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CitySmart Blog

Friday, August 5, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Is your city being just as intentional as Steven VanRoekel (@stevenvDC)? Steven is our new U.S. CIO, and he plans to focus at the national government level on:
  • nimble adoption of technology
  • cloud computing
  • cybersecurity
If local government is not focusing on these very same things, then:
  • how much money is being wasted?
  • how much productivity is being lost?
  • is city data at risk for loss?
  • is city financial data at risk for compromise?
  • is personal citizen data at risk for compromise?
  • is a hacker being more intentional with our city?
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
I recently attended the Atlanta Technology Summit’s Security in an era of Cloud Computing event. There were lots of nuggets shared, and one in particular was learning about the Cloud Security Alliance.  This is an independent consortium of security professionals working to establish security standards for the cloud.
The summit was a day well spent meeting with peers in our industry exchanging insight, lessons learned, and warnings on this topic. My top 3 takeaways from the summit are:
  • Pick a cloud provider that has been around for a long time, i.e. Google, Microsoft, Amazon.  The larger the entity, the more they will have to lose if a breach or failure occurs.
  • Create a strategy for migration to a cloud provider and also prepare a plan for migration away from it.  Make sure that you know what your exit strategy looks like when the cloud provider discontinues services or you decide to leverage another platform from a different vendor.
  • You can outsource the infrastructure but not the responsibilities. You are still responsible for testing and auditing your processes to ensure that reasonable due diligence has been done to avoid risks and issues.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Not just a risk to small businesses in our communities! This is also a recommended read for awareness for our local municipalities too. Don't take malware lightly. Read more at http://t.co/UVudHND
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
Be careful of reusing usernames and passwords! That's one way hackers compromised this Public Safety office. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/42mjhur
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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Billy Edwards
City Manager
City of Hinesville, Georgia

Billy Edwards is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the City of Hinesville, Georgia and oversees all City government departments. He acts as a liaison between the City Council and the public by responding to inquiries and resolving conflicts. He is also responsible for oversight of the City Council meeting agenda process and implementing policy decisions made by the Council members. Having served at the City for over 30 years, Billy has a wealth of experience in city administration and shared some of his insights with Sophicity.

What are the biggest challenges facing the City of Hinesville?
The biggest hurdle to overcome is budgetary concerns in a down economy. Last year, when we were putting together our current fiscal year budget, we had to make some tough decisions. We ended up dipping into our fund balance much deeper than I think anyone was comfortable doing. However, we were able to avoid layoffs and substantial reductions in services or employee benefits.
At the same time, we are a growing community. We’re not growing as fast if economic circumstances had been different, but we’re still growing. We have some capital projects that need to get done, and getting funding for those is obviously far more difficult now than it was then. We’ve got some infrastructure issues primarily with regard to potable water demand which we anticipate increasing as a result of continued growth. We expect to grow substantially over the next 10 years or so, and some of our growth will be the result of additional troops assigned to Fort Stewart over the next 4 years.

How does technology fit into the City of Hinesville’s strategic vision?
Along with enhancing communication, technology allows fewer people to get more accomplished. One example of technology’s benefits for the City of Hinesville is with water meter reading. Back in the old days, we had meter readers go out, visually look at every water meter, write down the data in their car, and bring it back to the office so they could key punch it into a computer. Then a bill would be produced as a result of that process. We gradually migrated to a system where meter readers do not actually have to read or write any data down. All data is captured on a little portable computer that they carry around with them. They also use a system that will allow 2 or 3 people to read the entire county’s water meter data in one day. That helps us get more accomplished with fewer people and frees up staff time so they can do more service calls.
About 20% of our utility customers pay their bills online now. When face-to-face contact with water customers is reduced, customer service representatives have more time to focus on service and less time having to multitask. That’s helping us substantially. We are also building a citywide wireless network for our employees. It’s primarily for public safety (police and fire), but other employees can use it too. Those individuals will have wireless connectivity if they are on a City-owned network. At this point in time, we have to deploy hot spots to accomplish this goal. That means staff has to drive to a hot spot to get connectivity to the City’s network.
There are many benefits to having a citywide wireless network. For example, if a police officer is out in the field, he or she can write up a report immediately instead of having to come back to the office. Wireless also helps us in an area like the inspections department. Inspections staff is able to provide near real-time information back to their department, which can facilitate the building permit process. Overall, we find that wireless improves response time and also cuts down on travel time.

How has the City of Hinesville leveraged GIS?
We’ve had a GIS operation for probably 25 years at the City of Hinesville. As an example of how we use this information on a daily basis, I recall recently visiting with a citizen and utilizing GIS data to explain why he couldn’t do what he wanted to do on his property. We looked at an aerial photograph that showed clearly why their property situation was a certain way. GIS is a great communication tool. It’s also helpful for economic development because we’re able to meet with individuals who are interested in potentially locating a business in Hinesville. GIS helps us better discuss what property is available and what kinds of services we have. Also, departments such as police, fire, and inspections use GIS very effectively.

How have mobile devices impacted the City of Hinesville?
Sometimes I feel we can be a little too connected to our mobile devices, but I also don’t know what we’d do without them anymore. Their primary purpose is to help us stay connected and communicate, but they also help me individually to keep my schedule organized. I am anything but in control of my time since I’m often at the service of city staff, elected officials, and citizens. But my mobile device allows me to stay abreast of where, when, and what I’m supposed to be doing. Since I am called out of the office so much, I’m able to stay connected to my email and other data which prevents me from getting swamped whenever I return to my office.
With everyone always checking their smart phones, the downside is that we have a tendency to lose focus on what we’re doing at the time. I don’t know how somebody can focus on what a speaker is trying to tell you when you’re texting or responding to email. I think we’ve diluted our attention so that we don’t focus enough on what we’re doing at the time we’re doing it, and so our depth of understanding is somewhat minimized.

How do you stay informed about not only your City but also wider municipal trends?
For me, the Georgia City-County Management Association (GCCMA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) are the two primary points of intersection with my colleagues. I think everybody, regardless of industry, should have a group of individuals from their profession who they talk with on a regular basis. There are people I call on for advice and ideas on occasion, and it’s reciprocated.
Within the City, I meet with key staff on a regular basis. That includes our IT director, police chief, fire chief, chief financial officer, and other department heads. We’re all in close proximity to each other, so we stay in touch and they keep me abreast of anything significant I need to know. We have bi-monthly staff meetings and review Council meeting agendas to make sure we have all of our bases covered, but we also use that opportunity for each staff member to inform other staff members about key issues that may impact or be of interest to the other departments.

What do you do for fun?
I like to spend time with my family. I also like fishing. I enjoy salt water fishing in Liberty and McIntosh Counties and catching speckled trout, redfish, and flounder. It’s nice being out on the water in a boat even if you don’t catch any fish. I’m actually rebuilding a boat right now. I’ve got a little 14-foot fiberglass boat that I’ve gutted, and I plan to tear it up and rebuild it. It remains to be seen whether or not I have the courage to put it in the water!
Visit the City of Hinesville, Georgia online at cityofhinesville.org.
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