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CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Dave Mims, President

A recent study from Citrix shows that most Americans are confused by the cloud. The ongoing problem with the term "cloud computing" is that it often complicates an explanation rather than clarifies. Most people use cloud computing every day, but they don't know that they are using it.

To help clarify matters, we wanted to give you a layperson's definition of cloud computing. If you ever need to explain it to someone else, use this as a guideline. We'll use Gmail as an example throughout, since it is a well-known cloud service.

  • Are you accessing services over the Internet? For example, if you are using Gmail, you are accessing that service over the Internet. You don't have to have an email server on your network. Instead, you are accessing this service through the...cloud.
  • Are these services accessible anywhere/anytime by a variety of devices? Cloud services are accessible anywhere/anytime through servers, workstations, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. For example, Gmail can be accessed from any device. You don't have to be at home or at work to access Gmail.
  • Are you able to access these services without buying and installing hardware or software? While you might still purchase access to an application like Gmail over the Internet, you are not buying a Gmail server or purchasing Gmail software that someone has to install on your network and then on everyone's computer.
  • Are you able to access these services without use of a data center? It's not the cloud if you simply locate your dedicated servers in a data center. That simply takes the hardware that you bought and places it in another location. You access cloud services without any data center arrangements, and you don't own the hardware.
  • Does all data reside on the cloud vendor's servers? In other words, your Gmail data is stored in Google servers—the "cloud." Your Gmail data does not reside on your company servers or on your personal devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, or mobile devices).
  • Does the service work like a subscription model? Can you turn the service on and off, like a utility? Cloud services work like this—whether it's software, virtual servers, storage, data backup, security monitoring, etc. Again, instead of buying hardware and purchasing software licenses, you simply subscribe to the service. The vendor makes the hardware and software investment. Once you subscribe, you have access to the application (or service) through the Internet. If you don't want the service anymore, you "unsubscribe" and it turns off.
  • Does the service scale up and down effortlessly? You might have to pay more for scaling up, but you can simply buy more of the service with ease. Need another server? More storage space? More users added to your email? No problem, and you don't have to buy any additional hardware or software. If you don't have cloud services, chances are you're restricted by your hardware limitations or software license agreement before you can consider scaling up and down.

If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, you're probably using cloud services. If you did not answer "yes," you might want to reconsider your existing hardware and software investments. They are depreciating and rapidly becoming dated. Instead of your earlier confusion about "should we get into cloud computing?" you can instead evaluate your current hardware and software with the following questions. If you find yourself answering "no" to many of these questions, you may want to consider cloud options to reduce cost and increase efficiency.

  • Can I access this service over the Internet?
  • Can I access this service from any device?
  • Can I access this service without buying dedicated hardware (either located onsite or in a data center)?
  • Can I access this service without buying packaged software to install?
  • Does all of the data related to the service reside on a vendor's servers? (In other words, you do not purchase servers nor are responsible for their upkeep and maintenance, either onsite or in a data center.)
  • Can I scale this service up and down with ease?
  • Is the cost related to my scale? (e.g. number of GB, number of users, etc.)

If you'd like to discuss cloud options in more detail, feel free to contact us.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

A recent study by the 2012 National Study of Employers from the Families and Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (reported in Business Management Daily) noted some recent trends in teleworking. The most important insight: teleworking is the new normal.

As Business Management Daily says:

If your organization's execs still insist on eight consecutive hours of face time each day from every employee, you're probably already losing young hires, new moms and mature employees. They're going to competitors offering more flexibility. Make flex central to your recruiting and retaining effort.

In addition, evolving and widespread technologies make teleworking easier and easier:

  • Increasing broadband speeds
  • Cloud services (meaning you can access email, documents, and other services from your computer, anytime and anywhere)
  • Smartphones with increasing sophistication

If your city provides limited or no teleworking options, consider these benefits when making your case for teleworking:

  • Talent Retention and Morale Employers compete for the talent you want to hire, and they even compete for the talent already working at your city. If teleworking is the "new normal," that means talented employees will weigh this kind of flexibility against what other employers offer. Cities that don't offer teleworking can lose employees to other businesses. Your talent recruitment efforts will suffer along with existing staff morale.
  • Business Continuity Few people think about this aspect of teleworking. In case of a disaster—such as a tornado, fire, severe thunderstorm, or hurricane—it's much easier for city operations to return to normal when everyone works remote. Until the city returns to normal operating capacity, basic city functions still hum along—virtually.
  • Green and Environmental Initiatives Driving less means less gas and emissions. Less employees in the office means less electricity and power. Those add up and contribute to green efforts. If the city already promotes green initiatives, teleworking nicely complements this strategy.
  • Reduced Costs Especially look at teleworking as a way to reduce the total amount of employees who work at the city each day. Real estate and office space eats up a lot of money. You might significantly cut costs by lessening the amount of people who actually come into the office every day in terms of physical space and electricity.
  • Accommodate a Diverse Workforce Teleworking makes it easier for people with disabilities, working parents (especially single parents), and sick or ill people to still work for the city. You accommodate these people's life circumstances while utilizing their talents—the talent you lose to another business if you force people to come into an office every day.

To meet the new normal, you need flexibility. Teleworking not only benefits and accommodates your staff, it also benefits the city on many levels. For more information about what technology you need to enable teleworking at your city, contact us for more information.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
John Miller, Network Infrastructure Manager

While password policies seem like just a small part of IT management, a perfect storm is brewing that places password vulnerability at an all-time high. Fox Business recently reported (from a Janrain study) that people are experiencing password fatigue. By contrast, Ars Technica recently reported "the dangerous practice of password reuse has surged. The result: security provided by the average password in 2012 has never been weaker."

If people are weary of coming up with new passwords, that means they will use (and reuse) weak passwords. That makes it a feasting ground for hackers, and a source of anxiety for IT.

Thankfully, a strong IT department or vendor exists to enforce some basic password best practices that don't agonize users while also securing this often user-generated Achilles heel.

To assess if you've mastered your Password 101 basics, use the following as a quick checklist.

  • Force users to have strong passwords. A strong password is one that is long with multiple characters. Use a complex password with letters, numbers, a capital letter and a special character such as a dollar sign. While annoying at first, users will get used to creating more complex passwords—which are more difficult to hack.
  • Force users to create new passwords. Whether it is every three months, every month, or some other frequency, have users change their password on a regular basis. Again, it will annoy them at first, but it will soon become habit.
  • Your IT staff must also create strong passwords and frequently change them. Users are one thing. But IT staff often shockingly use weak passwords for server and administrative access—and rarely ever change them. Since these passwords protect the most sensitive information, they—of all passwords—must be the strongest. No excuses.
  • Train users to NEVER give out their passwords through email or over the phone. Phishing unfortunately tricks millions of users every year. All it takes is an official-looking message or an unknown person on the phone to gain access to a user's password. Either give out passwords face-to-face, or use an automated secure system where users can create or reset passwords.
  • Consider 2 factor authentication. This means a user needs to authorize a computer before they can use sensitive applications such as email. Users should be used to this through Google and Facebook's services, which often sends a verification code to a person's cell phone before they can officially log in. This adds an extra layer of password security that makes hacking more difficult.
  • Create a password policy. This not only includes requirements for strong passwords and when they should expire, but also handles items such as who has access to users' passwords.
If you want to discuss these issues in more detail, contact us. We'd be happy to chat!
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Dave Mims, President

If a business fails at customer experience, it soon loses business (or goes out of business). But cities operate differently. While cities cannot go out of business, they serve as a backbone to an entire community. Customer service failures may not bankrupt the city, but they end up affecting the lives of every citizen. And because their taxpayer dollars help fund the city, citizens grow frustrated when cities fail to measure up to basic customer experience standards.

Thankfully, cities have continually improved their customer experience over time, but even the most well-meaning cities often struggle with their website. And online customer experience expectations increase each year. Several trends are pressuring cities to increase their website customer experience, despite size or location.

Increasing broadband access. While speeds often vary from area to area, broadband penetration is currently at 80% of the United States. That percentage will only get higher.

Mobile access. Over half of people with mobile phones have smartphones. That means an increasing segment of the United States population expects to access online information with their smartphones like a computer.

Higher customer experience expectations for websites. Amazon, Google, major online retail stores, and other businesses make online experiences easy. As online payments and billing become mainstream and the preferred way of conducting transactions, then the expectations for something as important as city services rise higher and higher. For example, people lose patience if they cannot easily pay a simple bill or fee online.

Of course, we understand that local government budgets remain tight. As long as your website gets you by, it might seem unreasonable to splurge for a new website. You might also believe that building or redesigning your website will cost thousands of dollars.

However, cost-effective options exist for modernizing your website. Below, we share some tips about improving your city's online customer experience without breaking your bank.

  • Modernize Your Website With a Well-Designed Look-and-Feel Without spending thousands of dollars on a redesign, you can still modernize your website. Too many city websites still look like they were built in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Many design templates and low-cost hosting options exist. Freshen up your website and bring it aesthetically up to date.
  • Create Pages That Match Your City Services Make sure you provide pages that match each of your city services, and that they prominently display on your homepage for easy navigation. That means pages for City Hall, Public Safety, Parks and Recreation, Community Development, News, Events, and any other information that citizens need most.
  • Offer Online Payments Whether through your own website or a third party, you should offer online payment options for most city services. Provide ways to pay property taxes, fines, and fees online. Most people find it difficult to get to City Hall during normal weekday business hours. They expect options to pay from home, outside normal business hours.
  • Share Information We live in an era of transparent government, and that means you need to share the business of government with citizens. Share agendas, minutes, and videos of important meetings. Share relevant documents and public notices through your website. Failing to share information leaves you open to attack.
  • Use a Content Management System (CMS) to Update Content If you primarily rely on a webmaster to upload all of your content, you are wasting time and money. Content management systems exist to make updating your website content as easy as using Microsoft Word. Many low-cost CMS options exist. Your staff needs to update website content themselves, especially when fresh content signifies a vital website to citizens and even businesses considering locating to your city.

By focusing on these basic issues, you will solve many of your customer experience woes. Contact us if you want to discuss some options that will help you alleviate these pain points.

Friday, September 07, 2012
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

Information technology is already hard enough to manage, and its cost and complexity make it one of the most important investments for a city to manage. Unfortunately, managing multiple IT vendors turns this already difficult situation into a nightmare.

City managers and clerks often tell us about the difficulty of calling in for software support. When calling the vendor, they often encounter customer support representatives who talk over their heads, rush them too fast through an issue, or just plain fail to understand the problem because of language barriers. Too many vendors unfortunately do not seem able to communicate effectively with non-technical customers, and they often make the non-technical customer feel at fault.

This situation is even more frustrating because cities are strapped for time and often lack the technical expertise to know exactly how they should interact with their IT vendors. In addition, vendors are often trying to sell unnecessary products and add-ons to cities as part of their "service," so that makes city staff wary about how best to filter a vendor's recommendations.

Here are three tips that may help you and your city manage IT vendors.

  1. Hire a trusted IT staff person or IT vendor to manage these relationships. Just like it's good for lawyers to talk to lawyers, or doctors to doctors, it's beneficial to have IT professionals talk to IT professionals. For example, we routinely take on all IT vendor communications when we work for a city. Our expertise, experience, and negotiating abilities keep IT vendors on their toes and focused on providing the best services for cities. We make sure the warranties and accessories ordered are what the city actually needs (and not commission-based items that line the vendor's sales team's pockets).
  2. Collect, understand, and reinforce all service agreements. Understand what support covers. Make sure you document the details of these agreements and store all contact numbers in a handy place when something goes wrong. This documentation also makes it easier to hand off support details to your IT staff or IT vendor managing your infrastructure.
  3. Understand exactly what a vendor provides. Know what a vendor sells. If the vendor quotes services or uses terms that mystify you, ask them to get a sales engineer on the line. If you are not comfortable with the conversation, do not make the purchase until you can receive a solid explanation. Especially follow this advice with telephone service providers. Cities often sign up for telephone services they never use, which needlessly increases their monthly bills.
If you would like to discuss these issues further, please contact us.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

Recently, I was talking with a city manager who wanted to learn more about our services. We chatted about how they would have email handled through Microsoft's cloud platform. During the conversation, he mentioned some other cities where the elected officials received email to their personal accounts and used those personal email accounts to conduct city business.

I mentioned that those accounts could be subject to open records requests, and he just nodded forebodingly. He had just gone through an open records request and noted how time consuming and expensive it was. He could not imagine what the process would be like if personal email accounts were involved.

Through our experience and conversations with cities, seeing email addresses such as mayor@yahoo.com is not uncommon. Georgia includes emails in its open records laws, and those emails need to be as retrievable and accessible as possible. This issue is real, and this year alone showcases many stark examples.

Preventing a Costly Open Records Request

Thankfully, while handling an open records request is never easy, it's a great deal easier with some simple email software and organization. Here is a quick assessment you can take:

  • Are you using a personal email address for city business?
  • Is city email being forwarded to a personal email address?

If yes, then your personal email is at risk for an open records request. Going forward, you need to eliminate this issue and keep all city business emails stored and archived in a city email account. If you do not have your own city domain name (e.g. mayor@cityofsomewhere.gov), then you need to acquire one. All city business email should then be conducted through city email addresses.

  • How much time did it take to process your last open records request?
  • How much did it cost?

Even if you already have a city business email account, your email might not be stored, archived, and accessed in ways that reflect best practices. For example, email cloud solutions exist that can be managed by IT staff or a vendor. That means if you get an open records request, your IT staff can easily enable you to access and collect the exact emails you need, quickly. Some vendors can even handle that for you for no additional fees.

For more about email solutions that may help this situation, read more about our solution and contact us if you have additional questions.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

A recent CIO Magazine article discussed how businesses are empowering the mobile worker by allowing them to use their personal devices for work. If cities want to follow this trend, they must be more cautious than a typical business. Local government faces regulations and audits, handles sensitive information, submits to open records requests, and operates with high transparency expectations.

That means the blurring of personal and government information is especially frowned upon in local government. We've all heard the horror stories about government business conducted with personal email addresses and the consequences that result—both financially and from a public relations standpoint.

Yet, you don't want to halt progress and you want to accommodate people who use their own mobile devices and tablets. Personal devices are not going away, and yet you don't often have the money to buy all city employees business-only tablets and smartphones. What do you do?

Assessing the Risks

Many employees want access to city email, documents, and content from their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and home personal computers. We caution city management about making this access too easy for two reasons:

  1. Lack of control If the city does not own the personal device, they cannot control how employees use it. That opens the device up to viruses, unauthorized access, and exposing confidential information.
  2. Liability/exposure during e-discovery Wherever city data lives, it is considered discoverable. Do you want an audit to extend to your city employees' personal computers, laptops, tablets, or smartphones. What will auditors find on personal devices?

It's tempting to have employees bring their own device to cut costs. After all, isn't it great that you don't have to purchase an extra computer, tablet, or smartphone? But while device costs go down (reducing the city's upfront capital expenses), hidden costs associated with loss of control and potential for e-discovery skyrocket. You don't want a lawsuit or fine to result from the misuse of a personal device or an unintentional breach of city data security or privacy.

How To Best Handle City Employees' Personal Devices

Here are some tips and recommendations that will help you decide how to handle personal devices in your local government environment:

  • If possible, issue employees their own business-only devices. While this can be expensive, the hardware and software is locked down and controlled by the city. The employee then uses the device for city purposes only.
  • No data of any type (including email) should be stored on a device that is not a city asset. As tempting as it is to install email programs on personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones, don't! You run too many legal and security issues.
  • Use a cloud solution to allow employee access from a personal device. If you cannot budget for city owned personal devices, then consider cloud services. Employees can access email and documents without having to store that information on their personal devices. We recommend that a city point of contact requests and authorizes particular city employees who should have this capability before it is provisioned. This also gives cities the option to remotely delete data (e.g. Microsoft Office documents) on the city employee's mobile phone, which is useful in case the device is lost or stolen.
  • Wipe a city-owned device clean of all data before issuing it to another user. When an employee leaves the city and returns the device, it should be wiped clean of all data, securely, before re-issuing to another user. You do not want a new or different employee with access to sensitive city data.
  • Wipe a damaged city-owned device clean of all data before handing it over to a vendor for repair. This best practice is often overlooked. If a device is damaged and you need it repaired by a vendor, that device should also be securely wiped clean of all data prior to submitting it for repair. You do not want a vendor (or any outside unauthorized person) with access to city data. (If the device is so damaged that you cannot wipe it clean, then that device should be securely destroyed by a vendor that offers this as a service.)

If you would like to discuss these issues further, please contact us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

A recent IDC Government Insights report revealed an alarming glimpse into the mindset of local government about cloud computing. GovTech's summary of the IDC report said, "Local government participants were the least optimistic about the cloud with 14.7 percent saying the cloud wasn't important." Overall, the report showed a need for more education about the benefits of cloud computing in terms of not only technology infrastructure but also budgeting.

This report is consistent with what we have traditionally seen with how fast local government moves versus the pace of technology and businesses.

We have written a good deal about the essence of cloud computing, so we will focus on traditional local government obstacles of adopting change due to funding and IT architecture concerns.

Cloud Solutions Offer The Potential to Cut Costs or Quickly Acquire Enterprise Level Services Within Budget

A common myth about the cloud is that it's an additional technology to purchase. Partly, that's the fault of the abstract, technological term "cloud computing." The term does not effectively reflect the financial and productive sides of its benefits.

Instead, cloud computing is an alternative, modern version of many existing technologies. That means you can audit and assess your current hardware and software investments and seek out areas to cut costs through cloud alternatives. If you've invested heavily in hardware and software, cloud computing solutions often significantly cut costs.

If you haven't invested in much hardware and software, then cloud computing offers you low-cost options to acquire enterprise-level tools and technologies (website, data backup, document management, etc.) that may have seemed out of reach just a few years ago. Typically, we find that local government underspends on important areas such as data backup, security, and business productivity because of the cost of traditional technologies. Cloud computing options give local government an unprecedented chance to address any chronic lack of investment in these essential areas.

To get a better handle on your potential cloud investments, first know what you're already spending for hardware, software, licenses, labor, and annual maintenance fees. We've written about this at length in the past, but it's good to currently analyze how much you're paying for:

  • Email servers and maintenance
  • Document management
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Microsoft Office (or other vendor's) productivity suite
  • Antivirus and antispam
  • Web hosting and maintenance
  • Instant messaging and online meetings

If cloud computing options help bring these costs down, then you can not only approximate funding but also return on investment. If you're not currently investing much in these areas and need to justify funding, then you need to make your case from a different point of view.

It's not uncommon for local government to feel the pains of aging technology through hardware failures, data loss, and slowed productivity. Cloud options give you the chance to seriously look at modernizing your technology environment with enterprise grade solutions while keeping capital investments and overall costs at a minimum.

Changes to Your Technology Environment - The Cloud is Easier To Manage and Maintain

While most cities do not have large IT infrastructure environments, we sometimes hear concerns about how a switch to cloud computing will affect the management and maintenance of servers, workstations, and software. Three main concerns usually come up:

  • Fewer onsite servers Cloud options are available for nearly any function currently taken on by a typical server. Fewer servers means there will be more of a focus on remote cloud server management instead of managing servers onsite. For those used to managing only servers they can see and touch, a switch to remote cloud server management can be jarring.
  • Offsite data backup and storage After years of backing up data onsite, it can feel strange for your data backup to be stored in the cloud. However, the cloud can be a safer data backup option than doing it in-house. We've heard too many horror stories of neglected, forgotten, or misconfigured data backup that ends in painful data loss. While cloud solutions are not infallible, the data backup standards are extremely high. Intense vendor competition means they can't afford to let your data disappear, and this competition-driven innovation benefits you.
  • 24/7 remote access support Cloud services allow access to information 24x7. That means 24x7 support is more important than ever. This serious issue is not always addressed by cloud solutions. You may have cloud access via the Internet, anytime anywhere, but if something goes wrong, who do you call?

These infrastructure issues are really just aspects of technology change. Cloud solutions are where technology is headed, like it or not. These technologies are a significant improvement over managing and maintaining your own IT infrastructure. Any new change can create anxiety, especially if your staff is used to doing something a certain way for many years. For those cities without IT staff or a close relationship with a technology vendor, this anxiety is lessened but the justification for funding becomes more important.

This is why the local government concerns of the IDC report are legitimate and relevant. But do not fear. The switch to cloud computing is a significant revolution in technology, and it only benefits you - both from a cost perspective and an infrastructure management perspective.

For more about the cost and infrastructure sides of cloud computing, read more about our solutions or contact us to have a discussion.

Thursday, August 16, 2012
John Miller, Network Infrastructure Manager

A recent article in "The Tennessean" (and shared in the Public Technology Institute's July 25, 2012 email newsletter) reveals how inundated cities feel by technology pressures. It just doesn't end—new technologies related to websites, servers, desktops, tablets, mobile phones, broadband, and GIS barrage cities every year. All of these investments require money that cities unfortunately lack in this rough economy.

The article highlights a few common themes that we've also seen while talking to cities.

  • Cities feel they are lagging extraordinarily behind. They watch businesses and society on the cutting edge of information technology, and they feel they got left behind in the 20th century.
  • Cities are strapped for cash. They do not have the budgets for a complete technology overhaul or additional IT staff.
  • Citizens expect better services and availability from cities. Citizens are used to their high-tech dealings with other businesses and their everyday smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop experiences.

Mayors, council members, city managers, and city finance officers feel caught between a rock and a hard place. If cities tried to do everything at once, they might have money for anything else. So where to start?

Cities do not have to attack every problem immediately. We usually see information technology investments as needing to occur in two phases.

City Information Technology: Basic Investments

Here are a few key areas to solidify first.

  • Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Make sure you have a data backup and disaster recovery plan. Even in the worst disaster, your data needs to be restored within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Aging Hardware and Software Replacement Replace your most creaky, ancient hardware. You would not drive a city van or truck to the point when it's falling apart. Start by replacing any hardware over five years old and any software that is no longer supported by a vendor.
  • Internet Service and Telecom Today is an excellent time to shop around and renegotiate contracts with ISP and telecom providers. Many older contracts are expensive. Cities can benefit from heavy competition - more services for less cost.
  • Server, Workstation, and Mobile Device Security and Maintenance Most cities have little to no security or support for their hardware and software. When things break, it disrupts city operations. Cities need to ensure they have a combination of skilled, knowledgeable IT staff and vendors securing and supporting their systems 24/7.
  • A Modern Website A city's website needs to not only look professional but also be easy to use for non-technical users. There are many cost-effective options for cities to choose from today. Citizens, visitors, and businesses all need to have a favorable online impression of your city and also have easy access to city services.

City Information Technology: Advanced Investments

Once you have planned to address the basic fundamentals, you can start to look at more complicated aspects of information technology. Many of these areas can only succeed if you have taken care of broken or failing IT infrastructure, data backup, website, and support.

  • Long-Term IT Budgeting Once you've put out your IT fires, you can work with your finance officer, IT staff, and IT vendors to plan out a cost-effective long-term IT budget. A city's strategy and priorities will drive the budget.
  • Hardware and Software Lifecycle Strategy Make sure you are replacing and upgrading hardware and software every 3-5 years.
  • Server Virtualization and Cloud Services Once your servers have been upgraded and are being maintained properly, the next step is always to see if they can be virtualized and even maintained in the cloud. Lowered costs and ease of management result.

Cities often jump to advanced information technology needs before they have dealt with the fundamentals. Mastering the fundamentals first will ensure that your long-term budgeting and advanced technology projects will be more likely to succeed.

If you're interested in learning more, contact us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

As we meet with cities, we find that so much city activity centers on city clerks. They are the heartbeat of any city, and one of their key roles is document management. If you need a document for any reason, all roads lead to the city clerk.

However, despite their role, the city clerk does not have superhuman powers. They are limited by time and technology. With increasing demands and pressures, from customer service to government regulations, any significant document management limitations (or lack of any document management in the case of a paper filing system) cripple their ability to work effectively.

Major Document Management Concerns

We mostly hear three main concerns from city clerks about their document management:

  1. Time Spent Manually Purging Documents If you add up the annual time it takes to identify and manually purge records and documents that have expired, it adds up to many, many hours. Tedious and repetitive, this work is not productive and it takes city clerks away from more pressing duties.
  2. Locating Documents If manual documents are misfiled, locating them becomes a nightmare. Do you search every file cabinet? Every folder? Misfiling happens with paper-based systems, and locating those documents wastes massive amounts of time...that is, if you're able to find the document. Lost or misplaced documents are an unfortunate consequence of manual document management.
  3. Disaster Recovery City clerks (and Mayors) fear disaster. Fire, theft, or a natural disaster can permanently destroy manual records. When city business depends on these documents or auditors need to see them, this loss is embarrassing and irreparable.

Document Management Benefits for Cities

Thankfully, many cost-effective document management solutions now exist that not only eliminate these problems but also increase operational efficiency.

  • Scanning and Storing Cities can scan and store all of their documents electronically, eliminating reliance on paper.
  • Document Backup and Disaster Recovery All documents are stored either on a server with full data backup and disaster recovery, or in the cloud with similar protection. If a fire or natural disaster destroyed city hall, your documents would be safe.
  • Archiving for Open Records Requests You need to archive your email and documents for any open records requests.
  • Remote Anytime Access Instead of having to go to city hall to access a document, a document management solution allows you to have access to your documents at all times. Even if you're working from home or traveling, you will have access to any needed document.
  • Authorization and Access Rights With a manual system, some physical security is required to enforce access—and it's never perfect. But with online document management, you can set up permissions to make sure that only those with authorization can access documents. Documents can also be encrypted and protected from malicious access.
  • Automated Workflows Document management systems allow you to implement automated workflows to improve operational efficiency. It's very reassuring to know that a document will be processed in the same way—with appropriate checks and balances—every time. Version control can also help eliminate redundant or duplicate documents.
  • Audit Readiness When auditors come calling or regulations must be followed, it's a lot easier to know that your document management system provides a transparent, automated methodology for storing, archiving, and authorizing access to all documents.

For a relatively low cost, city clerks can be enabled to handle these challenges through a robust document management system. Just applying state record retention processes automatically to save a city clerk days each year will allow the document management solution to pay for itself—many times over. If you're interested in learning more, contact us about IT in a Box.

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