Just when you thought you may have figured out data backup and disaster recovery for your city’s servers and workstations, along comes mobile. A January 2013 article from Computerworld UK (which also surveyed United States companies) showed that there are deep concerns about backing up mobile data.
Partly, that’s because mobile is still so relatively new and blurs the boundaries between business and personal data. But also, the lack of mobile data backup reflects the continuing failure to follow general data backup and disaster recovery best practices.
If you’re using smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices at your city, here are some tips on backing up data for those devices.
While we’re still adjusting to the mobile revolution, with new and more sophisticated devices coming out every day, the principles of data backup remain the same. We recommend taking your existing data backup and disaster recovery policy and extending those policies to mobile. If you have not developed an overall data backup and disaster recovery policy, then you can use mobile devices as a good excuse to create a plan today.
To discuss mobile data backup in more detail, please contact us.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the initial release of the Portable Document Format, commonly known as the PDF. Along with Microsoft Word and Excel files, the PDF is probably one of the most commonly used file formats at cities and most other organizations. It caught on as a file format because it retained a consistent look and feel independent of whatever software someone used. That’s made the PDF handy for sharing and storing standardized documents.
When managing your documents, the use of PDFs can raise many questions. We’ve worked with cities that became “PDF happy” and turned anything and everything into PDFs, while others went in the opposite direction by clinging to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents without bothering much with PDFs.
To help find a good middle ground, here are some benefits and situations that suggest when PDFs can best help your document management.
While PDFs have been around for 20 years, it’s sometimes still confusing when and how to use them. Considering our tips above, it’s good to consider that PDFs most often follow the traditional rules of paper-based documents, both in a legal sense and also in an accessibility sense. We see many document management systems where everything has been turned into a PDF, or websites where too much vital information is buried in PDFs. A mix of concise, public-facing information backed up by substantial details and official documents in PDFs is a balance you should strive for.
If you’d like to discuss PDFs and document management in more detail, please contact us.
The state of Texas recently made a major shift by transitioning more than 100,000 workers to Microsoft’s cloud services. While this shift is occurring at the state level on a massive scale, many of the reasons why Texas chose to transition to the cloud applies to cities. Texas is not alone in realizing the benefits of the cloud.
As we’ve reported in past blog posts, the cloud is slowly becoming law and more mainstream by the steady adoption from federal, state, and local government. So why should smaller cities embrace the cloud? Mostly, it’s because of the merging between improved technology and higher-speed Internet connections. Together, these innovations have made the cloud a compelling option.
Here are five key reasons why the cloud may have a positive impact on your city.
When it comes to finally considering cloud options and making a decision, it can still seem like a leap to see your data go...elsewhere. There is still something psychologically reassuring about seeing your servers and knowing your data rests inside those machines. But the reality is that your data is often safer, more secure, and better backed up in the cloud. And most importantly, you must consider the cloud when both quality increases and cost of investment goes down. After all, that’s the ideal business case.
To discuss the cloud in more detail, please contact us.
Nearly all businesses must eventually use your city’s website to answer a question about taxes, licenses, or other information. Is that experience a positive one for businesses? Or a negative one?
Many cities believe they provide the right information to businesses by featuring bare bones yet useful information—forms, documents, and links. But that alone might not accommodate the basic needs of businesses.
If you really want to offer both essential and also reassuring information to build positive relationships with the businesses in your community, consider building up the following areas of your website with plenty of user-friendly content.
If you lack content or presence in any of these areas, know that it does take some concerted effort to plan out what you want to say. Often, the exercise of deciding how you want to position your city to a business audience will force you to think about your city’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas to best highlight. There are often many positive business stories happening in your community. But if your website does not talk about them, for many businesses it’s like that good news doesn’t even exist.
Interested in talking more about business-friendly websites? Contact us.
One of the areas where cities often challenge our recommendations is hardware replacement. Over the years, we’ve seen many cities keep servers and workstations long past the time those machines should be replaced. Understandably, servers and computers are viewed as such expensive investments that many city managers and finance officers want to see them used up for all they’re worth.
However, rather than maximizing your investment, aging hardware is actually negatively impacting your bottom line. That’s why we urge cities to follow a hardware replacement lifecycle and plan for the replacement of servers, desktops, laptops, and other IT hardware. But we’re still often asked, “Why do you need to replace a computer after only 3-5 years?”
If your hardware is showing some or all of these signs, it’s time to think about replacing it. But re-envision how you justify the cost. You’re not just buying really expensive hardware and hoping to get as much life out of it as possible. Instead, you’re investing in a 3-5 year asset, and you need to plan and budget for replacing this hardware.
If you’d like to talk about hardware in more detail, please contact us.
A traditional phone system might seem as tried and true as, well, a city. However, you might also have noticed people have become less attached to landline phone systems, especially when you consider the mobile and smartphone revolution. Part of the phone technology revolution includes VoIP—or Voice over Internet protocol.
VoIP works just like your traditional phone system, but through the Internet. In the early 2000s, VoIP was considered an interesting yet second class citizen compared to the traditional phone system. But now that high-speed Internet access has become more prevalent and VoIP technology has improved, VoIP is often a better choice now than a landline phone system.
Not convinced? In our work with cities, we’ve often surprised them when a landline to VoIP transition introduces higher quality calls, service, and features. Here’s what we tell cities when they are considering the switch.
While the traditional phone line might still seem to have some advantages (and in some cases remains necessary when certain departments need to be accessible when power goes out), those advantages do not add up as a business case in light of the momentous benefits of VoIP. With cities looking for any place to cut their budget, considering VoIP for the bulk of your phone lines is a great way to both cut costs and also increase the quality and service of your phone system. Cities that have switched to VoIP rarely go back to a traditional phone line.
If you want to discuss in more detail, give us a call. We’ll be using our VoIP system!
When setting up your city’s online payment system, your payment processing needs to meet certain standards. All online payment vendors are not created equal, and you don’t want to be caught with a major security flaw or the inability to accept payments from your citizens. Whether you know it or not, your online payment system will be judged against the experiences your citizens have every day with services ranging from Amazon to Netflix.
If you fear that equaling the standard payment processing features of such companies is expensive and out of reach, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Most basic yet essential online payment processing features are available in widely used, cost-effective vendors. While many features exist in modern online payment services, we’ve distilled the five most important aspects you need to look for when considering the processing piece of online payments.
With these five online payment processing basics secured, you will have no problem providing these services to citizens. Leverage your online payment vendor for some of the most important industry standards such as providing merchant account and payment gateway services or making sure you’re PCI DSS compliant. Online payments grow more complex as time goes on, and you don’t want to risk a major security lapse or lawsuit by trying to do it all yourself.
To talk more about online payments, please contact us.
Through our work with cities over the years, we’ve often encountered accounting systems and have had to help support them, interface with them, and grow accustomed to them. These experiences have also offered us opportunities to compare systems between different cities, understand which ones work better than others, and what successful ingredients are needed to make an accounting system work on a technical level.
While we do not sell accounting systems, this subject does get brought up enough times that it affects the way we approach our technology implementations and services. City accounting systems, like any technology, usually suffer from aging hardware and software, poor setup, or just being a wrong fit. Here are some things to watch for from a technical point of view when you’re evaluating your current accounting system or looking at new options.
While these concerns only scratch the surface of the technical depth behind accounting systems, hopefully these questions start you thinking about the state of your accounting system. Since accounting systems are such an important part of an overall IT environment, it’s always helpful for us to urge cities to consider upgrading their system if their current one seems to be inhibiting the way a city reports and collects financial data.
To talk about city accounting systems in more detail, please contact us.
The Tribune 4.1 release has been completed and tested, and Sophicity.com has been running on it now for weeks. Our release date is Friday, March 1.
This release includes:
The next release will have:
Our ETA to deliver this next release is April.
On the radar to come:
As always, as you have recommendations for product features you would like to see, please contact us.
Today, there are more data backup options than ever. Consumer-grade data backup software has boomed and gained widespread adoption, and enterprise-level data backup grows more complex and sophisticated—and confusing. With so many options, it’s easy to believe a cheap option might protect your city or that an expensive solution means it’s a fit for you.
To help you sift through your data backup options, we will discuss five key questions you must ask when evaluating your current data backup solution and looking at new options. We have spent many years helping cities with data backup, and cities unfortunately often settle for less—not realizing that their important data requires backup that ensures quick recovery and true disaster recovery.
You can use these questions to help evaluate your current data backup software and any options you’re considering. We encourage you to not settle for consumer-grade data backup solutions. These solutions do not meet the requirements listed above, and a city’s data is too important to trust without proper configuration and management. At the same time, expensive data backup solutions are often not tested or audited. If your data backup vendor cannot provide regular testing and auditing for you, then look for another solution as soon as possible.
If you want to talk more about data backup and disaster recovery, please contact us.
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