In our last two online payments posts, we discussed firewalls, passwords, and data protection. Next, PCI DSS compliance requires “vulnerability management.” That means taking a deeper look at your antivirus and network security. Unfortunately, for many cities those areas are woefully inadequate—leaving cities open to attacks.
Cities that want to offer online payments cannot have security holes and gaps that risk malicious access to payment data. That means ensuring that a city’s antivirus and network security is enterprise level without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are some common sense, cost-effective basics to follow that ensure your security fundamentals are ready for online payments.
While we’ve written extensively about antivirus in the past, you really need to worry about two key aspects.
With antivirus taken care of, you also need to think about security for your entire network. Focus on three network security essentials.
If your city wants to offer online payments, it’s essential to make sure you have a solution addressed for each point above. The scary thing about security is that it’s usually weakest on the front lines. You might have powerful servers or a data center that’s locked down, but a person’s workstation or laptop might be completely open to attacks. You need to make sure your network security extends to each and every person’s computer, and that means making sure all computers are protected with antivirus, monitoring tools, patches, and content filters.
In our next PCI DSS compliance online payments post, we’ll look closer at access – and how to assign authorized access to the right users while keeping out any unauthorized users.
If you want to talk about security for online payments in more detail, please contact us.
Cities often ask us where they should be storing their files, especially when they tend to save them to their computer. “Is that bad?” a person will ask.
The simple answer: yes.
First, a few reasons why you don’t want to store files only on your computer.
So, where should your files be stored? If not on your computer, what is the safest place to make sure that viruses, hardware failure, or accidental deletion does not mean the end of your documents?
A good place to begin is with your business processes. Depending on your city’s size, number of employees, and the kind of work you do every day, you will have different file storage needs. To start thinking about file storage, ask yourself the following questions:
As you can see, your file storage solution will really depend on your business needs. But most importantly, we advise all cities to stop storing files on individual computers and transition to a solution that at the very least saves documents to a place that is backed up (with proper redundancy). That way, not only will your users create and edit files in a more disciplined manner, but they will also not scream disaster if they lose a file.
If you’d like to discuss file storage and document management in more detail, please contact us.
In our conversations with cities, we often find that their data backup efforts fall short. Striking the right balance can be difficult to judge. When cities don’t invest enough in data backup, it’s usually from a feeling of security that does not correlate to the reality of their situation. The resistance to spending more on data backup is usually from thinking “nothing bad has happened yet” or “at least we’re doing something” or “we can go without our data for a while.”
In situations where there is a lack of investment in data backup, we see two common scenarios.
While we’ve written many times about data backup best practices, we’ll focus on three key aspects that make data backup “just right.”
While this article just skims the surface of analyzing your data backup needs, it touches upon the most common problems we’ve seen in our experiences with cities. You need a customized solution that meets the particular data backup needs of your city. It needs to be cost-sensible without compromising on quality. To sculpt such a solution, you need to talk to an expert rather than buying something off-the-shelf or just buying cool technology.
To chat more about data backup that is just right for you, please contact us.
While you might not want to take your work home if you’re concerned with work/life balance, it is the case that modern technology allows you to access your work desktop from home. In today’s work environments, it’s become more expected to work on the fly from home, coffee shops, hotels, or other places you may travel.
We often get a lot of questions from cities about the extent of teleworking technologies. Innovation moves so fast that many city employees do work at the office that can possibly be done remotely. Teleworking is especially beneficial for people who might be sick, taking care of ill or elderly relatives, or watching the kids. You can still be productive at work while also taking care of your other life needs.
If you still think you need to come into the office to perform the following activities, you may need to explore some different technologies to help give city employees more flexibility.
So, the good news is that you can work from anywhere. Very few limitations exist today to keep people onsite. Usually, you will be limited to onsite work through lack of the technology we discussed above, habit, or work environment requirements. If the technology is the limitation, then talk to your IT staff or vendor about updating your technologies to improve your teleworking capabilities. These upgrades not only allow your staff to work remote, but they also tend to save you money.
To talk about teleworking technologies in more detail, please contact us.
KLC helps city launch new website, stabilize data backup, disaster recovery, manage city documents, and provide email
Incorporated in 1965, Lyndon, Kentucky has grown from 500 to more than 11,000 residents in almost 50 years. The city actively promotes business, ranging from UPS’s International Air Headquarters to smaller businesses numbering more than 500 in this thriving community. With the city’s 17-acre Robsion Park providing playgrounds and trails for its citizens, Lyndon is one of Kentucky’s most progressive cities.
Despite phenomenal growth, the city’s technology unfortunately lagged behind. Uncertainty existed related to the city’s data backup, ability to recover in the event of a disaster, email, website, and hardware support. With so many questions unanswered, the city was not well prepared for a system failure.
As with many cities that have underinvested in technology, the potential high cost of upgrading prevented Lyndon city leaders from moving forward.
Lyndon solved these challenges by using the Kentucky League of Cities “IT in a Box” service. Powered by Sophicity, “IT in a Box” is a complete IT solution for cities and local governments. The service includes a website, data backup, offsite storage, email, document management, Microsoft Office for desktops, server and desktop management, vendor management and a seven-day a week helpdesk.
“IT in a Box” helped Lyndon:
From Sophicity’s assessment of the city’s previous IT infrastructure, Lyndon saved $45,508 of the costs typically spent modernizing a city network of their environment and size, with no upfront capital expense. “IT in a Box” helped Lyndon stabilize its technology and create a predictable and affordable IT budget.
We are thrilled with the results Sophicity has been able to provide the City of Lyndon. Our records are now secure and the system is backed up daily to off-site storage. Sophicity assisted with analyzing our telephone/internet needs and they were able to provide a new system which is up, running and working well. And I can’t say enough about their availability, expertise and problem-solving skills. They are our “One Stop Shop!” – Mayor Susan Barto
If you're interested in learning more, contact us about IT in a Box.
Print-friendly version of the Lyndon, Kentucky IT in a Box case study.
Sophicity is an IT services and consulting company providing technology solutions to city governments and municipal leagues. Among the services Sophicity delivers in “IT in a Box” are a website, data backup, offsite storage, email, document management, Microsoft Office for desktops, server and desktop management, vendor management and a seven-day a week helpdesk. Read more about IT in a Box.
In previous posts, we’ve discussed what citizens and businesses should find on your city website. But what about people who are not citizens? Many cities tend to neglect focusing on non-citizens and either focus on functionality for citizens and businesses or simply focus on business-level economic development initiatives.
But think about it. People are moving to cities every day, and they have choices. Any given metro area may have dozens of cities that people can choose from. Those residents add to your tax revenue and help build your communities. Losing those people means stagnation for your city.
Your website is a key place to woo potential citizens. As long as you have some of the following basics built in, you will be able to compete with other cities to interest people in moving to your city.
While these recommendations sound simple on the surface, practicing them is hard but reflective of a positive, vibrant city. Sometimes great cities are not reflecting their vitality on their websites. When people are researching anything today, including what city to move to, they will be using your website as an important source of information. By comparing your website with many other city websites, they will be judging you on a variety of factors. If you are able to solidify the above recommendations, then your city will have the foundation for marketing itself well amid a sea of competition.
If you want to discuss the power of your website in more detail, please contact us.
You know the frustration when your cable or Internet has issues at home. You call support and talk to someone that takes you awkwardly through a script. You may even have trouble understanding them, and they clearly don’t have a clue about your cable or Internet issues. You just want to talk to someone who has experience and expertise, someone who can get right to the heart of your problem.
If this level of home service is frustrating, we wonder why so many cities put up with the same level of business service with their IT support. Part of this is cost. Cities get sold on cheap annual IT support that promises comprehensive 24/7 service, but the service really amounts to helpdesk frustration, wasted time, and an inability to quickly solve problems.
A simple litmus test to evaluate your quality of IT support is to analyze the people who are supposed to help you on a daily basis. Answer the following questions and see if you’re really getting the IT support you need.
Your IT support technicians should ideally be a phone call or email away. These are people you should get to know, who learn about your IT environment over time, and who generally solve your problems. You need a strong relationship, not a long distance mystery. It’s tempting to purchase cheap IT support, but when your helpdesk is an unknown – where you don’t even know if the staff has received background checks – then you need to reconsider what kind of people are handling your most sensitive data and systems.
To talk about the people behind your IT support in more detail, please contact us.
In Part I and Part II, we looked at both fixing your broken technology and maximizing your existing IT investments. But technology is more than just stabilization and settling for what you have. It’s also about the future, helping you execute your city’s vision.
Many cities often separate vision conversations from technology conversations. If you talk about vision without talking technology, you either create unrealistic expectations or you fail to realize what’s possible. If you talk about technology without talking about vision, you either wallow in tactical planning or make decisions about key city investments that may have nothing to do with overall goals.
In this post, we discuss some of the highest-level and most visionary IT budgeting action items you need to consider.
While our advice is high level due to the brevity of this post, we really wanted to note that visioning should not be ignored in lieu of focusing on technology stabilization. Cities are able to achieve powerful goals when they connect technology with strategic initiatives, and we often sadly see the signs when that connection has not been made. Once you connect vision with technology, it’s useful to review your plan at least once a year to adjust for scenarios that have changed, projects that have not gone as planned, or new technologies that may have changed what’s possible.
All in all, embrace IT budgeting as an opportunity to enable your overall budgeting. Once you fix your broken technology, begin to truly maximize your IT investments, and connect your vision with technology, your city will make positive leaps forward in ways that you never before imagined.
To talk more about IT budgeting, please contact us.
One of the joys of being immersed in the world of information technology is that we get to see it evolve in front of our very eyes. As people who track technology on a day-to-day basis, we take for granted some of the technology improvements that have changed our lives—and the lives of many people around the world.
It’s interesting that technology is as much of a cultural shift as a technological shift. Despite technology improvements, we are people—people who get used to a certain way of doing things. If you’re not staying up on technology, you might have become set in your ways at a certain time such as the late 1990s, early 2000s, or mid-2000s in term of technology standards.
From a bottom line impact at cities, some advances in technology not only change the way you do your work but can also significantly save you money. Here are five areas of technology that we often find city staff have grown accustomed to, and the “amazing” technologies that need to be adopted instead.
You’re Used To...Hardware For many years, a key aspect of information technology was the amount of your infrastructure. That meant that the more information needs you had, the more servers and desktop computers you would buy. Physical hardware matched your day-to-day operational demands.
Amazing Technology: The Cloud Today, hardware reductions are possible through cloud technology. When your information is stored in the cloud, you access software as if you’re turning on a utility. Instead of having to maintain your own onsite or offsite data center, you simply access the software you need through the cloud. All cities need to explore if their services, software, and information can be cloud accessible in order to get rid of as much hardware as possible.
You’re Used To...Manual Data Backups Tape. External hard drives. Thumb drives. Many cities have people on their staff who have a task on their list every week to take manual data backups somewhere: to a tape library, vault, or other storage facility. These routines have become habit over the past 10-15 years.
Amazing Technology: Automated Data Backup Manual data backup introduces too much risk: loss, theft, or data corruption. With automated data backup, servers can run both onsite and offsite to ensure that your data can be recovered after any disaster. It’s a waste of time for staff to mess around with manual data backup, especially when an onsite server can take hourly snapshots of your data and get you up and running quickly after a server failure.
You’re Used To...Buying Software Whether it’s Microsoft Office or an expensive accounting system, buying and installing software has become another convention that many cities have grown accustomed to over the past 10-15 years. You may have gotten used to purchasing expensive licenses and seeing the software manually installed on your servers and workstations.
Amazing Technology: Pay-by-the-User Cloud Software With cloud software helping reduce costs, many software packages can now be purchased online by the user without buying a server or software licenses. For example, Microsoft Office can now be purchased per user online, with full access and functionality to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Even more sophisticated software such as accounting, document management, and workflow systems are moving to this model. It almost seems too good to be true, but it’s essential to move to this model when possible to save money.
You’re Used To...a Webmaster-Controlled Website Many cities still have old websites run by a technical person who has to code or have a technical understanding in order to update website content. This puts cities in a bind when non-technical staff cannot make simple changes to a website (such as posting an event) and affects keeping city websites updated in a timely fashion.
Amazing Technology: Non-Technical, User-Friendly Website Management Modern websites – even low-cost professional-looking websites – have evolved so that you can make changes with ease. Our information age continues to accelerate, and so you need to update homepage information, events, city council agendas and minutes, and other city news instantly. Your website should allow users to add, edit and delete information, and you can set permissions to make sure only authorized people can make changes.
You’re Used To...Coming to Work to Access Email and Software Many cities still have a 9-5 mindset to accessing work-related information such as email, documents, and software. Servers and desktop computers are onsite, and those machines are the only way people can access work-related information. If people need to access information outside of normal hours, they either have to come into the building or wait until working hours.
Amazing Technology: All of the Above Technologies = Teleworking The technologies listed above (cloud, software, websites, data backup) contribute to a work environment in which people can more easily work from home or a remote location. This has become the norm in most work situations, and that flexibility not only increases morale (e.g. people can work when sick or if they need to take care of their kids) but also improves productivity. If people can check email, access documents, and complete work through remote access, then project delays or lags potentially lessen.
We’ve all had to get used to an amazing array of changes over the last few years. If you had told us 10 years ago that – as an IT vendor – we would be managing hardware-less environments, that we’d access software like turning on electricity, and that users would be adding content to their own websites without our help, we might have laughed at you. But this fantasy is exactly where we are today.
If you find yourself stuck in any of these old habits, you have the opportunity to save a lot of money and significantly improve your city’s productivity. Plus, you’ll find that your staff will thank you. These technologies seem too good to be true, but eventually they will become, yes, a new habit.
Please contact us if you’d like to discuss any of these technologies in more detail.
In our last city IT budgeting post, we discussed how broken technology negatively impacts your bottom line. But even if you fix and stabilize broken technology, the next step is to make sure you are maximizing your IT investments.
Creating sound long-term IT investments helps you from a budget standpoint and also allows you to benefit from the lifecycles of various technologies. Many times, cities do not understand when their technology investments are overkill, unnecessarily expensive, or simply trumped by better, more current technologies.
After spending some time with our Part I assessment, now ask yourself the following questions to see if your IT spend is maximizing every dollar you invest.
When looking at your IT investments long-term, you are evaluating whether or not you are receiving the best services for your city. Examine your IT budget every year with rigor. The commonality through the five questions above is that you need to stay on top of technology so that you are taking advantage of new products and solutions that lower your costs and keep your city’s operations modern and efficient. If you don’t, you’re losing money both directly and indirectly.
In Part III, we’ll look at how your city’s vision, strategy, and special projects connect to your technology budgeting.
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