CitySmart Blog

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
Imagine law enforcement being able to instantly and accurately ID a suspect by snapping their picture from up to five feet away with an app on their mobile device.  Read more at http://tinyurl.com/44l39pn
Friday, July 15, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Sophicity recently published The Myth Behind 'Managed Services' and the Cost to Municipalities in the July 2011 issue of South Dakota Municipalities magazine. The magazine is published by the South Dakota Municipalities and focuses on a variety of contemporary municipal issues. We encourage you to read the complete article and also visit South Dakota Municipalities online.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Dave Mims, President

GovTech had a great article recently about the public sector’s response to cloud computing. Compared to the private sector, state and local government is adopting cloud computing at a much slower pace. The statistics are alarming, and here’s why:

1. “42 percent of private-sector organizations are operating on some level in the cloud, while 23 percent of public-sector organizations are doing the same.” We have seen this kind of percentage not just with cloud computing, but with information technology adoption as a whole. Continuing to run old systems and not embracing technology innovation is costly and very risky to municipalities.

2. “75 percent of responding public-sector entities said they didn’t have the IT skills in place internally to support a cloud environment.” What about the IT skills to support data backup, disaster recovery, financial software, website hosting, ERP systems, etc. etc. Saying you don’t have the skills when you are the steward for public services is a very risky argument to make. Where will citizens turn when an emergency occurs? How can a public steward respond that “our systems were down” or that “our City is X years behind the technology curve”?

3. “59 percent of the U.S. public sector saying they were concerned about security issues in the cloud. 37 percent said they feared the potential for data loss in the cloud.” This is where the biggest dose of reality is needed. We would argue from experience that local government, with their existing on-premise systems, are significantly less secure and at more risk for data loss than a cloud solution. Very large technology organizations like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others have been heavily investing into the highest standards possible. By contrast, underfunded cities with obsolete technology, talent shortages, and lack of federal or state regulation as to the quality of their information technology will often increase the probability of having significant security issues.

We encourage you to read our article from last year about cloud computing, but at the very least to take away a few points:

- Cloud computing has the potential to save you a LOT of money.
- Cloud computing is typically MORE secure than systems you now have in place.
- Cloud computing removes some IT management burden and frees up staff time.

If cities are not seriously exploring cloud options, they are (once again) missing the boat.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Luke Fretwell at GovFresh shares this interesting blog entry with two videos of Steve Jobs presenting to the Cupertino City Council. Watch Jobs do his magic at a City Council meeting, and take notes for the next time you need to present to your elected officials!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

Every time you read or watch the news, it seems that another hacking job has succeeded on high-profile targets such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Senate, and companies like Sony. A recent article from CNET notes:

“Hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec said [Monday, June 20] they are uniting in a campaign aimed at banks, government agencies, and other high-profile targets, and they are encouraging others to steal and leak classified information.”

While no one organization is 100% safe, it is unfortunate that many of these organizations are hacked easily because of weak security. Local government is ripe for such attacks because of limited budgets, lack of information security regulations or standards, and obsolete or missing technologies (e.g. firewalls, etc).

Given that these hacking groups have declared cyberwar against government targets, here are three Information Security 101 things you can do to prevent yourself from being an easy target:

1. Patch software regularly (e.g. regular Windows updates). Before Sophicity stabilizes a city’s environment, we find in most cases that servers and workstations are woefully behind on basic software patching.
2. Install an enterprise firewall along with deploying an antivirus solution.
3. Change passwords regularly and have a password policy in place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

In case you haven’t noticed, the theme of cloud computing and cost savings is spreading like wildfire through many organizations – including municipalities. According to a recent GovTech article, the City of Alexandria, Virginia will save $1 million over the next 6 years through its use of cloud computing services. A few tips stand out:

- Standardize computers, operating systems, and software packages to save money on licensing costs.
- Evaluate if your users are suffering from disruptions or obstacles to productivity. If so, it’s a good opportunity to reevaluate your information technology.
- Don’t ignore your phone systems. These are often very expensive, but the City saved money from transitioning off of Blackberries to iPhone/Androids. Cloud computing VoIP options may also help reduce costs.

You may feel your municipality or organization is in the Dark Ages of information technology with aging computers and software, and that modern trends have passed you by. Actually, if so, this is the best time to explore cloud options.
  
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Pujan Roka wrote an excellent concise article about cloud computing in the May 8, 2011 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In it, he describes how information technology is increasingly becoming more like a utility. Cities (especially for the cost savings) should seriously be looking at the cloud. For example, the City of Canton, Georgia is experiencing feature rich benefits from using Google Apps – while saving $10,000/year in costs.

In our discussions with both technical and non-technical decision makers at cities, we hear objections and some confusion about how the cloud will benefit them. One way to think about cloud computing is to consider the early days of electricity. Roka points out how factories initially had to produce their own electricity, which was expensive and created a lot of waste. Once electricity shifted to the utility model, costs came down and quality of service went up.

Information technology is going through a similar revolution and despite some recent highly publicized outages, the reliability is all but 100%. It’s now just a matter of jumping into the cloud – and bringing your costs down.

Monday, May 16, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Sophicity was a sponsor for High Tech Ministries Make it Feel Like Home project May 4 - 7, 2011 at Must Ministries Marietta. With the help of 120 volunteers and six corporate sponsors, three projects were completed within 72 hours that included a playground, kitchen, and welcome center.
 
"Sitting down together for a meal may be the most basic way to express hospitality to those who find themselves in the distress of homelessness. We can now offer this ministry in a more welcoming environment, which is a wonderful gift to our guests. Additionally, our guests now have a playground that will allow their children to relax and play. Being able to add beauty and inspiration to the kids' imaginations as they try to find a sense of normalcy amidst the stress of being in a shelter is a true blessing." - Bob Milburn, Director of MUST Emergency Shelter and Outreach Programs
 
Truly a wonderful blessing being able to work alongside so many from our technology community here in Atlanta with the goal of serving families and children in their time of need.
 
About High Tech Ministries (www.hightechministries.org)
High Tech Ministries is a non-profit organization that empowers workplace ministers to lead people in the Atlanta high technology community to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
 
About MUST Ministries (www.mustministries.org)
MUST Ministries is a faith-based, 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing services to persons and families in crisis while maintaining their dignity. MUST is a place where one's faith can be put into action and where we can minister to the poor, the brokenhearted and those who are in crisis - in a place where "your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Dave Mims, President

Are you still managing project tasks with post-its all around your PC? Are your estimates realistic? Are all team members and project sponsors on the same page? Do you have to crunch the numbers again and again to report status to decision makers? Maybe Microsoft Project’s predecessors give you a headache when running a large project schedule? :)

Check out my presentation at the Southern Municipal Conference IT Spring meeting where I shared and demoed a pretty cool tool that Sophicity is now using called LiquidPlanner. It solves, very well, a few of the pains that we all encounter managing IT projects.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager at Sophicity, recently published “Three Reasons Why Cities Should Consider Hosted Email” in the March 2011 issue of Texas Town & City. The magazine is published by the Texas Municipal League and focuses on a variety of contemporary municipal issues. We encourage you to read the complete article and also visit Texas Town & City online.

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