When most people want to avoid computer viruses, the
common wisdom says to focus on your antivirus software. Of course, that’s a
sensible strategy since the purpose of antivirus software is to stop viruses
from ever infecting your computer. This report from KUTV in Salt Lake City, Utah is typical of the
kind of advice that’s usually dispensed in lieu of a particularly nasty virus
Only at the tail end of this report, buried underneath
advice about antivirus software and even paying a ransom to criminals in order
to get a businessperson’s data back, do we hear about data backup. Even more
than antivirus software, data backup is actually your best antivirus
Even Microsoft said in a recent post that “the most important tool for dealing
with ransomware is to make sure computers are backed up.” Why? Let’s look at
Data backup is a more fundamental and important way to
prevent the effects of a virus outbreak than even antivirus software. We
recommend making sure you have a data backup and disaster recovery solution in
place, combined with an enterprise antivirus solution that is managed by IT
And even though the businessperson in the TV clip paid
the criminals that held his data hostage, we recommend to never pay a ransom!
These are criminals. It is not guaranteed that you will get your data back, and
they may also use your credit card information to commit identity theft. With
data backup in place, you won’t even be tempted to pay a criminal for your
To talk about data backup and antivirus software in more
detail, please contact us.
We get a lot of
questions about the possibility of switching to free or low-cost productivity
software. The argument usually goes like this: We don’t use all of the features
in our current productivity software and the licenses are expensive. Therefore,
can we use the free software that most of us use at home?
On the surface, free or
low-cost productivity software seems to do the same things that your more
expensive software does. Plus, compatibility usually isn’t too much of an issue
since it’s easier than ever to convert document types.
But like any business
decision, there are a lot of factors to weigh about considering what
productivity software you use. It may seem like all tools do the same thing,
but you’ll hit walls or levels of frustration that affect your employees if you
take a cost-cutting shortcut without proper analysis. Here are some questions
to ask if you’re considering reevaluating your current productivity software
By asking the questions
above, you’ll be well on your way to understanding your productivity software
needs. If you’re lucky and do your due diligence, you might find some
substantial cost savings in going from expensive capital expenses and software
licenses to an operational expense cloud subscription model with cheaper
storage space. But before you simply switch, tempted by cost reductions, make
sure you have the right productivity software suite for you.
To talk about
productivity software in more detail, please contact us.
In no way do we dismiss
the fact that cloud software has security risks, despite the significant
advances made in this area. It’s well known that vendors have been able to
reassure major local and state government entities that security is robust
enough to take care of high-level needs. The state of Texas is a popular example, but a recent article by BWWGeeksWorld shows plenty of examples of state and local
government entities using the cloud for sensitive departments such as public
But when research,
surveys, and our own industry experience and observations look deeper into
concerns about cloud security, the root problems are often much deeper than
questions about cloud software encryption or how a vendor stores data in the
cloud. As competition and IT maturity improve the security behind most cloud
software, we find that alleviating those worries doesn’t even compare with the
threat of existing security problems at cities.
Let’s take a closer look
at what we should really worry about.
observations aren’t meant to ignore or obfuscate any concerns about cloud
software security. Our point is that cloud software security has matured so that many older concerns are lessened by how vendors build in essential
aspects such as encryption, run the software at rigorously maintained data
centers, and comply with many stringent requirements that accommodate
everything from the federal government to healthcare. Stacking that progress up
against some of the security gaps often found at cities, we argue that any cloud
security conversations need to be reframed. How does cloud software security
compare with your current security investments, policies, and procedures?
Answer that question, and you’re on your way to understanding how cloud
software can improve upon your current security.
To talk more about cloud
security, please contact us.
If it seems like we’ve been writing about the benefits of
cloud software and technology a lot, it’s because this technology has a
far-reaching effect into so many important areas that impact cities. And no
area could be more important than keeping city operations running in case of a
In a recent article from InformationWeek Government,
the author talks about how the General Services Administration (GSA)
experienced disaster in the form of Hurricane Sandy. A few years ago, lost
power and flooding would have meant destroyed email servers. But with its email
in the cloud, GSA employees worked remotely from home and coffee shops until
they could return to their offices.
More importantly, services kept running despite near
total disaster at GSA offices. While it’s fun to talk about how the cloud
reduces costs and gives your workforce more remote access to city information,
its true power shines in a disaster. Here are a few ways that happens.
When you think about your disaster recovery and business
continuity plans, be sure to consider cloud software if you haven’t invested in
it already. As you can see, the benefits in a disaster are invaluable—from
making sure your data isn’t lost to being able to serve citizens despite
significant damage to buildings and resources.
To talk about disaster recovery in more detail, please contact us.
In our many blog posts about the cloud, we usually cover
core essential software such as operating systems, data backup, and email. But
the cloud applies to many other often unexpected areas of operations and business
A great article on the American Express Open Forum blog
explains nine unique ways to use the cloud, including even areas such as
language translation. However, we’d like to elaborate upon two of the items
that this article mentions: phone systems and remote support. Since these two
areas impact cities heavily, we want to share our thoughts on why you should
consider the cloud even for these services.
If you dislike the complicated phrase “Voice over
Internet protocol” (or “VoIP”), you can now think of it as “cloud phone.” With
voice data transmitted over the Internet, cloud software can now manage the
software that takes care of your phone needs. The combination of high-speed
Internet and the ability to host telephony software in the cloud creates an
opportunity for Internet phone service to match (and sometimes even exceed) the
quality of landline phone systems.
While landline phone systems are still a sturdy service, a recent blog post from National Public Radio points out that less
and less people are using them. (It’s currently 71% for a service that used to
be almost 100%). Plus, the infrastructure is aging and decaying, with less and
less people available with the knowledge to repair it. You may still need
landline phone systems for particular departments or as redundancy for
important services like 911, but considering cloud phone is a good bet
considering the bleak future of landline phone infrastructure.
The good news that we’ve seen when helping cities shift
to VoIP is that:
While there are still a few disadvantages to cloud phone
software, those disadvantages are mostly related to lack of high-speed Internet
access, the quality of a city’s network infrastructure, and the level of IT
support you have on hand. As long as you have high-speed Internet access and
quality IT support, then you should seriously consider hosting your phone
system in the cloud.
One of the great things about core cloud software such as
operating systems, email, and document management is that these systems can be
supported remotely, no matter where your employees are or what device they use.
With older software, the back end was not built for easy-to-use remote support,
if at all. You may use some older software that can only be supported onsite or
through a difficult VPN connection where your employee has to allow access to
New software is built for the cloud and unshackles itself
from adhering to a specific device. For example, let’s say your employee logs
in through the cloud to their desktop at work. That means their entire work
platform is just a piece of software accessed through the Internet. If there is
a problem, your IT support would have access to that particular piece of cloud
software without having to touch or enter that employee’s desktop, laptop, or
mobile device. The same logic applies to IT support problems with email,
document management systems, or other cloud-based software.
So, if your employee is at work, at home, on the road, or
simply accessing their software through a tablet or smartphone, IT support will
be able to solve most issues remotely. By making support management easier for
your IT staff or vendor, cloud software allows your employees to benefit from
getting problems resolved without having to go into the office or giving an IT
person access to their entire personal device.
These are just two ideas that the American Express post
offered up. After reading the rest of the article, we would think that cities
could also ask questions such as:
The cloud introduces new opportunities and possibilities for all kinds of operational and productivity improvements. To talk more about these possibilities, please contact us.
It’s tempting to think that the cost of hardware is
simply the purchase of a machine. Maybe you also include the cost of the
software on the server or workstation. But the full cost of hardware includes
many aspects that cities and other organizations often fail to track—leading to
inaccurate perceptions about how much the hardware actually costs.
Since cloud software often eliminates a lot of hardware,
it’s helpful to reveal in more detail how much onsite hardware actually costs.
Let’s look at how we break down hardware costs when looking at what’s called
Total Cost of Ownership. We’ll assume we’ve already accounted for the actual
purchase price of the hardware and software.
It’s usually by neglecting one or more of these areas
that unexpectedly leads to a surge in high IT costs when cities experience
hardware issues or failure. The total cost of ownership for hardware covers a
lot of areas. Some of those areas can be lessened in cost from eliminating as
much hardware as you can and moving to cloud software. But if you still need
hardware onsite, then looking at the costs as more than just purchasing the
hardware will be helpful for your budgeting and purchasing processes.
If you want to talk about hardware in more detail, please contact us.
A recent study from Stanford University quoted in a PCWorld article pointed out that teleworking is actually
more productive than working in an office. While there are still logistical,
social, and operational reasons why people need to show up at the office, the
myth that teleworking is less productive than working in an office has been
debunked yet again.
Cities may still balk at letting employees telework, not
so much from trust but more about concerns with technology. If the technology
isn’t there to support teleworking, then people will have to come into the
office whether they like it or not.
When you boil down the elements of a day at the office,
it’s really the ability to meet, call, work, access information, and store
information. If you can do those things from home or a remote location, you can
telework. Here, we provide a technology checklist of these essential work
functions to see if you’re equipped to telework.
Really, after taking care of these technology needs, the
only issue left for teleworking is one of personal responsibility. While
certain types of jobs might still be good to keep onsite (such as customer
service or highly interactive work such as a city clerk), there are quite a few
jobs where the work can be done remotely. As long as you’ve hired someone who
has proven their personal responsibility, teleworking can not only help raise
morale (giving flexibility to employees who may have special family or personal
needs) but also reduce the amount of space used in your buildings.
To talk about teleworking in more detail, please contact us.
31% of desktops still use Windows XP, so chances are you may be one of those organizations with people still using it. While it’s understandable to stick with a familiar operating system out of habit, it’s important to understand how much your already high security and cyber liability risks will increase after Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP on April 8, 2014.
At Sophicity, we want to make sure that cities are not exposing sensitive data and critical information to hackers and data thieves. By staying on Windows XP, it’s like you’re leaving the front door open for criminals to steal your data.
Here are some important security points about the dangers of keeping Windows XP.
Windows XP was an expensive investment. Why are there such security risks in software from such a well-known vendor like Microsoft?
Windows XP came out in 2001. If you bought a new car in 2001, you might still be using it today. But no matter how good it was, today it’s outdated and lacks important modern safety features that have evolved over the last 12 years. Software works the same way but becomes even more obsolete, quicker, because of the fast pace of technology. So many security threats and responses to those threats have occurred since 2001. The way Windows XP was fundamentally built means that it lacks critical security features that are now built into modern operating systems. Such an old piece of software cannot be “fixed” by Microsoft. That’s why they just build new operating systems every few years.
What are the specific security risks?
When support ends on April 8, 2014, Windows Updates will stop. As you may know from using your individual computer, Windows Updates often include important security patches and malicious software removal tools to preventatively address security threats. When those updates stop coming, Windows XP simply cannot respond to the plethora of modern security attacks and to criminals exposing holes in this old software. As a result, you will be more vulnerable to attacks.
Why can’t I just use antivirus software?
Antivirus software alone does not protect any computer, including Windows XP computers. A computer needs a combination of well-built modern software with security protection built in, updates and patches from the software vendor (such as Windows Updates), and antivirus software all working together to provide a strong security foundation. Only relying on antivirus software for an unsupported Windows XP is like installing an alarm system in a building with no locks and that no one ever visits in person.
If you want to take next steps to decommission Windows XP, we recommend that you:
If you’ve seen the TV show Parks and Recreation,
you know that even through the satire the show’s writers still communicate an
understanding that a city’s parks and recreation department is important for a
community. Parks and recreational activities bring citizens, civic groups, and
tourists together to partake in a city’s quality of life. It’s a critical way
for a city to market itself to both citizens and possible future residents.
That means your parks and recreation page must
accommodate a variety of needs and questions that people have when exploring
your city’s website. To help you analyze if you have the right information on
your parks and recreation page, check to see if you provide the following
content to your website visitors.
Once you have the foundations of this page’s information
down, you can enhance the page by adding visuals. Showcasing pictures of your
parks, trails, community centers, natural beauty, and past events will
reinforce the quality of life of your city and the vitality of your parks and
recreational facilities. Overall, with just some basic information you can
create a useful, functional page that works for citizens, groups, and tourists
To talk about your website content in more detail, please contact us.
Information security is not something you should assume
or feel in your gut. Yet, a study shows that many organizations think that way.
Referenced in a recent PC World article, a joint study between
Office Depot and McAfee revealed a few startling statistics about small and
medium business owners:
Since we always notice many parallels between SMBs and
cities, it’s safe to say from our observations that many cities feel a similar
false sense of security. But are you really secure? To check, ask yourself the
While the PC World article states that there is no one size fits
all situation to help solve an organization’s data security, we do feel that
there are some common areas that can be addressed. Yes, each city might
approach data backup or mobile security differently. But the point is that
these areas need to be addressed, whatever the details. Your city’s data is too
important to be so unprotected.
To talk about data security in more detail, please contact us.
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