As cities continue to rely more and more on technology,
they also worry more and more about what’s called “cyber liability.” By not
protecting electronic data in the right ways, cities can find themselves
exposed to lawsuits, fines, and severe operational issues. For good reason,
cities are increasingly worried about cyber liability.
But often, cities don’t know what they don’t know. What needs to be done to protect cities? While we’ve written about cyber liability in detail in the past, we’ll use this post to share three key insights that we heard discussed at a recent panel discussion at the 2013 Kentucky League of Cities Conference & Expo.
To start thinking about cyber liability, consider the
Poor, cheap technology maintenance increases your risk of
viruses, hacking, malware, and other activities that lead to liabilities such
as data theft, fraud, and other cybercrimes.
If you’re still worried about the cost of such technology
investments, we’ll leave you with two thoughts.
To talk about cyber liability in more detail, please contact us.
Many cities and other government entities have rapidly
made the shift from their old email servers and software to cloud email. Many
of the reasons have to do with back-end technology aspects such as easier
management, security, and data backup.
But cloud email is unique in that it’s a technology where
you can actually touch and feel many of its benefits. Compared to older email
services, there are some night and day differences you can actually see and
experience that will have a tangible impact on your day-to-day work and
Here are five features that we’ve noticed particularly
appeal to city staff and administrators.
While we’ve discussed the back-end benefits of cloud
email in past blog posts, the user benefits are just as important in many ways.
What strikes us as especially noteworthy is how many different kinds of
software are now consolidated and leave very little for people to worry about
anymore. Cloud email—like many kinds of cloud software—combines different pieces
of important software and creates an easy-to-use experience while eliminating
some of the annoying aspects of email that used to be so hard to manage.
Overall, cloud email is that rare technology where your city staff can
immediately experience the benefits.
To talk about cloud email in more detail, please contact us.
When we walk into cities for the first time and see
unused servers or watch people using outdated software, it’s easy to blame
these issues on vendors. We might hear “Our servers don’t work right” or “We
were sold the wrong software.” To a certain point, vendors may shoulder some of
the blame. Cities understandably want to make sure they are fully using their
technology investments and that all technology is up-to-date and supported.
But such a situation signifies a deeper problem that also
affects how vendors are managed—and that’s matching your technology to user
needs. It sounds almost too simple on the surface. “Well, of course our
technology meets user needs. People use it, don’t they?”
However, we find that a lot of technology was purchased
without the buy-in of the city employees that actually use it. Sometimes, a
vendor can do an excellent sales job talking about features, but failing to
talk about the user experience. It’s only too late when you realize that the technology
did not live up to its original promise.
Here are some user-focused questions we tend to ask when
evaluating new and existing technology vendors for cities. These questions help
make sure you’re only investing in needed technologies and that the cost of
those technologies will be as low as possible.
Once you thoroughly understand your users’ needs, it
becomes much easier to clearly specify what technology you need, talk to
vendors about only necessary updates and features, and ensure that your
investments are tied to a positive end result. Vendors usually are mismanaged
when you’re not clear on what the technology investment is supposed to do or
who is supposed to gain the most benefit from it. Since vendors will not
necessarily look out for your best interest, you need to do your own upfront
homework to make sure the technology is a fit.
To talk more about vendor management and user needs, please contact us.
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.
Our Focus | Products | Resources | Company | Contact | Sitemap | Login
© 2009-2014 Sophicity, all rights reserved. Sophicity®, "We put the IT in City”, and the Sophicity logo are registered trademarks of Sophicity.