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CitySmart Blog

Thursday, December 1, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
Forced with budget cuts, local government agencies have turned to cloud computing to streamline their IT needs, lower hardware expenses and improve accessibility and mobility to necessary data. 

In a special report on cloud computing, The Center for Digital Government, in partnership with Public CIO, compiled a list of five government cloud success stories, two of which are at the local government level. 

Wyoming
  • Problem: One year ago, the state of Wyoming was operating 13 different e-mail platforms in its executive branch. Each system required dedicated staff to maintain it, and myriad platforms meant the state lacked a shared address book across all agencies. 
  • Solution: In less than nine months, the state has migrated to a single cloud-based solution, and moved 10,000 state employees to the new platform. The move will save the state more than $1 million annually, but cost reduction is not the only benefit. State employees are able to collaborate in ways that were not possible before. 
Oregon
  • Problem: What builder isn’t troubled by permit requirement delays? 
  • Solution: By moving to a cloud-based solution for issuing permits, Oregon is dramatically accelerating the approval process for contractors, builders and developers. Oregon’s cloud solution will eliminate jurisdictional confusion and time-intensive paper chases. 
Nebraska
  • Problem: Four years ago, Nebraska was nearly ready to replace its creaky electronic applicant tracking system with a new application. 
  • Solution: Fourteen months into its cloud implementation, Nebraska has a new, more efficient and flexible paperless applicant tracking system, and an entire human capital suite that includes learning performance, succession and compensation management; a better benefits enrollment process; e-procurement; and a core human capital database. 
Hudson County, N.J. 
  • Problem: Ten years after September 11th, disaster recovery remains foremost in county officials’ minds. 
  • Solution: A private county cloud that took just eight months to build now provides back-up for all critical data and applications. Even if county offices are compromised, personnel can log in from any location and keep things going. The Hudson County IT Division’s plan is to offer servers on demand to all the towns in the county, turning its private cloud into a community one.
Nashua, N.H. 
  • Problem: For 30 years, Nashua, N.H., used an internal IT system that had, like a monster in a science-fiction movie, spread its tentacles into every agency in the city. 
  • Solution: When this system was replaced with a hosted ERP solution, city managers are able, to see integrated numbers that show what’s really happening in the city, find and eliminate waste, and change processes when needed. 
The report also takes a deep dive into the evolution of cloud computing technology, identifies the emerging trends, and discusses the exciting implications it has for the future of service delivery. Click the link below to read the results.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Scott Miller, Network Engineer
Pin Up the Folders You Use Most 

Windows 7 allows you to “pin up” the folders you use most on your taskbar. Simply hold your mouse over the favorite folder, right click, and drag the folder onto the taskbar. Windows 7 automatically pins itself to the Explorer Jump List. To open the folder, right click on the Explorer icon and select the folder you want.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Brian Ocfemia, Network Engineer
The Windows Logo Key
 
The mouse proved to be a lifesaver for users who want an easy way to navigate Windows' graphical user interface.  Unfortunately, it's not always the most efficient way to interact with your computer.  There are several keyboard shortcuts that can help you save time.  However, one of the most underused keys on the keyboard is the Windows logo key   (found between the CTRL and ALT key).  There are many things that you can accomplish by using this key.  To start with, you can open and close the Start menu just by pressing the Windows logo key .  You can display the desktop by pressing Windows logo key  + D or open Computer by pressing Windows logo key + E.  You can even open any program on your taskbar by pressing the Windows logo key and the number that corresponds to the position of the application on the taskbar (i.e. Windows logo key  + 1 launches the left-most application on the taskbar, Windows logo key + 2 launches the second left-most application, etc...).  For more information on keyboard shortcuts that can make your daily computing easier and more enjoyable go to: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Keyboard-shortcuts.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sophicity recently surveyed Georgia cities with populations of 2,500 or greater. We were pleased by the overwhelming response – 144 cities of the 199 surveyed – or a response rate of more than 72 percent. However, the findings generated even more questions and concerns on the state of our cities’ IT infrastructure.

According to the survey results, cities are taking on extremely high risk due to unmanaged break fix environments.  In sum, cities are operating networks that are ripe for IT breaches , data loss, and system failure.

Sophicity surveyed cities on the following questions:
  1. How many people work at the city?
  2. How many people who work at the city are considered IT staff?
  3. Do you use a contractor or vendor in place of IT staff?
  4. If your city does use an IT contractor or vendor, is it for break/fix support or more proactive services?
Seventy eight percent of respondents reactively addressed IT needs. In short that means they are waiting for something to break. Only 11 percent proactively manage IT, while the remaining 11 percent didn’t know.
 


52 percent of the cities responding had no IT staff and no vendor.
 
 

If we break down the responding cities further by population, our survey identified:
  • Cities with populations from 2,500 to 4,999 are more likely to be reactive when addressing IT needs – up to 90 percent of cities in this category responded that they reactively address IT needs or wait for something to break. Only 9 percent proactively managed IT, and the remaining 1 percent didn’t know. 69 percent of the cities in this group don’t have an IT staff or IT vendor.
  • Cities with populations from 5,000 to 24,999 are faring a little better. In this group, 45 percent of respondents are reactively addressing IT needs. Only 10 percent are proactively managing IT, and the remaining 45 percent didn’t know.  More than 65 percent of the cities in this category also work without the benefit of an IT staff or a vendor.
  • Cities with populations from 25,000 to 49,999 are 56 percent reactively addressing IT needs. None of the respondents in this category are proactively managing IT, and the remaining 44 percent didn’t know. Thirty one percent of the cities responding have no IT staff or a vendor.
  • Cities with populations of 50,000 or greater are 21 percent reactively addressing IT needs. Only 7 percent proactively manage IT, and the remaining 71 percent didn’t know. Surprisingly, 43 percent of these cities that responded have no IT staff or a vendor.
The numbers paint a troubling picture and generate even more troubling questions. What city and citizen data is at risk for being compromised, hacked, or lost? What costs are rising from inefficiencies? What services are not being provided that could be? Who will our citizens turn to when a disaster occurs? Will the city be ready to help?

Benjamin Franklin is credited as saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That quote is applicable today to cities skimping on IT costs to “save” money. Don’t neglect. Get someone competent and skilled in place to manage the city’s IT needs day to day as well as strategically planning and preparing for the years ahead.

Hire a competent person, Engage a credible vendor, or do both. Don’t fall victim to data loss, system failure, or wasted / dated time consuming inefficiencies.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Dave Mims, President
The results are in! On November 2, Govtech.com announced the winners of the eleventh annual Digital Cities Survey. The survey spotlights the municipalities that best show how information and communication technology are used to enhance public service. The survey is conducted by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology.
 
The top 10 cities were selected by four different population categories and judged on the following criteria:
  • Enterprise applicability/Impact across multiple program areas
  • Measurable progress from the prior year
  • Hard dollar savings/soft dollar benefits as a result of technology use
  • Innovation
  • Demonstration of effective collaboration 
The cities chosen were selected from hundreds of municipalities nationwide. Winners include cities like Chicago, Corpus Christi, Texas, Eden Prairie, Minn., Honolulu and Virginia Beach, Va.
 
So, who else made the list? Did your city? See for yourself.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Ohm Sadasivam, Senior Software Developer
Microsoft has added many useful features in SharePoint 2010. One of interest for developers is support for Language Integrated Query (LINQ). LINQ abstracts us from data source specific syntax such as SQL for SQL Server as well as Collaborative Application Markup Language (CAML) for SharePoint content data. Nice! I won’t steal all the thunder, but if you need to programmatically access SharePoint data and you aren’t already using CAML for SharePoint data access then checkout these two articles on LINQ to SharePoint from Microsoft at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee535491.aspx and http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/gg620622.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Michael Kappel, Senior Network Engineer

People really seem to enjoy placing high resolution photos on their backgrounds.  They will take pictures of places that they visit, their family, or their pets and set that as the background on their laptops or desktops.  A lot of people don’t realize that this can actually slow the computer down.  To see if your background pictures are impacting performance on your computer, right click on the desktop, click properties, and set the background to a solid color.  If that seems to improve your computers speed, you may need to consider either not using the image you choose previously, or getting a lower resolution copy of the image.

With that said, if you really love background, checkout some seasonal ones at: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/downloads/personalize/wallpaper-desktop-background

Friday, October 28, 2011
Scott Miller, Network Engineer
I have been using Windows 7 for a while. From the beginning, I have liked the “snapping a window” feature, which while simple, is pretty cool. With the feature, you can Snap windows to size by dragging them to the edges of your screen. Read more about snap at: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/snap.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Dave Mims, President

 
 
Sophicity was a sponsor for the 4th Annual Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade Golf Tournament held Monday October 17, 2011 in Dublin, GA at the beautiful Riverview Park Golf Course. The proceeds from the tournament will go toward the Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade charity event in December.

Yalonde Tanner from GMA summed it up best, “For the first time in 4 years Sophicity did not make last place”. Yes, a Cinderella story. Every year until 2011, we have driven, swung, swung, putted, putted, and putted our way into last place. But not this year! I chose to step aside and let Clint Nelms, Sophicity’s Network Infrastructure Practice Manager, and Michael Kappel, Sophicity’s Senior Network Engineer (aka Mr. Sophicity Golf) compete. Definitely a good move, one of improvement for the team… ;-)

Every year, the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade provides gifts during the holidays for patients at Georgia's mental health and retardation hospitals. The golf tournament is essential for raising money for the Motorcade, and Sophicity proudly supports GMA’s efforts to help Georgia’s less fortunate during the holiday season.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Todd Snoddy, Senior Software Developer
With the ongoing rise of mobile device usage even for non-technical users, many organizations are choosing to provide services to their customers or constituents through the use of mobile apps.  People who are responsible for making decisions about creating and deploying those mobile apps will likely face the decision about whether to provide native or web-based mobile apps.  I was recently evaluating both approaches for a customer’s project and came across a good summarized comparison of the two.  You can read more about it here.
 
In a nutshell, as technologies like HTML 5 continue to evolve and be supported by modern mobile devices, the feature gap between native and web based apps is growing smaller.  An organization needs to really consider what types of features their apps need to support, and who their target audience is, and then choose the best platform with those needs in mind.  Unless an app needs maximum performance for high speed graphics or access to specific device hardware, a web based app is likely to provide the most value for the development cost.
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