A recent tragic murder investigation in Atlanta led to a news report by 11Alive about how investigators used computer forensics to uncover deleted files from the alleged killer’s computer. In some discussion about the case as passing conversation, we heard a good question from a client: “If I want to make sure that sensitive business information is deleted from a computer, how do I make sure?”
In this alleged murderer’s case, he didn’t realize that even seeming to permanently delete files does not actually delete them. While investigators are thankful that this person didn’t know any better, it does bring up an important issue for cities and businesses. Simply reverse the situation: What if these investigators were professional criminals, corporate spies, or IT-savvy angry ex-employees who were looking through your seemingly “discarded” hardware with sensitive information inside? How do you protect yourself?
First, it’s good to understand two common misperceptions about deleting data from computers.
What? This is an extremely common misperception, and it’s a very dangerous one. Most people do not know that files still exist on your computer even when you “permanently” delete them. On a high level, what happens when you “permanently delete” the file is that you tell the computer that the space that the file takes up can be used if needed. Unless it’s overwritten by other data (which usually only happens if you’ve almost run out of disk space), it’s still there.
These misperceptions lead to cyber liability issues. Let’s say you sell or recycle a computer, and it ends up in the hands of someone outside your organization who is unauthorized to access sensitive information (like intellectual property or social security numbers). All they would need is a professional (for maybe a few hundred dollars) to recover any contents on the hard drive and use that information in a negligent manner. The rarity of such an incident is no excuse for allowing such information to get out there. All it takes is one breach of sensitive information for your city or business to face a lawsuit or even a criminal charge.
So, how do you really delete data? There are three levels of protection and assurance to make sure that deleted data cannot be accessed by people outside your organization.
Similar to professionally wiping the hard drive clean, you don’t want to do this yourself. To be thorough and safe, let an IT professional handle the proper destruction of a hard drive to ensure that it’s done safely, completely, and in an environmentally safe way. This is the way to really have confidence that no one will access any data on a hard drive. If it’s gone and destroyed, there’s really no way for that data to be retrieved ever again.
As the alleged murderer found out, data can still be found unless you take further precautions. For cities and businesses, understanding this issue is a great help for cyber liability. Deletion on a computer just isn’t enough, and you risk that data getting into the hands of malicious people. At the very least, encrypt all of your computers (including tablets and smartphones). Then, when it’s time to decommission, use professionals to ensure that your computer’s hard drive is a blank slate or goes to hard drive heaven.
To talk more about encrypting and decommissioning computers, please contact us.
One of the biggest burdens we try to lift off our clients’ shoulders is what we call “vendor management.” For non-technical people, “vendor management” is the time wasted trying to diagnose technical problems on the fly and spending hours on the phone with the vendor’s support technicians when you’ve got your normal job to do. Plus, you’re not a technical expert, so you’re often not sure about specific details related to the problem, knowing if the vendor really solved the problem, and feeling sure that you’re talking with the right person about it.
Through our experiences, we’ve seen time wasted and even money lost when vendor management slips out of your control. These situations can range from getting bamboozled into purchasing software with too many bells and whistles to vendors not properly following their support agreements. Here are five common scenarios where you’ll most likely lose time and money without professional vendor management vigilance.
Vendors usually provide support within their contracts but many organizations often don’t enforce and use them to their fullest benefit. Your IT staff or vendor might be very skilled, but they are not experts in your vendor’s product. When major problems arise, the vendor needs to send their people over to solve them. An IT professional can help organizations enforce those contracts, coordinate the vendor’s support, and make sure the vendor provides what they promised. Support contracts not only provide you things like security patches and updates but also help pay for expensive parts and give you customer service priority.
Like any technical activity such as finances or the law, technology vendor management can be overwhelming when you’re an owner, director, or manager running a business or organization. We’ve noticed that when we take “vendor management” off of someone’s plate, it saves huge amounts of time and money. Plus, we often uncover productivity issues, configuration problems, or parts of support contracts that weren’t previously enforced. Technology is a tough area for non-technical people to wrap their heads around. Just as lawyers deal with lawyers, let IT professionals deal with other IT professionals.
To talk about vendor management in more detail, please contact us.
conventional for city websites to include history pages that summarize
highlights throughout the decades and even centuries that the city has existed.
Interesting facts abound as most cities grew throughout the 19th and 20th
centuries, and cities like to know that their efforts in the 21st century rest
upon a rich history. So how are you approaching your history page?
that it’s not really a priority. If it’s not helping serve citizens and if it’s
not essential for day-to-day business, then it’s easy for history pages to
become an afterthought. Yet, a lot of important information is communicated
through your history page—much more information than you think. But a quick
scan of many city websites showcase only dry, dusty information that sounds
like an old-fashioned encyclopedia, with maybe a few photos added.
How can you
spice up your history page while also improving your engagement with both
citizens and non-citizens? Read on for some tips.
mistake that many cities make is to give a dry recounting of old history and
just leave the text sitting there, like a dusty antique on a shelf that no one
looks at. Instead, use your history to highlight themes that are important to
your city today. Maybe your city has had a historical commitment to diversity.
Or perhaps there is a particular kind of industry that was important to your
city’s growth. Look to your past to find themes that resonate in the present so
that citizens feel they are living in a city where its history is still being
Photos and videos help bring your history to life. High quality
professional photos of buildings and landmarks will interest people as they
read the text on your history page. Plus, consider using digital imaging to
scan old historical photos so that you can share them on your website. Present
a few photos to accompany the text and then consider creating a separate page
or slideshow in case people want to spend a lot of time looking at many photos.
A timeline is another visual device that helps people
easily grasp key events that happened in your city throughout the years. You
can create a simple list or table, but you may also want to hire a graphic
designer to help make something more visually appealing. While New York City’s timeline might seem a little fancy, it’s
actually a good model for how a timeline might work for your city with easy to
read facts and dates.
While a chronological overall timeline
is good because it includes all of your city’s history, don’t be afraid to take
interesting stories and expand upon them if they’d be of interest to people.
Maybe a founder of your city was an interesting person. You might have a unique
building or landmark with a neat story. Or a famous fair or sporting event was
held in your city at one point. Tell the colorful stories of your city’s
history to draw out its character and charm.
say you interest people in your city’s history through your overview, visuals,
timeline, and stories. You’ve intrigued them and they want to visit. But
there’s no information on the history page telling them about locations or
what’s open to the public, and so they stop at just reading the history. Link
to any locations you mention. Better yet, provide a list of information about
historical places that people can visit including festivals and other events
related to these places.
history page is really an extension of your marketing, public relations, and
tourism efforts. If it’s dry and lifeless, it makes your city look like a
relic. But by connecting history to your city’s vision, mission, and themes,
you create the idea that your city is a work in progress. The foundation of
your current governmental, business, and residential efforts builds upon the
past while looking toward the future. Use the past to make the present seem
that much better.
To talk more about your city’s history page, please contact us.
was flattered to see our IT in a Box service recently featured in a Georgia Municipal Association interview with Mayor James
Dawsonville, Georgia. More specifically, Mayor Grogan spent a lot of time
highlighting the importance of a modern website for cities. As a small city of
about 2,500 residents, Dawsonville did not use the size of their city as an
excuse for keeping an old, outdated website that wasn’t frequently updated with
recognized that our Internet use has matured to the point where it’s second
nature for citizens to expect that city websites are one-stop shops for city
news, information, and services. In case your city isn’t convinced that it
needs a website upgrade, don’t take it from us. Here are five reasons that
we’ve extracted from this GMA interview that highlight what Mayor Grogan felt
was important about websites and convinced him to update his city’s website
Just like a city hall building is the face of a city, the
same is true of a website on the Internet. Do you keep your city hall looking
good, or do you let it get dirty, unkempt, and damaged? While most cities would
never let their city hall look awful, they unfortunately let their websites
look awful. Yet, ironically, more people are probably looking at your website
than your city hall building. You don’t need an expensive web design budget to
update the look and feel of your website. Many sleek, modern designs are
available in template form to cut down costs while still making your website
Mayor Grogan pointed out in the interview that
“When I go to a website and there’s nothing happening there, I’m not going to
go back and I’m definitely not going to go visit the city.” Too many cities let
their websites decay like abandoned buildings. Citizens look to websites for
information about events, news, and minutes from city council meetings. If
you’re not posting that information, it makes your city look lazy and even
negligent. Modern websites have content management systems built in to make it
easy to add and update content every day in a timely fashion.
While photos and visuals seem like a secondary concern on your website, they
can actually have a great impact—positive or negative. Old, outdated photos
make your city look out of touch, and unprofessional photos make your city look
amateurish. Take professional, beautiful photos of your best city landmarks and
points of pride. Visual content should also include photos of key city employees,
especially those who serve and interact a lot with the public.
Many city websites have major content gaps and scanty, bare bones
information. That’s not good enough anymore. Offer up overviews and detailed
information about each city department to help orient, inform, and serve
citizens. Post events and news so that people can stay engaged with your city
activities. Keep citizens informed about city council business and major
projects to stay transparent. And continually think about what information
might best help citizens—and then supply it on your website.
Like Dawsonville, your city may send out expensive printed
newsletters to citizens. Whether they go out with a water bill (like
Dawsonville) or separately, you can cut out those paper costs by putting your
newsletters online. While there still might be a few citizens who prefer the
paper newsletter, we now live in an era where almost everyone now has Internet
access. If you still want to send a paper newsletter, make it something that
citizens have to request and opt into. Everyone else can access it online, and
you might publicize it through an email to citizens.
Grogan’s insights from his experience of implementing a new website directly
correlate with the needs of your city. Your website is like an online city
hall. It’s the first place that many citizens and even non-residents are going
to check when looking for information about your city. Like a city hall, it
needs to look good, provide services, and supply information. Thankfully, you
are probably in the best position today to transition to a new website that
meets all of these needs while staying low-cost.
To talk more about transitioning to a new website, please contact us.
In the past, you may have gone through a long technology or software approval process. Knowing that new hardware or complex software would be a large capital investment, you took your time with the technology procurement process. You identified your requirements, secured budget approval, researched solutions, watched demos, sourced and interviewed vendors, whittled down your finalists, and finally made a decision. This process could take many months or even years.
A recent article in ZDNet by Joe McKendrick points out that these long technology procurement cycles are made obsolete by the cloud and that sticking to the old way of purchasing technology introduces risk. That’s because when you finally purchase hardware or software, it’s likely out of date by the time you pull the trigger. Yes, that’s right. Technology is now moving so fast that the solution you decide to purchase now will be obsolete by the time you jump through all of your hoops, select the vendor, and pay for it.
To expand upon some important points in McKendrick’s article, we offer some analysis as to why you need to be looking at cloud solutions to help you procure technology much more quickly while still ensuring that you’re purchasing a quality solution.
Although we mentioned this fact in the deployment discussion above, it’s worth mentioning separately. Hardware tends to be one of the biggest technology capital expenses that you face. The purchasing, installation, maintenance, support, and decommissioning of hardware involves a lot of costs including the labor of your IT staff or vendor. By eliminating hardware through the cloud, you eliminate not only one of the biggest capital expenses but also the need for recurring hardware procurement every few years (or watching your hardware become obsolete if you cling to it in its old age).
Through our many years of experience, we’ve watched budget-strapped businesses and cities struggle with multi-year technology procurement processes for essential purchases of hardware and software. They waste so much staff time and delay the actual use of the technology when they need it most. We find that the cloud doesn’t make the technology procurement process instantaneous, but it does remove several major hurdles that drag out technology purchasing. If you struggle with similar long technology purchasing processes, you might be surprised how the cloud helps eliminate most of those hurdles.
If you want to talk more about how the cloud reduces the time to procure technology, please contact us.
new, relocated, and expanding businesses is obviously a key goal for any city.
More businesses mean more jobs, more tax revenue, and greater economic vitality
for your city. Once a slew of businesses emerge in your city, it often has a
snowball effect and can lead to significant growth. But to attract those
businesses, you need to market your city and provide the right information to
business owners when they consider your city as a prime location to operate.
A major part
of that marketing and communications activity takes place on your website.
Businesses large and small will research cities to find out which ones will be
best to set up shop. If you’re not providing the right welcome and the
necessary information businesses need, they’ll pass you by and go somewhere
So what do
you need on your website to attract those businesses? Here are some content
tips that should help.
line: Be helpful and highlight the best business-friendly information. Business
owners generally want to know two things: That it’s easy to do business with
you, and that your city is economically vital. If it’s tough to figure out what
they need to do and if your website lacks information about exciting economic
development projects, they’ll turn to another city. Luckily, it doesn’t take
much on your part to please businesses. In fact, it should be fun to talk about
what makes your city great for businesses and to take the time to better
highlight your awesomeness on your website.
To talk more about your city’s business page, please contact us.
When cities tackle
information security and cyber liability, they usually make sure their servers,
desktops, laptops, and networks are locked down and secure. It’s easy to
overlook mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. After all, these are
the kinds of devices we use every day and they seem detached from a lot of
common technology security issues such as viruses, hacking, and unauthorized
Yet, cities need to
treat mobile devices just as strictly as their other hardware. But how can you
go about doing that when a plethora of personal and city-issued mobile devices
are in the hands of employees in various locations every day? Here are some
tips to help you assess if you’re tackling your mobile security as well as your
traditional technology security.
As you can see,
many of the tips for mobile device security are similar to traditional IT
management and monitoring. It’s easy to just allow employees to hop on your
network with their own devices, with little oversight. But you open up security
holes if you don’t enforce a stronger set of security standards. If employees
protest, remind them of the severe consequences of cyber liability, which is
sobering. Maybe it isn’t fun for them, but your city will be best served by a
strong mobile security policy ensuring that devices - both city-issued and
personal devices - are as free of security vulnerabilities as possible.
To talk about mobile security in more detail, please contact us.
While we don’t often get too cutting-edge in our blog posts because we want to discuss the current, practical needs of cities and businesses, there were some important Apple announcements at the recent Apple Worldwide Developers Conference that will impact you in the not too distant future. They all relate to the cloud and how it’s changed the way we interact with technology.
We’ve gathered together some observations about some key Apple announcements from the conference of what we feel will be significant to your city as the cloud continues to grow in importance and become the technology standard for nearly all software. As you’ll see, the implications aren’t just technical things on the backend. They affect the way you actually behave and use technology interfaces.
It makes sense that if the cloud is centralizing data in one place, the management of that data also becomes easier. Many companies are worried about the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend where it’s unclear how much or how little you should restrict access to data on an employee’s personal device. Instead of worrying about if an employee-owned Android should access data on your accounting server, your IT staff or vendor will simply restrict access to anyone from any device through a cloud dashboard. No matter what device is trying to access the information, you can set permissions that restrict employee access.
While these technology advances might seem far off in the future or too good to be true, they’ve been slowly taking over your desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones for a few years. By storing everything in the cloud, worries about maintaining your own hardware, software, and storage needs largely go away. This is why investing in the cloud now not only saves you money but also keeps you ahead of the curve as these technology standards eventually become the norm.
To talk more about the cloud and its impact on your city, please contact us.
One common barrier we hear about moving to the cloud is aging, old legacy software. For example, if you have accounting software that you’ve been using for 10 years, you might think it’s impossible to move that outdated technology into the cloud. Because you’re dependent on that software for your day-to-day business, you figure you’ll still need to host those servers onsite or in a data center.
However, you can most likely move that legacy software into the cloud. But that might sound too good to be true, like a vendor overpromising what the cloud can actually deliver. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the mechanics and important points of what makes it possible to take third party applications and manage them in the cloud.
Cloud data backup is powerful. Not only does it provide near 100% uptime and plenty of redundancy (power lines, generators, Internet connections, etc.) to help avoid outages and data loss, but cloud vendors can also take regular snapshots of your data. If a disaster does occur, you can recover your data and even your entire software system. You and your vendor may currently have limitations for how often you take snapshots of your data or handle data recovery (e.g. tape backup). Taking advantage of automatic, seamless data backup helps keep your legacy software running no matter what happens to you.
While you might have known that basic software such as Microsoft Office, Exchange, or SQL could be used in the cloud, the technology has now matured to a point where third party legacy software applications are able to migrate over. This is a significant opportunity for you, since you’ll be able to eliminate hardware, reduce the cost of maintenance and space, and be able to access your legacy software anytime, anywhere.
To talk more about moving your legacy software into the cloud, please contact us.
city, you likely have various boards and commissions that cover everything from
planning and public safety to the arts and the library. Through these groups,
citizens become more engaged with government and help your city work on
specific problems and opportunities. They are a great way for citizens to
participate in government and partner with you.
it’s important to create content that makes information about boards and
commissions easy to find. Here are some tips on what basics to include on your
city’s boards and commissions page.
this basic information on your city’s website, you’re performing an important
service for citizens. Civic participation is enhanced when citizens are aware
of groups that work to make your city a better place. Even if your city is
small, it still helps to place information about your one or two boards and
commissions in a prominent place on your website. Similar to your city council
meetings, citizens like to know they can keep tabs on what any city board or
commission is doing.
To talk about your boards and commissions content in more detail, please contact us.
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