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CitySmart Blog

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.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Sophicity recently published Online Payments Can Reduce Cost, Increase Quality in the September-October 2011 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine. The magazine is published by the League of Minnesota Cities and focuses on a variety of contemporary municipal issues. We encourage you to read the complete article and also visit the League of Minnesota Cities online.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Just returned from the IT Summit in Little Rock Arkansas. This was the 10th anniversary meeting of the SMC. What a great trip regrouping once again with the collective Municipal League ThinkTank from across many of our states. So much covered in three days spanning enterprise imaging, securing the consumerization of IT devices being pushed on our networks, cloud computing, VOIP, Office 365, cloud based backup and DR, and much much more. My head is still swimming from this very bright group of technology leaders... Good technology, good food, and very good conversations. :)
Friday, October 21, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

As technology and hackers become more and more sophisticated, IT security teams have to keep a closer eye on their networks, making sure an electronic attack does not destroy their sites or important data. For state and local government agencies, it is critical that CIOs and other team members understand the security threats, and most importantly, how to keep the IT environments safe.

The question is, are you up to speed on your cyber-security essentials? I recently read an AT&T white paper, titled “Cyber-Security Essentials for State and Local Government” and was able to take away several key points about cyber-security on the state and government level:

·         Network and IT Infrastructure Security. A successful attack can cripple a network, compromise sensitive data, attract negative publicity and be costly to remediate. It could lead to fines and civil lawsuits. Guarding your network and IT infrastructure requires vigilance. How can you stay prepared?

o    Assess Your Needs

o    Assess Your Current Infrastructure

o    Classify and Evaluate Data

o    Evaluate Security Infrastructure for a Move to the Cloud

·         Vulnerability and Threat Management. Vulnerability and threat management requires continuous monitoring, collecting and analysis of security event data. It’s about knowing your infrastructure well, and knowing what attacks could do it harm. It’s looking at trends and identifying new types of attacks. 

How can you keep your network safe?

o    Proper employee training

o    Careful authentication and authorization of those using your network and resources, intrusion detection and prevention

o    Proper defense against DDoS attacks

These are just a few pointers. For a more detailed list, be sure to read the complete AT&T white paper here.

Friday, October 21, 2011
Quan Ouyang, Senior Software Developer
I recently participated in a discussion and hands on exploration of Code-First which is included in the Entity Framework 4.1 release. Code-First provides a convention over configuration approach to development that is very code-centric instead of existing Database First and Model First patterns. You simply define your database or object models by writing plain old classes. Radical, right? ;-)
 
For more info refer to the MSDN website for the latest on Entity Framework and Code First video tutorials (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/data/ef).
Friday, October 14, 2011
Dave Mims, President

There’s been a lot of rumbling about the cloud lately. In a June blog, I pointed out some stats on cloud usage and security issues in the cloud. And in August, TechAmerica Foundation formed a commission of industry experts on cloud adoption.

The Foundation’s commission, or CLOUD2/SLG (for short), was established as a resource for state and local government looking for recommendations on a variety of cloud issues, including procurement practices, delivery of services and deployment. Recommendations provided by CLOUD2/SLG will help municipalities rapidly access and deploy cloud solutions as a way to streamline their IT costs.

An important component missing from CLOUD2/SLG is SLG representation itself. When asked why SLGs weren’t included, TechAmerica officials didn’t have an answer. However, they did create an advisory board of government officials to work with the commission. The list of advisors was announced October 6.

Although the lack of SLG presence might not make sense, it’s good to see a commission that understands the value of cloud computing on the state and local level.

Thursday, October 13, 2011
Dave Mims, President

Will your IT costs remain within budget this year?  Did they last year?  What about the year before?

If your IT spending has not been within budget, you have a problem.

Predictable annual IT spending is possible. Our customers realize it year after year…

Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Dave Mims, President

I read articles like this that have good recommendations, but I am of the opinion that there is more to it than just the need for policy. Especially when you consider that it is sadly too common for IT to be addressed reactively. Reactive implies neglect.

Neglect in an organization is allowed, or even driven top-down, by the decision makers (the leadership). If the leadership doesn’t feel it is important then it doesn’t get done. It gets neglected. But, when something breaks or is compromised, a rush is made to put out the fires. Therefore, neglect is an intentional decision to put our fires, potentially very costly fires... Following even the most basic of IT best practices will contribute toward a stable IT environment for municipalities and businesses to operate in order to provide their services reliably to customers.

What do you plan to do when your unsupported dated server crashes, no backups work, a virus outbreak is identified (after months), accounting data has been compromised, customer data has been compromised, and yes even an earthquake or devastating storm hits like what has been seen recently up the east coast.  Who will your citizens turn to?  Who will your customers turn to?

Be intentional, but not negligent…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Ray Pedroso, Apptix VoIP Business Specialist
Financial responsibility. Effective communication. Internal efficiency. These are goals that government agencies work hard to meet every day. However, the technology used to reach these goals has changed; email, websites, and security cameras are all tools that have become important in just a few years. Yet one piece of indispensible equipment too often gets neglected, even though we use it every day – the good old-fashioned telephone. But how “good” is your phone?
 
Voice over Internet Protocol, better known as VoIP, is an internet-based form of telephone service. It offers a reliable, technologically advanced alternative to traditional PBX systems. Although VoIP has been around for years, many government agencies and organizations have not adopted it for a simple reason: their current phones are still working. However, hosted VoIP service has a number of features and benefits that can help you reach your goals better than traditional telephony solutions.
 
Financial Responsibility
VoIP represents significant cost savings on a monthly basis, with plans providing reasonable local calling and unlimited long-distance in the United States and Canada. Low set-up fees and affordable equipment (whether purchased or leased) contribute to a low total cost of ownership for state-of-the-art functionality. In addition, hosted VoIP service is completely scalable. Adding or deleting users is simple, and you only pay for the users you have.
 
Effective Communication
Because VoIP is internet-based, it is possible to have identical, seamlessly integrated services across multiple locations. Enterprise-class call management capabilities, including extension dialing, call transfer, call forwarding, call waiting, email to voice mail, and an “auto-attendant” (virtual receptionist) are all standard features available even to small organizations. Telephone communication becomes more powerful and more professional through these advanced features, with no loss of quality. Your calls are carried over a private, managed network that ensures top Quality of Service (QoS) for your voice and data calls.
 
Internal Efficiency
The transition to VoIP is easy – most providers pre-configure the equipment and some may even assign a dedicated resource to guide users through the process. In addition, there is no loss of productivity associated with the move –Local Number Portability (LNP) allows users to maintain the same phone numbers that constituents are familiar with, so government communications can continue as usual. 
 
Once the system is in place, web-based system management tools provide anywhere, anytime access to mange accounts, create greetings, add hold music or messages, or to set inbound and outbound calling rules. Internet devices such as PCs can function as “phones” on a VoIP system, enabling you to stay connected with the same level of quality and functionality from virtually any location.
 
An investment in a hosted VoIP system is an investment in the quality of your communications. VoIP is flexible, scalable, and cost effective, allowing governments and agencies to take advantage of updated technology without a large up-front expense.  VoIP ensures that your phone really is good enough to meet your needs.

Ray Pedroso is a VoIP business specialist for Apptix, a premier provider of business communication and collaboration services including voice, email, and web conferencing. For more information about Apptix VoIP services, visit www.apptix.com or contact Ray at 866.688.0127 ext. 4015.

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