The Tribune 4.2 release has been completed and tested, and Sophicity.com has been running on it now for weeks. Our release date is Friday, July 12.
This release includes:
The next release will have Mobile Friendly Administration that allows you to add, update, and delete content on your Tribune website from mobile devices. Our ETA to deliver this next release is October.
On the radar to come:
As always, as you have recommendations for product features you would like to see, please contact us.
One question we often hear from cities is “Is it safe
to have my data in the cloud?” The main reason for this concern is a big
change in IT habits over the past few years. If cities are used to how data was
stored 5-10 years ago, it feels more secure when data is stored onsite. You can
see the machines that are storing your data, and somehow you feel better
knowing it’s all there.
Actually, your data is less safe when it’s stored at your
city rather than in the cloud. Cities are usually not IT companies, and there
are often limitations in how cities manage and maintain their servers, create
data backup and redundancy, and secure their data from hacking and theft.
If that wasn’t convincing enough, it’s a simple fact that
data is moving into the cloud because it’s safer, more secure, more
cost-effective, and less hassle for individuals, businesses, government
entities, and any organization. In this post, we explain some of the key
reasons why storing your data in the cloud is safer.
Understanding how the cloud works at the data center
level can help alleviate fears about how it’s secured. Letting go of your data
can be hard. Even Sophicity went through a process where our dyed-in-the-wool
IT experts who love their servers and technology had to phase out all of our hardware
into the cloud. Feeling like you’re losing control can feel like a loss of
security, but it was the right move. We not only saved money but also could scale
up our technology faster and allow our staff more flexibility to work from
As you can see, cloud vendors at the Microsoft and Google
level have too much to lose and too many important clients to protect. They are
throwing billions of dollars of resources to protect your data that no single
organization can match. And that’s why the cloud is so revolutionary. It’s
truly a leap forward in data security and management.
To talk about the cloud in more detail, please contact us.
While we’ve touted the benefits of Voice over IP (VoIP)
phone systems in the past, we’ve also acknowledged when you hit limitations.
What are those limitations? And why do they exist?
To begin, it helps to define again what VoIP really does.
Instead of transmitting phone calls across traditional phone lines, VoIP
transmits your phone data over the Internet. Technology has improved so much
that a VoIP system is nearly indistinguishable from a traditional phone system
in terms of features and quality. With a usually much lower price point
compared to traditional phone lines, VoIP suddenly becomes a compelling
But cities need to know when traditional phone lines
still need to be used and in what situations. Below are some of our
observations about the limitations of VoIP based on our experiences with cities.
As you can see, VoIP works best when you already have a
strong technology network already in place. That doesn’t mean that smaller
cities cannot take advantage of VoIP. It just means to look before you leap.
Assess your phone system along with your technology, and explore if VoIP makes
sense. In some cases, technology limitations or sensitive public safety systems
may require traditional phone lines in all or parts of your city.
And remember, despite even us touting the benefits of a
technology, always do an assessment to figure out if a particular technology is
best suited for you.
To talk about VoIP in more detail, please contact us.
As the Internet continues to evolve, content becomes more
and more important. People usually research on the Internet as a way to explore
nearly any topic, including learning about cities. Where 10 years ago people may
still have found a lack of city website content acceptable, the same is not
Your citizens (and even non-citizens) are “customers” who
have distinct similarities in what information they need at certain times. They
may be discovering your city for the first time and want to learn more about
it. They may be researching your city to decide if they want to move there and
join your community. Or they may be citizens that need answers to questions
about city services.
Whatever needs people have, it’s up to your website to
meet those needs. And do that, you need content. If you want to assess if you
have some glaring content gaps, make sure you at least have the following five
Even with just these basics, creating content takes
sustained effort and some dedicated resources. It can’t be irregular or
haphazard. The overall impression of a website matters, and too many content
gaps reflect poorly on a city. Sometimes, this means taking a fresh look at
your city’s content, identifying any ways that your content can answer
questions better or show off the vitality of your city more effectively, and
taking the time to rewrite it.
If you want to talk about websites and content in more
detail, please contact us.
Windows 8 is such a leap forward compared to past versions of Windows that cities have a lot of trepidation about upgrading. While you don’t want to be left behind, at the same time you want to make sure you’re not upgrading just to upgrade. There needs to be a compelling reason to upgrade.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re on the fence about Windows 8.
The verdict on Windows 8? We have to take the safest answer: It depends. In our analysis above, we provide a mix of positive, negative, and neutral analysis. Windows 8 is still not fully established as a standard and Microsoft is still working out some user and branding issues. The technology is sound, but the leap forward was more abrupt than any Windows launch since the mid-1990s. That abruptness makes cities understandably wary.
Once you assess your current technology needs, your plans to move to the cloud, and the state of your current software applications, you will get a better sense if you should upgrade to Windows 8 now or later. To talk more about if Windows 8 is right for your city, please contact us.
You may have had the experience at some point of using up too much memory on your computer or smartphone. With such useful technology, it’s always a pain when you find its powers are finite. A short battery life, a full hard drive, or a slow Internet connection can frustrate you and prevent you from fully maximizing the use of your hardware.
Now take those problems and amplify them up to the level of your city IT network. Such resources are a vital part of a city’s operations, but we unfortunately find that cities are often not managing these resources well. Higher costs, work stoppages, and slowed software responsiveness result.
In this post, we discuss a few places where you may be unknowingly losing money and time.
Above, the key themes throughout the five areas are planning and monitoring. If you reactively invest and manage your technology, you are not planning for additional resources that you’ll need in the future. And if you don’t monitor regularly, problems will sneak up on you and cause much more disruption to your city than if you had anticipated a need for more physical memory or storage space.
With planning, you will save money and maximize the use of your technology resources. To talk about resource planning and monitoring in more detail, please contact us.
Since the launch of IT in a Box, its adoption has grown quickly! Thank you!
We have diligently collected feedback, monitored and analyzed existing product components, and assessed technologies. Now, I am very excited about IT in a Box’s new enhancements we are releasing!
No trip charges for onsite support visits scheduled Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Standard expenses including mileage will be expensed back. We announced this one a little early, but it’s so good that I just had to mention it again!
Unlimited storage for offsite data backups! Yes, you read that right. Unlimited storage for offsite data backups! This means all versions of all your data can be securely and redundantly maintained offsite for disaster recovery for all of the servers in your IT in a Box plan.
Website Online Payments is no longer an add-on to IT in a Box. Instead, website online payments will now be covered under existing IT in a Box fees. That means IT in a Box will no longer have a fee for website online payments (e-commerce), nor a per transaction fee, nor a product listing fee to provide website online payments for city services such as utility billing, banner applications, etc. This includes an unlimited number of products listed on your website for which you can take online payments.
Note: You will still have to consider your online payment merchant fees, but those are typically negated with a surcharge (or convenience fee) that the city will set and receive. Also note that custom integrations (for example, with your accounting system) are not included. We can do that work, but that custom integration will be charged as a separate one-time fee.
Mobile device management and support spanning iPhone, iPad, DROID phones and tablets, Windows phones and tablets, and even Blackberry. Yes – that means not just your servers and workstations will be supported, but even your mobile devices (including your smartphones and tablets).
Microsoft Office 2013 upgrades to your desktop computers. Yes, new software for your desktop but no new licenses to purchase! We have been running Office 2013 internally for some time now and I personally really like the new experience it provides on the Microsoft Surface devices for email, editing documents, and working on spreadsheets.
Email (Exchange) server upgrades enhancing Outlook Web App (OWA) and anti-malware. No new server hardware for the city to purchase as in the past.
Document Management (SharePoint) server upgrades enhancing support to allow external document sharing. Again, no new server hardware for the city to purchase as in the past with other document management systems.
Again, I am very excited about these enhancements to IT in a Box and the benefits they bring to you. Thank you for being a valued customer. We will be scheduling and rolling out these updates in the near future. At no charge to you.
If you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.
While we continue to encourage cities to embrace the cloud in order to reduce costs and create a much easier-to-use IT environment, we sometimes see cities taking shortcuts with the cloud. With cloud services becoming more and more omnipresent, a plethora of free services have emerged that can tempt cities looking for low-budget technology.
Just as we warn with many other technologies, you pay for what you get. But the problem with the cloud is that the services seem pretty darn good. After all, as long as your email program, software, or storage seems to work over the Internet, why not use it?
Cities, as government entities, need to be particularly sensitive to free technology solutions. For the cloud particularly, here are some reasons why you need to consider an enterprise cloud solution instead of a free cloud solution.
If you use free cloud services as part of your everyday life, it’s tempting to think they will also translate easily into your city. But as many government entities have learned the hard way, you lose much more than you gain. At best, you’re sacrificing discipline, process, and standardization, which confuses employees and disrupts productivity. At worst, you could suffer significant legal and financial woes by relying too much on a service that doesn’t offer personalized maintenance and support.
However, enterprise cloud services doesn’t mean huge expenses. The services can still be relatively inexpensive within the context of a professional IT team supporting your overall environment. At root, the problem is less the cloud and more the support behind it—which you absolutely need at a city.
To discuss enterprise cloud services in more detail, please contact us.
In our last two online payments posts, we discussed firewalls, passwords, and data protection. Next, PCI DSS compliance requires “vulnerability management.” That means taking a deeper look at your antivirus and network security. Unfortunately, for many cities those areas are woefully inadequate—leaving cities open to attacks.
Cities that want to offer online payments cannot have security holes and gaps that risk malicious access to payment data. That means ensuring that a city’s antivirus and network security is enterprise level without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are some common sense, cost-effective basics to follow that ensure your security fundamentals are ready for online payments.
While we’ve written extensively about antivirus in the past, you really need to worry about two key aspects.
With antivirus taken care of, you also need to think about security for your entire network. Focus on three network security essentials.
If your city wants to offer online payments, it’s essential to make sure you have a solution addressed for each point above. The scary thing about security is that it’s usually weakest on the front lines. You might have powerful servers or a data center that’s locked down, but a person’s workstation or laptop might be completely open to attacks. You need to make sure your network security extends to each and every person’s computer, and that means making sure all computers are protected with antivirus, monitoring tools, patches, and content filters.
In our next PCI DSS compliance online payments post, we’ll look closer at access – and how to assign authorized access to the right users while keeping out any unauthorized users.
If you want to talk about security for online payments in more detail, please contact us.
Cities often ask us where they should be storing their files, especially when they tend to save them to their computer. “Is that bad?” a person will ask.
The simple answer: yes.
First, a few reasons why you don’t want to store files only on your computer.
So, where should your files be stored? If not on your computer, what is the safest place to make sure that viruses, hardware failure, or accidental deletion does not mean the end of your documents?
A good place to begin is with your business processes. Depending on your city’s size, number of employees, and the kind of work you do every day, you will have different file storage needs. To start thinking about file storage, ask yourself the following questions:
As you can see, your file storage solution will really depend on your business needs. But most importantly, we advise all cities to stop storing files on individual computers and transition to a solution that at the very least saves documents to a place that is backed up (with proper redundancy). That way, not only will your users create and edit files in a more disciplined manner, but they will also not scream disaster if they lose a file.
If you’d like to discuss file storage and document management in more detail, please contact us.
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