Mobile devices that work like computers. Software
accessed from clouds. Servers disappearing because they’re no longer needed.
Technology seems to have gone through another revolution in the past few years,
and it’s understandable if the speed of technology has passed you by to some
For many cities that are focused on budgets, operations,
and citizen services, it’s easy to still think of technology as it was 5 or
even 10 years ago. But while you might feel behind, you actually have a great
opportunity to reevaulate your technology, save money, and improve the quality
of your services without too much disruption to your city.
As we help cities modernize their technology, we often
address the following areas where the old way of doing things is bloated and
Many cities that we’ve helped tend to have this kind of
unintentional bloat from not realizing that technology has evolved rather
quickly in just a few short years. But those same cities are happy because we
find opportunity to cut the bloat, reduce costs, and increase the quality of a
city’s information technology. If you haven’t taken a deep dive into your
technology in a while, we encourage you to start with these five areas.
To talk more about simplifying your technology, please contact us.
organizations using consumer cloud software that stores files will think that
same software is sufficient for data backup. But a recent article from Business Insider
suggests otherwise. The article explains how a professor used Dropbox not only
to collaborate with other people but also as a “backup solution.” One day, 200
files and 3,000 pictures were missing, along with a project where the files
were only stored on Dropbox.
what makes the story interesting to the layperson is that these files also
disappeared from computers and an external hard drive where the professor
thought she was backing up these files. The blame game then ensued. Were the
files deleted? Hacked? Is it Dropbox’s fault?
quote for the article is important for understanding how something like this
"We can say with
confidence that this situation did not stem from any Dropbox issues. Dropbox
users can choose to have files synced across their machines. In that case, all
changes made on local machines, including deletions, are synced."
mistake that this professor—and many other users—make is equating file storage
with file backup. On the surface, this situation looks like a backup issue. But
when you sync files across computers, external hard drives, or mobile devices,
you’re not really backing up those files. It’s just another storage and access
point. If the files are synced, then deleting a file from one place will delete
them in all places.
the software worked exactly like it was supposed to work. While the professor synced
files across multiple computers and devices, her crucial mistake was confusing
storage and access with true data backup. To be fair, consumer cloud solution
providers usually don’t go out of their way to tell people this. Such a message
doesn’t help with their marketing, yet that absence of consumer information can
mislead people as to the extent of how secure their files really are.
line: The sync feature becomes a gaping security hole in using consumer cloud
solutions for data backup.
So, we’ve identified a
common IT amateur flaw: using the same storage service for both data backup and
collaboration. In the professor’s case, think about what can happen. You’re
giving file access to your colleagues and students. One of them accidentally
deletes a file. That deletion syncs to all computers and devices. And the more
people who collaborate, the more the risk of accidental deletion increases.
The key is to clearly
separate your collaboration space and the place where you store your backups.
With collaboration, you often can handle that yourself—sharing a username and
password, giving people access to documents, and providing the ability to make
edits and upload files. But your data backups should be secured in an entirely
different way. Only an authorized person should have the username and password
to any backups. That way, if someone accidentally or maliciously deletes files,
they can’t touch your backup location.
Now let’s look at how to
separate data backup from collaboration.
professor did restore her files by a stroke of luck, you may not be so lucky.
We have four important tips that will help you avoid such a situation.
To talk more about data backup, please contact us.
When you’re cleaning up your office or your house, you
must make decisions related to the stuff you own. What do I throw out? What do
I keep? How long do I keep it? Where do I store it? You might think about the rooms
where you’ll store your stuff, or decide if you need the capacity of an
additional storage location.
A new document management system forces you to make the
same kinds of decisions. Often, cities are faced with process decisions that
they’ve never made before about what they define as critically important
documents, what they are required by law to keep, and when they can get rid of
In this post, we discuss some of the main issues you will
need to deal with concerning the storing and archiving of your documents when
implementing a new document management system.
While tackling the problem of document storage and
archiving can be a difficult task at first, the efforts you take—even if they
are minimal and high level at first—will be well worth it. Ultimately, you want
to make sure your documents are stored in a centralized place, archived as
needed, and disposed of when they are no longer needed. That way, your
employees will be able to find relevant information easily and you’ll be
prepared for open records requests, compliance requirements, and other
situations where ready access to your documents is important.
To discuss document storage and archiving in more detail,
please contact us.
In a recent article from CIO Magazine entitled “7 IT Mistakes That Will Get You Fired,” two of those mistakes (#1
“Slacking on backup” and #6 “Unmitigated disaster) have their roots in failing
to test an organization’s data backup. It still saddens us to hear so many
stories of data loss—even at the highest levels of government—where the IT team
simply did not test their data backup.
Why do so many cities and other organizations not test
their data backup? Usually, there is an assumption that “it’s technology, so it
must be working.” But even the most reliable technologies can fail to work,
experience data corruption, or even fail from human negligence. Not testing data
backup means opening yourself up to huge amounts of risk—and usually when you
realize that your data backup actually doesn’t work, it’s already too late.
We mention data backup testing throughout many of our
blog posts and bring it up at many meetings with cities. Since it’s so
important, we’re delving a bit deeper into the topic and outlining the most
important aspects of testing your data backup.
Like the CIO article suggests, you don’t want to get
caught in a situation where a disaster actually strikes and you find your most
important data gone forever. It happens, and the consequences are often ugly—firings,
public embarrassment, critical hits to business operations, and wasted money.
Testing ensures that your data backup processes (and financial investments) are
How would you feel if you drove a car for the first time
if the manufacturer never tested the engine, braking system, or steering wheel
before you bought it? That’s how you should feel if you don’t test your data
To talk more about data backup testing, please contact us.
GMA helps city launch new website, stabilize data backup & disaster recovery, and reduce annual IT costs by almost 70%.
Recently incorporated, Chattahoochee Hills has officially existed as a city since December 1, 2007. While new as a city, a cluster of tight-knit rural communities has existed and grown for over two centuries in the land that is now Chattahoochee Hills. That community spirit helped lead to the drive in the past few decades to carve off its own independent city within Fulton County, Georgia.
As the city began establishing itself, it was hard enough to rely upon only one overburdened IT employee on staff to support the city’s operations. But recently, the city even had to eliminate this position after needing to cut costs. Since then, non-technical city staff have fended for themselves and handled any IT needs. But that’s difficult, and almost impossible, when the city had uncertainty related to the reliability of its data backup, a compromised ability to respond to e-discovery requests from using an obscure email service that was difficult to support, and aging servers and desktop computers that weren’t managed or used properly.
However, the potential high cost of upgrading the city’s technology prevented Chattahoochee Hills’s city leaders from moving forward.
Chattahoochee Hills solved these challenges by using the Georgia
Municipal Association “IT in a Box” service. Powered by Sophicity,
“IT in a Box” is a complete IT solution for cities and local
governments. The service includes a website, data backup, offsite
storage, email, document management, Microsoft Office for
desktops, server and desktop management, vendor management
and a seven-day a week helpdesk.
“IT in a Box” helped Chattahoochee Hills:
Chattahoochee Hills also saved $54,200 (or 51%) of its annual
IT costs between FY 2012 and FY 2013, with no upfront capital
expense when switching over to “IT in a Box.” And from FY 2013
to FY 2014, the city saved an additional $18,505, for a total
annual IT cost reduction over two years of 69%. Even with such
significant cost reductions, “IT in a Box” helped Chattahoochee
Hills stabilize its technology and create a predictable and
affordable IT budget.
Sophicity has been a life saver for the City of
Chattahoochee Hills not only financially but
professionally. Sophicity’s staff has helped
us analyze each of our bills related to IT and
identified areas where we were spending
money that wasn’t necessary for a city of our
size. I would recommend their services to any
City thinking of reducing costs and, at the same
time, maintaining elite services.
- HR/Finance Director Kyle Jones
Print-friendly version of the Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia IT in a Box case study.
Sophicity is an IT products and services company providing technology solutions to city
governments and municipal leagues. Among the services Sophicity delivers in “IT in a
Box” are a website, data backup, offsite data storage, email, document management,
Microsoft Office for desktops, server, desktop, and mobile management, vendor
management and a seven-day a week helpdesk. Read more about IT in a Box.
The question now is
not if, but when, government will start using cloud software. A recent article
in CIO magazine showcases how Microsoft and Google are competing to sell their cloud productivity software to government organizations of all types. While this article
is aimed at larger government agencies and entities, some of the problems it
outlines are ones you may relate to.
Why is government
embracing the cloud so furiously right now? If you haven’t considered cloud
software for your email and productivity software (such as word processing,
spreadsheets, etc.), then consider some of the following reasons why
governments are investing in the cloud.
illustrate why cloud software is becoming the gold standard for any word processing,
spreadsheet, email, and other productivity tools that you’ve used in the past.
If you’ve been putting off your exploration of cloud software, the time is
right for you to look into it now. Not only does your city have the potential
to save money, but the quality of your productivity software—from security to
ease of use—will likely increase by leaps and bounds.
To talk about cloud
software in more detail, please contact us.
We’ve already tackled
pages, and now we look at another critical aspect of your city’s website: the
events page. Typically, most cities have a calendar of events that detail and
highlight everything from city council meetings to fun community events.
While a city’s events
page seems like the most basic of content, there are a few content tips that
can help you make sure that what you’re providing is both useful to citizens
and easy to navigate. Many city calendars are unfortunately unpopulated or hard
to scroll through, and that makes it difficult for citizens to access events
Take the following
suggestions to heart and you will make your events content easy for citizens to
use and consume.
Ultimately, the news and
events pages are your main way to both serve information to and market your
city. The upkeep can be difficult, and you’ll need people staying up on keeping
the calendar up-to-date. But once you get into the habit, you will find
yourself thinking of new events to post that you didn’t think about before. You
can also open up the calendar to citizens, where they can post events that may
be of interest to citizens. You’ll definitely want an approval process before
an event is posted, but that service gives citizens an opportunity to engage
more with your city.
To discuss event content
in more detail, please contact us.
As USA Today recently reported, phishing is alive and well. Phishing
is the tactic by which cybercriminals steal your personal information and
passwords in order to do things like access your bank accounts, use your credit
cards, or hack into sensitive government and business databases. Unfortunately,
these criminals know they can prey on trusting behavior when people are faced
with suspicious websites or emails.
While your IT staff or vendor can help you block many
spam emails and malicious websites, they cannot block them all. Cybercriminals
are always finding ways to bypass filters and look legitimate.
Luckily, most attempts at phishing are easily spotted—but
you have to continually question all communications you receive over the
Internet. To help you and your employees better spot phishing attempts, use the
following tips to question your way through a suspicious email or website.
Most phishing attempts can be discovered by examining the
subject and sender lines in an email. On a website, look for suspicious, vague,
or missing contact information as a sign that it’s not legitimate.
Cybercriminals play upon people’s gullibility and
psychological weaknesses, and even the best of us can get fooled sometimes. But
usually most phishing attempts can be spotted simply by looking for anything
suspicious about a website or email that breaks your usual pattern of doing
something. It’s always better to ask about a website or email and later find out
it’s safe, rather than download a virus or submit sensitive information that
leads to a lot of financial and operational harm to your city.
So, always question, be alert, and look for any red flags related to Internet and email communications. To talk about preventing phishing attacks, please contact us.
Unlike other technologies
that you don’t interact with every day, you most likely directly understand the
power of the mobile revolution. Over the past few years, the phone in your hand
has become almost or even more important than your desktop or laptop computer.
Not only it is your phone, but it’s also your connection to email, web
browsing, and a variety of important business and personal tools. You may even
carry around a tablet that does many of the same things but also serves as the
way you read books, record video, and give presentations.
Many cities tap into the
power of mobile technology in a haphazard, individualized fashion. Certain people
might be mavericks or pioneers in using their mobile devices for taking cool
videos, giving a presentation at a City Council meeting, or using a mobile app
for their job. But how do you get a city, as a whole, using mobile technology
in a more beneficial way?
Here are a few areas
where you can get more power out of the mobile devices that people are already
using, whether they bring their own devices to work or you give devices to
Now that you’ve gotten
used to some functional aspects of mobile devices, really start thinking along
the lines above to more creatively leverage the power of mobile. It’s a great
way to stay connected with your citizens and give them more opportunity to
engage and interact with your city. Remember, while mobile technology may be
new, it delivers upon a timeless principle of government. You want to connect
with citizens and measure their engagement. Mobile helps you deliver upon that
promise in a way that was unheard of a few years ago.
To talk more about
making your technology mobile-friendly, please
on your computer can feel very personal. Your email, documents, and data feel
like private information. If you’re at home using your own equipment, that’s
the ideal. No one should have access to your information other than you.
the rules change when you’re in a work environment—and especially a government
environment. Government in particular requires a lot of transparency, and city
administration often needs to respond to open records requests and other legal demands
to see any records of specific city business.
means when you work for a city, your work is essentially city property. That
includes even email communications. Usually, there’s not much reason for
someone to look at your computer or emails. But it’s within the scope of city
administration to examine your email if need be.
sometimes the reason for the examination of your emails and files might be an
open records request or investigating illegitimate employee activity, in other
cases it’s for productivity reasons. If you’re hired to do a specific job and
you’re not doing it, city administration has the right to produce evidence that
you are not being productive.
result, employees should never consider their online behavior at work as
private. For example, while social media is becoming more and more of a
legitimate activity for marketing and public relations at cities, there’s a
difference between using Facebook and Twitter as part of your job versus using
it to waste time.
the network data shows that you’re spending four hours a day on Facebook when
your job doesn’t require it, that’s evidence of a problem. If you’re connected
to a network at your city, there’s a good chance your social media activity is
being easily tracked—and flagged.
have begun to implement computer usage policies to counteract this loss of
productivity from social media, These policies can either be manual, such as a
policy telling employees what sites they can and can’t use. If they are allowed
to use sites like Facebook or Twitter, it’s clearly defined how—and how often.
Some cities even take this a step further and invest money in website blocking
systems. That means employees are simply unable to access certain social media
sites that may distract from their work.
it’s not this cut and dry. After all, there are many other websites that
distract people other than social media sites. Employers may implement systems
to block personal web surfing, but employees should know that city
administration is more likely to log their Internet surfing data and approach
employees about any potential problems. Employees can be shocked when this
happens because they often get a false sense of security when they feel they
have the freedom to access any website they want at work. However, they cannot
assume that because a website isn’t blocked that nobody is paying attention to
their web traffic.
email seems like it should be more private than web surfing. Today, government
transparency grows in importance, and it’s less acceptable for government to
rely on free email accounts that cannot be managed. That means more
enterprise-class email systems managed by IT staff or a vendor are being
implemented at cities.
kinds of email systems not only help with government transparency but also log
all email traffic. If an employee tries to cover their tracks by deleting
obscene, illegal, or personal emails that show an improper use of work time and
resources, they should know there is still a trail that others can find and
some people may cry out that this sounds a lot like Big Brother or privacy
violation, the reality is that businesses and government property are just
that—property. Getting hired to work and use another entity’s resources means
that you are responsible for a job and specific actions enabled by your work
email and software. When an employer steps forth to point out that an employee is
sending out reams of emails unrelated to their job, conducting a side business
through accessing a particular website all day, or spending most of their day
on Facebook, then that employer has the right to use that evidence as
justification for firing that employee.
importantly, when city government gets challenged to produce data or evidence
about something related to city (public) business, access to all relevant
government information is required—including even a specific employee’s email
your city email and files are not your property. It may feel private to you,
but it’s a myth to think that no one is looking at your work email or files.
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