In the early wild west days of computers and the
Internet, swapping copies of software among friends and family was common.
After all, software was easy to copy and share, and who was going to catch you?
This habit lingered well into the 2000s, even in businesses, educational
institutions, and government entities, until software providers became much stricter
about enforcing piracy laws.
However, both from old habits but also the current
mentality that many things on the Internet should be free (news, music, videos,
etc.), many people at cities sometimes think that using unlicensed software is
okay—especially if the justification is to save money.
Whether your software is unlicensed, copied illegally, or
purchased from an unauthorized reseller, you actually run a significant risk
when you use pirated software. Primarily, you face three major consequences.
If these warnings have you worried about the state of your
software, we offer a few tips that address most of the common scenarios that cause
cities to accidentally purchase pirated software.
To save a bit of money, you don’t want to take the risk
of a lawsuit or fine by illegally using software. Beyond the risks, it’s simply
a better investment to use licensed copies of software. You receive the best
quality versions, software upgrades, technical support, and customer service—all
of which help make the use of your software more productive. Plus, your IT
staff or vendor can easily help you when you run into issues, since they can
work with the software vendor to resolve them.
To talk more about unlicensed versus licensed software, please contact us.
If your city unfortunately ever gets a virus or malware
attack, it’s easy to panic. That’s exactly what the Economic Development Administration did in a recent report outlining how
they made a series of bad decisions in reaction to a malware attack. Those
decisions were based on inaccurate information and included destroying IT
components (such as keyboards), replacing IT infrastructure, and incorrectly
While an extreme case, there are several lessons here
that are good for cities to keep in mind during a security crisis. After all,
crises are moments to test whether your policies, procedures, and people are
well-equipped to handle your most challenging technology problems—such as a
virus or malware attack.
Overall, cities can be well-prepared to deal with a
crisis such as a virus or malware attack. Of course, prevention is best: 24/7
monitoring and alerting, enterprise-level antivirus software, and clear
security policies and training for city staff. But if the worst happens, damage
can be contained by having experienced IT professionals apply best practices
and processes to addressing the problem.
To talk more about dealing with virus and malware
threats, please contact us.
It’s called antivirus, so it must protect you
against all viruses. Right? Don’t we wish.
Unfortunately, there is more to antivirus protection than
just installing antivirus software on your personal computer. It’s better than
nothing, and having it installed and working on your computer is critical when
defending against the worst virus atrocities on the Internet. But simply
installing consumer-grade antivirus software on individual computers will not
protect you against viruses at your city.
So why isn’t consumer-grade antivirus software good
enough? Let’s find out why.
So, just because you have antivirus software on your
computer does not mean you’re protected from viruses. City employees still need
to use common sense when opening emails, files, and attachments. And while
antivirus software isn’t perfect, the best antivirus software for cities is
professionally monitored and kept up-to-date without users having to worry
about their individual computers.
A virus can be absolutely destructive, and we’ve seen a
single virus originating with just one user threaten to shut down an entire
city’s operations until it was removed. Make sure that you are as protected as
possible so that your city stays operational.
To talk about antivirus in more detail, please contact us.
Now that we’ve discussed the key PCI DSS compliance
topics (vulnerability management, data protection, network fundamentals,
what happens next? Once you take care of these important security issues, you
need to keep these areas front and center at all times. That means continually
monitoring all of your online payment security data, testing your security
regularly, and creating an information security policy for your city.
While ongoing monitoring and testing can involve some
time, money, and resources, the efforts pay off. In this post, we cover five
key areas that you need to stay up on, and why.
Outline laws and the repercussions
of breaking those laws. Create a user-friendly document that outlines important
points at a high level, and separate out employee information from technical or
legal information. Make it easy for employees to go to the sections that
pertain to them.
Is this a lot of work? Yes. But since we’re dealing with
measures that protect your citizens’ credit card and payment information, the
efforts are necessary and worth it.
Read our past articles covering all PCI DSS standards by clicking
on any of the links below.
Payment Security - Two Network Fundamentals
It Means to “Protect” Your Data
Your Technology for Online Payments
Online Payment Access, You Want No Surprises
To talk about online payment security in more detail, please contact us.
In a recent study conducted by Evolve IP (and reported in IT Business Edge), the findings from talking to over 1,000
financial decision makers along with IT professionals showed a clear gap of
cloud acceptance. For those executives and IT directors who make financial
decisions about whether to invest in the cloud, 70% believed that the cloud has
value. Only 53% of IT professionals said the same thing.
Why? Should we be concerned that the “IT professionals”
value the cloud less?
One significant reason that the IT professionals valued
the cloud less was a failure to fully understand the benefits of moving from
capital expenses (mostly upfront one-time investments) to operational expenses
(such as a monthly fee). They also appeared to have concerns about cloud
reliability and performance, which appears to showcase a more technical
understanding of the cloud than the executives have.
So should you invest in the cloud? To merge both the
insights about the positive financial benefits along with alleviating the
technical concerns, we’d like to add to the dialogue about this study by
pointing out some important considerations.
The Infoworld article goes on to state that because the
cloud has been so effective at reducing costs, less money is being spent on
traditional IT hardware and software. Like typical economic spirals in the past,
that means the cloud will only become more prevalent as an industry standard while
traditional hardware and software eventually will fade away.
Change is often confusing and difficult, but the cloud is
for real. As you can see, this is not something to be on the fence about—especially
with so many of the leading indicators pointing in one direction. Your city
will benefit financially and improve its IT reliability and performance by
considering cloud services.
To talk about cloud investments in more detail, please contact us.
It’s fair to say that most cities must operate with tight
budgets. Making any investment requires a lot of prioritizing and debate. As one
of the more expensive investments on a city’s list, information technology
often needs to prove its value. No matter how positive the benefits IT
investments can bring, the monetary value must show itself too.
Historically, IT has always had trouble proving its
value. That’s because, on the surface, it is an operational cost. Operational
costs tend to look like cost centers that don’t save you money or provide a return
on your investment, despite being necessary costs. At the same time, just
because IT’s value isn’t immediately obvious doesn’t mean it can’t be shown.
Whether you’re evaluating existing IT investments or
considering new ones, the following areas can help you understand how to get
the most value.
If you’re needing to make the business case for IT at your
city, or if you’ve been skeptical of investing too much in IT, we recommend
starting with area number 1 above and working your way down to number 5. By
gaining some easy wins first, you are often better able to justify additional
investments in the future if you’ve shown that you’ve already saved your city
The most important point is that you need to see how the
cost of IT is outweighed by the value of IT. It’s one thing if you reject a
“nice-to-have” piece of software because it isn’t a fit at this time. But if you
reject things like data backup or have your employees working on old,
unsupported operating systems (like Windows XP), then you’re not tying needed
IT investments to their value. You’re just looking at cost. Look at value too.
That’s the way you will truly be cost conscious.
To talk more about IT value, please contact us.
While larger cities may have already populated their
websites with content, we routinely encounter many smaller cities that are
creating website content for the first time. Either these cities have had no
website or they’ve used a very outdated website in a purely functional way for
In the past, we’ve talked website design, templates,
and content management systems, along with also discussing the
that cities need to address. But on a more granular level, cities also seek
guidance about the kind of content they need to create—page by page.
Content for each city will be customized and different,
but there are some general guidelines about what cities should write for each
page. We’ll cover key pages over the course of a series of blog posts, starting
with the most important page—your homepage.
Since your homepage is the most trafficked page and the
place where people will most likely get their first impression of your city,
you need to make sure you have the right content to meet a variety of needs.
Here are five essential pieces of content you need for your city’s homepage.
If you start with these five elements, your homepage will
go a long way toward doing the job it needs to do. If someone visited your city
and arrived at City Hall for the first time, wouldn’t you greet them? Show them
around? Talk to them about useful and relevant things? Tell them what’s best
about your city? That’s what your homepage needs to do for online visitors.
To talk about homepage content in more detail, please contact us.
When cities finally take the leap and start using a new
document management system, many questions arise that have nothing to do with
the technology. While document management systems have a lot of slick features and
benefits, they don’t solve your business process and policy issues concerning
While the art of document management can become extremely
technical and complicated, especially if you have a large volume of documents
that need categorizing and storing, we have provided some questions that will
at least help get you thinking about where to start.
Acquiring a new document management system is exciting.
It provides centralized storage, protection from disaster, better organizational
capability, and easier search tools. But a mess of documents transferred to a
document management system will still be just a mess of documents if you don’t
think through the questions above. If you take the opportunity to review your
business processes before transferring your documents, then you will better
maximize your document management system investment.
To talk more about document management system best
practices, please contact us.
used products is great for many areas of life. Used cars, books, or furniture
are usually good investments and relatively low risk as long as the quality is
still high and the items can be used for a long time. Used servers and
workstations are an exception to this rule. They are not only bad investments
but also dangerous investments.
Why dangerous? It may seem like you
are saving money by purchasing used hardware. After all, you might acquire
newer model servers and workstations that you might not normally afford—for
only a fraction of the cost. And as long as these machines seem to run
properly, it can feel like a great deal.
Here are some dangers that accompany
used server and workstation purchases, and why you should avoid such
Buying used hardware is risky even for individuals.
There are many horror stories about computers purchased on Craigslist or even
from friends where too many things went wrong and ruined the purchase. For
cities (and any professional organization), the risks are even greater. And the
investment is entirely unsound.
Budget tightening should not lead to desperation or
shortcuts. Plan out what hardware you need, understand the best investment to maximize
over 3-5 years, and buy new. New machines give you the highest quality, the
most modern equipment, the right software and peripherals included, and the
best bang for your buck.
To talk more about buying hardware, please contact us.
A recent research report from Veeam (a provider of
virtualization and backup solutions) points out a number of problems that small
and medium businesses are having with data backup and recovery. Since a city’s
IT needs often parallel the needs of small and medium businesses, we think that
some of these numbers are worth highlighting.
As SMBs are struggling with these issues, our experience
shows that cities struggle with these issues even worse. We find similar
patterns in the quality of data backup, the lack of rigor and testing, and an
ability for cities to respond to open records requests effectively.
Using this excellent report as a foundation, we wanted to
draw out some points that we think are relevant for cities when they confront similar
data backup issues.
Again, while the Veeam report focused on SMBs, cities
also need to pay attention to these trends. An enterprise technology
environment with cost-effective and tested data backup is not out of reach.
However, cities are stuck with or have been burned by vendors over the last
5-10 years who have gouged them with the high costs of annual fees, licenses,
and add-ons to their services.
But even in the last two years, IT has changed
drastically and the quality standard has risen. Cities need to reevaulate their
current data backup solutions and really look at the cost, current assets, and
maintenance. If any of the above points seem to indicate any gaps, then it’s
time to address those gaps so that you can increase your data backup quality
while reducing costs.
To talk about data backup in more detail, please contact us.
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