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excuse for keeping an old, outdated website that wasn’t frequently updated with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 Old, outdated photos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.
As a small business, are you taking advantage of cloud technology to help you reduce costs and increase productivity? You might have heard about the cloud and have some concerns about its security and reliability. Or, you might think of the cloud as buzz and hype, and that it’s just a fad that will go away like a lot of other technology trends.
Reported in WinBeta, a recent survey from Microsoft said that:
As you can see, the cloud holds many potential benefits for your small business. If you have any similar concerns based on the questions above, the answers prove that the cloud not only addresses those concerns but also provides technological benefits that improve upon the technology you may have onsite. For your business, the opportunity to lower costs, improve security, access data from anywhere, and go paperless is amazing. Now, it’s just a matter of exploring what solutions are out there and assessing the costs.
To talk about the cloud in more detail, please contact us.
“managed services” is so vague as to encompass a wide variety of IT vendor
services and products. It seems like there are as many definitions of “managed
services” as there are vendors. We’ve worked with many cities where they
thought they were getting a specific set of “managed services,” but they were
actually lacking certain essential services or having to pay extra hourly
(expensive) rates for things they thought were included.
the concept of IT managed services, it’s best to look historically at how it’s
evolved. By looking at it historically, you might find yourself slightly stuck
in the past and not fully taking advantage of what you need your IT managed
services vendor to provide.
In the 1980s
and early 1990s, technology was largely a nice-to-have for cities. While
certain essential business functions (especially specialized functions like
accounting) might have relied on technology, it was still okay for most cities
to rely on traditional paper-based ways of doing business. Since the city’s
operations did not rely on technology completely for business, technology was
purchased rather like how consumers would purchase them. You bought some
computers, you set them up yourselves, and you took care of them yourselves. It
was all rather simple.
something went wrong and you couldn’t fix it, you called an IT person who
functioned similarly to a repair person. It’s broke, so you call someone to fix
it. Your repair person came over when a server or computer crashed, ran too
slowly, or had a virus. They fixed the problem and only returned when there was
another problem. But the more servers and computers you had, the more often
they’d be visiting your city.
while, this kind of reactive repair becomes rather costly and unpredictable for
your budget. It’s like putting out fires but never addressing the source of the
fires. In order to tackle IT problems and issues in a more proactive way,
modern IT managed services started to truly emerge.
innovation in IT managed services occurred with the advent of monitoring
software that’s installed on your servers and workstations to identify problems
before they occur. Your IT staff or vendor could then monitor this data and
address problems when they cropped up. Often, this software would address
problems before you even knew about them, which is the definition of proactive
this monitoring software was often supplemented with helpdesk support hours.
Depending on the quality of the vendor, this helpdesk support could include
everything from offshored phone support to hands-on site visits that regularly
assess your technology as if the vendor were an extension of your staff. At
this point, managed services went far beyond the repair model as it had the
ability to proactively handle:
“strategic partnership” is probably even vaguer than “managed services.” To us,
it means your IT managed services provider looks at your technology from a
strategic business standpoint. They aren’t just tactical. They meet with you
regularly to look at your needs, where you want to go, and how technology can
help you get there.
Think of the
proactive maintenance as your technology operations. It’s certainly important,
but many IT vendors still just stop there. By staying tactical, you risk using
outdated technology, failing to adapt to newer technologies like the cloud that
can help you reduce costs, and not connecting city business goals with technology
investments that can help you achieve those goals.
best managed services providers are like stewards of your technology
investments. They acknowledge there is a cost to information technology, but
look at maximizing technology investments so that they serve the particular
needs of your city. If you’re still in the repair model or the tactical model,
consider an IT managed services provider that can help strategize with you from
quarter to quarter to ensure that your technology is necessary and doing
exactly what you need it to do.
To talk about IT managed services in more detail, please contact us.
Your Internet access is your key to the
world. But it can also be an expensive pain for your budget. It can seem that
you’re trapped with only one or two options in your city, and it’s true that
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a near-monopoly in many areas of the
country. However, ISPs have generally improved their services enough so that
you should reexamine what you have if you haven’t done a self-assessment in a
That’s because technology improvements
often mean lower costs, but many ISPs can fail to innovate, to share innovative
improvements with you, or to inform you voluntarily about ways you can reduce
costs. Remember, Internet access becomes faster and covers more geographical areas
every year. In conjunction with these technological improvements, there are
ways to potentially lower your ISP costs with a few simple strategies.
By the way, we
cannot emphasize this point enough. A city (or any business) should always,
always, ALWAYS go with a business-class ISP over a consumer-class ISP no matter
how much difference there is in the price. If you’ve ever had an Internet
outage at home (using a consumer-class ISP), you might have been told it will
be a week from Tuesday before the ISP will get out there to fix it. That’s why business-class
service is an essential ISP choice for your city.
exciting thing for cities is that ISP costs are probably one of the easiest
costs to reduce, and with the biggest payback. All it takes is a little
research, negotiation, and knowledge about how ISPs work and structure their
costs. At the same time, make sure you don’t go overboard in reducing costs.
Consumer-class ISPs are not suitable for your city, and neither is copper.
Don’t take shortcuts. Define a certain standard of quality, and then negotiate
price based on those quality standards.
To talk more about reducing ISP costs, please contact us.
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