CitySmart Blog

Monday, January 17, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

This article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune details how the City of New Orleans lost 20 months of real estate records through a disorganized faulty data backup and disaster recovery management process.

Rather than dwell on this unfortunate situation, it should serve as a reminder for local government to not ignore data backup and disaster recovery. The results are often disastrous, embarrassing, and a way to make taxpayers very angry.

It may seem acceptable (and cheap) to use a common offsite backup provider that one would use at home. However, when local government chooses that route the burden of supporting that data backup also falls upon them. Data backup for an entire municipality (often involving extremely sensitive data) can be quite complex, and it requires a higher level of support to help cities manage it.

Take a look at your current data backup solution and ask yourself:

1. Do we have a sufficient online and offsite data backup process?
2. Are we testing our backups on a regular schedule?
3. Is auditing provided by the city’s IT staff and/or data backup vendor documenting that all city data is being backed up properly?

Consumer offsite data backup solutions are great. But for cities, the difference between backup success and disaster often comes down to the business processes around data backup.

Before your municipality goes the route of New Orleans, read our article discussing why consumer-grade data backup solutions are not sufficient for cities.

Monday, December 20, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
As cities get barraged with information about Gov 2.0, eGovernment, Web 2.0, whatever you call it, it’s difficult to sort out the substance from the hype. This Fast Company article does an excellent job analyzing the current landscape.

I agree that it is good to be critical of Gov 2.0. When local governments are often sometimes strapped to keep basic services running, cost savings and ROI are critical for any new product or service being contemplated. However, the subtext of this article suggests two important insights that city officials cannot ignore:

1. The demand for better services is often being driven by citizens. The case of SeeClickFix was spurred by a frustrated citizen who could not get his local government to respond to legitimate concerns through normal channels.
2. There is a generation of tech-savvy talent who, rather than go to the corporate sector, want to help local government. To them, serving local government has purpose and they want to help it. An idealism exists despite the highly negative partisan climate toward government that we constantly see in the press.

I believe these two trends signal a massive shift ahead in how local governments will change and adapt as Internet/mobile technologies grow more sophisticated, become more ingrained in our lives, and affect the way people interact with their city officials. The article strikes an optimistic note in that, after decades of complaints about citizen apathy, we see signs that technology (Gov 2.0) is untapping a latent demand for more interaction and participation with local government from a whole new generation of young talented people.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
This lengthy report from the United States Government Accountability Office highlights that government agencies often compromise their data and information because of basic security lapses with their wireless technology. Some questions cities can immediately think about and address include:

- What policies are in place concerning wireless encryption, usage, and access?
- How are laptops and mobile devices handled in terms of security?
- When was the last time a security assessment was performed?

It is a shame how basic security lapses can lead to embarrassing and costly compromises to city data. There are some good tips and advice that serve as a starting point for cities in this report.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
This CIO Update article presents some interesting data that shows how common and mainstream server virtualization has become for local government. If it is this mainstream, that means the ROI of virtualization must be growing more and more compelling as these technologies mature.

As one case study in the article points out, the City of Chesapeake, Virginia saved $3,000/month in energy savings, $200,000 in hardware savings, and $120,000 in implementation cost savings. In a July 2010 report from CDW-G, “Seventy-nine percent of state and local government agencies are implementing server, storage and/or client virtualization, and of these, 89 percent say their deployment is successful or somewhat successful...” Among those surveyed, 300 were state and local government IT professionals (the other 300 were federal IT professionals).

If you’re one of the few cities left that has not explored virtualization as an option, better dust off those calculators and start figuring out some ROI!
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
This article about San Francisco’s shift toward open data illustrates both sides of the argument. On one side: Open data can possibly enable economic development, increase civic engagement, and hold cities more accountable. On the other side: Open data requirements may burden IT departments too much and it may burden city staff who have the additional task of submitting data into the open data pool.
The goal of open data is summarized by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s policy adviser Jason Elliott:
“Departments would be required to submit data sets to an online landing pad where that data would be publicly accessible by anyone to develop applications, to see what The City is doing and generally just promote transparency and accountability and openness.”

What’s your take on open data for municipalities?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
The Public Technology Institute and INPUT recently released their annual State of City and County IT National Survey. Coalescing the responses of local government CIOs and IT executives across the United States, the report includes the following highlights:

- 91% of overall IT budgets are staying the same or decreasing. Only 9% are increasing in 2011.
- Public safety / interoperability was the only category in which a majority of respondents (57%) said it was a high IT priority.
- Other areas receiving significant attention in 2011 include public works / facilities infrastructure, green IT, and eGovernment services.
- An overwhelming majority of respondents were skeptical of outsourcing their IT.
- 2012 looks to be the year in which cities will begin collecting increased revenue and upping their spending again.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Dave Mims, President
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager for Sophicity, recently had his article (“Cheap Backup Solutions Aren’t Worth the Risk”) published in the September/October 2010 issue of Minnesota Cities: A Publication of the League of Minnesota Cities. The article covers differences between consumer-grade and business-class internet-based backup solutions, risks associated with consumer-grade backups, and expertise needed for consumer-grade backups. It was featured in the Tech Window section of the magazine.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
At municipal IT conferences and conventions this year, we’ve heard feedback from IT directors and managers that the burden of social media has been unfairly placed onto them. There is often an understandable assumption on the part of non-technical decision makers that social media is simply information technology. The press, Web 2.0 companies, and consumers help create this perception by focusing on social media tools and technologies, but what is often left out of the discussion are marketing, branding, media, and communications principles that form the core of any successful social media initiative. This presentation analyzes why the burden of social media is placed upon IT, why social media is not IT, why organizations need a social media strategy, and what IT’s social media role should be.

Download the presentation here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
Often, cities are so worried about spam, viruses, and hackers from the outside that they fail to realize the biggest threats are internal. A recent report by Forrester Research provides data and advice about IT security risks, including a reference to a 2010 Verizon report in which “nearly half of breaches were the result of users abusing their right to access sensitive data.” Good IT security policies will account for both internal IT security as well as external IT security, and we recommend that city administrators clarify these policies with IT staff and/or vendors.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
In case you are still figuring out ways to utilize Twitter for your city, check out the cities that Twitter the most. In May 2010, NetProspex analyzed social activity across corporate America and government, presenting their findings in this recent Fall 2010 report.

The top ten Twittering cities are:

1. New York City, N.Y.
2. San Francisco, Calif.
3. Washington D.C.
4. Sacramento, Calif.
5. Phoenix, Ariz.
6. Denver, Colo.
7. Las Vegas, Nev.
8. Los Angeles, Calif.
9. Cincinnati, Ohio
10. Wilmington, Del.
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