As you or others you know have probably experienced, tablets (such as Surfaces, iPads, Nooks, Nexuses, etc.) have entered our lives as a way to both increase our productivity and entertain us. They are easy to use and provide many of the same functions as traditional desktops or laptops—without the hassle. Because tablets provide you on-the-go email, document access, and Internet access, we find they are also becoming essential productivity tools for mayors and council members, as well as others involved in council meetings.
In fact, we've heard over and over that cities want tablets—especially for elected officials. Based on this feedback, we’re happy to announce that IT in a Box will include tablets for council members.
So, why tablets? And why IT in a Box? With IT in a Box tablets, you’ll experience the following benefits.
At this time, we are currently piloting the use of IT in a Box tablets and collecting feedback to make this service even more effective for you before rolling it out.
A big thank you goes out to Mr. Andrew Hartley (City Attorney at Georgetown KY), Mr. Stan Brown (City Manager at Oakwood GA), and Mr. Jim Windham (Councilman at Oxford GA) for signing up to be our early adopters (aka testers). Each represents a vital role in council meetings, so gaining their feedback and perspectives will be very beneficial. We plan to fully roll out the IT in a Box tablets in January 2015.
To learn more about this service, please contact us.
With the media using its usual scare tactics, it’s tempting to follow their alarmist lead and view the recent celebrity cloud nude photo hacking scandal as a sign that the cloud is an unsecure place to store data, files, and documents. After all, if private nude pictures cannot be protected from hackers, then how will you protect your business’s much more important confidential information and intellectual property? One alarming fact you’ve probably read is that many of the celebrities said they had deleted their photos long ago. Yet, those photos were still found by hackers in the cloud despite this deletion.
Let’s slow down a bit and digest this incident. First, despite their celebrity status, these people are still non-technical individuals—not IT experts. Many common individual errors in personal data privacy were committed by these celebrities. And the flaws mostly came down to weak passwords and a misunderstanding of how cloud security works.
For your business or city, we offer some reassurances in the wake of the scandal to let you know where these celebrities messed up and how your business should differently operate.
Be very careful about syncing cloud data to other devices. Ideally, you should store data and allow access to it from one central cloud location. If the data replicates itself locally on various devices, you open up the risk of your data appearing in a less secure location. It may be easier for a hacker to hack a personal device rather than your cloud servers. But if your sensitive data is encrypted and only accessible via your cloud servers (with view-only mobile access), then it’s much harder for a hacker to grab that data.
To about cloud security in more detail, please contact us.
In many organizations, email is quite simply a mess. Sometimes, you might have loose policies where you can keep any email forever as long as there is storage space. In other cases, you might have arbitrary or necessary storage limits where you are responsible for deleting emails just to make room for more email. Either extreme is not healthy for a business or government organization.
You might say that keeping emails is understandable, for obvious reasons. If emails are needed for legal reasons or a city receives an open records request, it’s important that emails are accessible. As long as the email is somewhere, everything is fine. Right?
Actually, there’s much more to email archiving than just storing your emails in any old place. In this post, we offer up five reasons why you need to have business-class email archiving in place at your organization.
Your records management is extremely important when you are bound by law to produce emails. For businesses, you may need to produce emails as the result of following a contract, responding to a legal request, or complying with something like Sarbanes-Oxley. For government, you may need to respond to open records requests and correlate your archived email with record retention laws. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’re legally bound to produce an email and you are unable to do so. That failure could result in lawsuits and expensive fines.
To talk about email archiving in more detail, please contact us.
It takes a lot of effort to purchase software. But once it’s inside an organization, the vigilance and due diligence seems to stop. It’s a like a person who spends a lot of time shopping for clothes but neglects the clothes once they’re bought and hanging in a closet. Because software needs to support business functions, unused software becomes a bad investment that wastes your money. In fact, the technology industry has a term for unused software: “shelfware.”
If you doubt the severity of this problem, consider the Internal Revenue Service. They wasted $11 million in unused mainframe software licenses. Other research confirms that a majority of organizations do not track software or know how much of it goes unused. While wrapping your head around your organization’s software can be intimidating, it’s a necessary step toward potentially saving you a lot of money.
Software grows like weeds, cropping up on computers everywhere throughout an organization and accruing over the years. Here are some tips to pin down and declutter your software with the goal of streamlining your budget.
Based on the data you collected in the first four steps, you now have the analysis needed to justify what you can cut, adapt, and save. For example, you might find that your GIS software is used heavily by five people but you bought 30 software licenses. In that case, you might consider switching to a cloud version where you pay by the user, and pay for only what you need. Or, you might revitalize the use of a particular piece of “shelfware” by training users, leveraging your support contract more, and creating policies that require use of the software in order to save you time and increase employee productivity.
To talk more about conducting a software inventory, please contact us.
Too often, many businesses and organizations have a data backup solution in place and assume it’s working. As long as it appears to back up your data in some form, you feel fine. But if you’ve had an unchallenged data backup process going on for even just a few years, you might want to ask some questions.
That’s because many data backup systems still fail to restore data when an emergency occurs. Assumptions...well, you know the saying. Too many businesses and organizations still assume their data backup is working when they have no clear idea of what’s being backed up, how it works, and even who is backing it up.
Answering the following five questions is essential for understanding if your data backup solution needs an overhaul or a serious upgrade.
This is also why it’s important to ask “Why?” Depending on the importance of particular data, you may want to back it up every hour, every day, or every week. We recommend at least every day for mission-critical or highly used data. For example, you might use an onsite server to capture hourly snapshots of financial or ecommerce data during the day. For all files (including non-essential documents), you might send a daily snapshot at the end of each day to the cloud. Having a regular schedule that is automated and enhanced by modern technology avoids issues of infrequent data backup (such as every week) or forgetting to back up data.
It’s also worth noting that cost may inhibit you from thinking about answering these questions and looking for a better solution. First, consider the cost of data loss. If a server fails or a disaster hits, what will happen? That’s usually a sobering thought and highly encourages many businesses to make the investment. But second, technology has significantly advanced to the point where many modern data backup solutions are comparable or even less costly than traditional tape or server backups. When you add automation and reliability to your cost-benefit analysis, it definitely doesn’t hurt to shop around for a better solution.
To talk more the 5 Ws of data backup, please contact us.
It’s summer, and you’re probably enjoying the season but not the air conditioning bills that always skyrocket to keep you cool. With heat and cold, you clearly see the direct cause and effect relationship. You know that if heat waves extend over long periods of time, your power consumption will rise. If power bills become severe on a tight budget, then you might think of ways to reduce your air conditioning bills given the special circumstances.
Yet, technology increases your power consumption 24/7/365, stealing your money like a thief in the night. The cause and effect is less apparent. You know you need your servers and computers to help you run your business. Whatever it takes to maintain those machines, you’ll do it—including lots and lots of air conditioning to make sure servers and computers don’t overheat.
Luckily, there are ways to reduce your power consumption—and save money—if you know how to eliminate as much of your hardware’s power hungry appetite as possible. Use the following tips to assess your technology and explore if you can find ways to recoup some money through power savings.
Load balancing is quite technical and we won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it here. But it’s something your IT staff or vendor should rigorously monitor and check. On a high level, load balancing ensures that a server or servers aren’t overtaxed beyond what they’re capable of (such as a small email server trying to serve too many employees) or running at full capacity when they’re not being used much or at all (such as a GPS software server that few people use but that takes a lot of power to run). Load balancing helps make sure servers are handling as much input as they are capable of handling in the most efficient way.
From the obvious to the technical, there are quite a few ways to reduce your technology power consumption. Much of the time, we tend to run machines in wasteful ways that we wouldn’t do with other equipment. By powering down and eliminating hardware waste, you not only save money but also encourage a greener business environment. A lot of sensible energy policies center on waste, and the more waste you eliminate the better it is for the environment—and for your bottom line.
To talk about energy consumption in more detail, please contact us.
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.
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