think what would
happen if the White House lacked that security. Now, think of your firewall
like White House security. If your firewall is improperly configured (or even
non-existent), that means any hacker can enter in through a “gate.” Your IT
staff or vendor can make sure your firewall is set up so that it’s inspecting
all suspicious cyber-intruders and preventing them from entering.
system such as Windows often delivers up a series of updates and patches every
week or two. Similarly, Internet browsers such as Internet Explorer regularly
update the software that allows you to access the Internet. If these updates
and patches are not installed, you increase the risk of hackers exploiting
known security gaps that companies work so hard to find and protect you from.
Make sure your IT staff or vendor regularly applies updates and patches to your
operating systems, Internet browsers, and any other software.
Preventing hackers from attacking your city is similar to physical security.
Make sure you don’t let suspicious users inside, and make sure you monitor and
inspect the information going in and out. While there is always a chance of a
hacker finding a way in, shoring up the security behind these five items will
go a long way toward helping you fend off hackers.
Need to discuss cybersecurity in more detail? Reach out to us with any questions.
past few years as cities have adopted IT in a Box, we’ve learned more about common questions that people have
about it. Recently, we produced a brochure that encapsulates exactly what makes
our services unique, relevant, and impactful for your city.
we write blog posts about common city-related IT issues or opportunities for
technology to help you excel at citizen service. Here, we’re taking a rare blog
post to talk a little about us. But it’s really about you. By expanding upon our
brochure, we’ll help explain some of the answers to the common questions we get
that center around the question, “What can I expect with IT in a Box?”
leagues often vet vendors that provide important services and products for
cities. Once a product or service is approved by a municipal league, a city can
rest assured that the product or service has had a positive impact on cities. IT
in a Box is the preferred technology solution for the Georgia Municipal Association, Kentucky League of Cities, and Arkansas Municipal League. That’s a loud statement of trust in
Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas.
technology vendors provide generic solutions applied to a wide variety of
industries. Even if IT vendors do specialize, it’s rare to find a city-tailored
technology solution. Sophicity is a rare IT vendor that has customized the entirety
of its services—from websites to data backup—for cities.
usually a major issue for cities when considering technology solutions. As a
result, we’ve worked extremely hard over the past few years to include a comprehensive
set of technology services for municipalities at the lowest overall price point
to give cities the biggest bang for their buck. We make sure that cities from
smallest to largest receive the same services at the right scale for them.
Plus, the price is flat and predictable each month, making budgeting simple.
ask us how we get IT in a Box rolled out at their city. We’ve got this onboarding
process down to a science.
day-to-day service receives a lot of praise from cities for its unique level of
care that’s tailored to cities. Our secret? Just doing the basics well.
like to talk to us in more detail about our trusted, tailored, and affordable IT in a Box solution, reach out to us.
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