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.
While we’ve gotten used
to online payments from banks, financial institutions, and online retailers,
some entities—including cities—might still doubt that they need to make this
transition. Especially if a city deals in relatively non-critical low volume payment
transactions, it might seem easier to just keep handling those payments like
you always have: in person, by phone, and through the United States Postal
However, even for small
and medium cities, online payments are really a “must” at this point in time.
Even if many citizens still feel comfortable with traditional methods of
payments, more and more people are using tablets and smartphones as a part of
their lives. They’re connected to the Internet all of the time and they are
accustomed to using it to take care of most billing and financial payments.
If you’ve been on the
fence about online payments, here are five reasons why they are a “must” for
Online payments have an
impact that affects many different areas of a city—budget, employee time and
productivity, citizen morale, and even compliance (with security). Consider how
easy reporting and tracking information becomes when an online payment system
captures important billing information for you. And auditing also becomes
easier when you implement an online payment system.
To talk more about the necessity of implementing online payments, please contact us.
While software can be
exciting to use and help your city’s productivity, it’s not so exciting to get
the bill. When you purchase software for a city with many users, that means
often buying hardware and licenses while incurring costs related to maintenance and ongoing
upgrades. Those costs can add up, but they often seem like part of the pain of
In only a few short
years, the costs of software have gone down, become more efficient, and
downright changed. For cities that have a mindset about what it takes to own
software from five or more years ago, you might be surprised that you could be
wasting a lot of money with your current software investments.
Some software vendors
would prefer to not inform you about these changes and keep collecting your
money. Other vendors have lagged, not evolved their software, and think they
don’t have to change with the times. Either way, you need to evaluate your
current software to see if you can free up some money lurking in your license
costs by answering the following questions.
addressing the above questions might take a lot of work, the payoff can be
worth it. Getting into the habit of regularly evaluating your software in order
to justify all costs can help you save money at your city. Plus, upgrading your
software helps your city by improving its quality and potentially giving better
access to employees so they can work from home and access software by their
To talk more about
evaluating your software licenses, please contact us.
So you’ve taken the step
to get a document management system. Now what?
Document management systems fail or are used
unproductively not so much from technical reasons, but from business reasons.
To make sure you integrate your document management system in your day-to-day
city business as quickly as possible, make sure you’re tackling the following
If you answer the above
questions, or at least make strides toward answering them, you’re well on your
way to maximizing the use of your document management system. With such a great
investment in place, you don’t want to leave it sitting out like a new car that
you never drive. Integrate your document management system into your
environment by prioritizing documents, uploading them, and using the system to
increase collaboration and transparency at your city.
To talk more about document management, please contact us.
With data backup, you often think of worst-case
scenarios. What happens if a tornado hits your city? What happens if a server
dies? But there are more common scenarios that can affect you on a day-to-day
basis, like losing a file or some important data.
In those moments, panic sets in. All you know is that you
want your data back as fast as possible. A disaster to you might be losing that
important report you worked on all morning, and it can hit you just as hard as
Luckily, most backup scenarios recover data in a matter
of seconds or minutes. If you’re struggling to recover data in terms of days or
weeks for most of these scenarios, then you probably don’t have the right IT
infrastructure in place. Ask yourself: How fast can I recover my data in each
With the cloud and related technologies that make it
easier to save, store, back up, and recover data, it becomes harder and harder
to really lose important data anymore. However, life is not perfect, and you
will occasionally lose data due to human error, software glitches, and hardware
failures. When that happens, your chance of quickly recovering your data
increases the more you invest in modern technologies that reduce such risk.
So the next time you’re missing a file, you hopefully can
at least say, “Let me grab the previous version from a few minutes ago,”
grumble a little bit at the few minutes you’ve lost, and move on quickly.
To talk more about data backup, please contact us.
In our last Website Page by Page blog post, we discussed the important
homepage—the public face of your city. One item that keeps people coming back
to your homepage is news. What’s happening in your city? Your homepage headlines
will lead people to your news page, which might be one of the most visited
pages on your site.
Since news will be read by many people and keep them informed
about local government, economic development, and community events, you need to
make sure the news page stays fresh, readable, and user-friendly. Especially
when local newspapers may tell their own side of a story, you want to make sure
your news items contain up-to-date information about any important issues in
order to counter the impressions caused by second-hand information.
Here are some tips to help improve the quality and
readability of your news page.
As a bonus, once you’ve got your news content rolling out
like a machine, think about sharing your news items on social media outlets
such as Twitter and Facebook. Provide links when you share so that people will
visit your city’s website. Social media is a great place to extend the reach of
your news items to a wider audience.
And remember, keep your news fresh! A city website with
no current news really does make you look bad to the public. Your city does
many great things—so talk about those things and share your news with the
To talk more about website content in more detail, please contact us.
If you’re using an IT vendor, one of the most expensive
costs to cities is usually onsite visits. Many IT vendors bill by the hour. Not
coincidentally, they seem to be at your city quite a lot, fixing something or
But IT vendors should not be billing you unpredictably
and giving you budgeting difficulties as a result. If you experience
unpredictable IT costs due to many onsite visits during the year, something is
wrong. We find in case after case that lack of process and professional
knowledge about a city’s IT needs is usually at the root of the problem.
However, if you’re used to this kind of IT support and
think it’s normal, here are some common pain points that may cause you to
reexamine your ideas. And the great news is that these pain points are easily
avoided with a more professional, experienced IT vendor.
When evaluating your current IT vendor or looking to hire
one, make sure they:
While you may like your IT vendor, they shouldn’t be putting
out fires onsite all of the time. Onsite visits should happen under special
circumstances, such as a major IT issue or a proactive quarterly checkup. By
making sure that you’re not getting taken advantage of, you can cut your costs
and end up preventing most IT problems before anyone needs to visit by working
with a more process-driven, experienced IT vendor.
To talk more about the cost of onsite visits, please contact us.
Cities sometimes ask us about whether they should switch
to cloud productivity software—which might include word processing and creating
spreadsheets, presentations, databases, and audio/video. If you’ve been using
the same productivity software for years, a switch to the cloud becomes a major
decision to consider.
No matter what decision you make, you should consider the
specific needs of your city and the amount of work it will take to transition
to the cloud from whatever version of software you’re using now. That may
include a lot of document transfer (including moving data to the cloud), some
investments in new technology (depending on the age of your current version of software),
and some training for your staff if they are unfamiliar with any new features.
That being said, here are a few aspects to consider about
moving your productivity software to the cloud.
As you can see, there are some pros and cons to consider
before switching to cloud productivity software. The biggest advantages are mostly
technological and relate to the advantages of the cloud. Moving to the cloud
also involves serious financial considerations, so a switch may cut your
expenses. Talk to an IT professional about analyzing if a switch is best for
your situation, and if you’ll be able to save money while also improving the
quality of using productivity software for your city staff.
To talk more about switching to cloud productivity software, please contact us.
In the early wild west days of computers and the
Internet, swapping copies of software among friends and family was common.
After all, software was easy to copy and share, and who was going to catch you?
This habit lingered well into the 2000s, even in businesses, educational
institutions, and government entities, until software providers became much stricter
about enforcing piracy laws.
However, both from old habits but also the current
mentality that many things on the Internet should be free (news, music, videos,
etc.), many people at cities sometimes think that using unlicensed software is
okay—especially if the justification is to save money.
Whether your software is unlicensed, copied illegally, or
purchased from an unauthorized reseller, you actually run a significant risk
when you use pirated software. Primarily, you face three major consequences.
If these warnings have you worried about the state of your
software, we offer a few tips that address most of the common scenarios that cause
cities to accidentally purchase pirated software.
To save a bit of money, you don’t want to take the risk
of a lawsuit or fine by illegally using software. Beyond the risks, it’s simply
a better investment to use licensed copies of software. You receive the best
quality versions, software upgrades, technical support, and customer service—all
of which help make the use of your software more productive. Plus, your IT
staff or vendor can easily help you when you run into issues, since they can
work with the software vendor to resolve them.
To talk more about unlicensed versus licensed software, please contact us.
If your city unfortunately ever gets a virus or malware
attack, it’s easy to panic. That’s exactly what the Economic Development Administration did in a recent report outlining how
they made a series of bad decisions in reaction to a malware attack. Those
decisions were based on inaccurate information and included destroying IT
components (such as keyboards), replacing IT infrastructure, and incorrectly
While an extreme case, there are several lessons here
that are good for cities to keep in mind during a security crisis. After all,
crises are moments to test whether your policies, procedures, and people are
well-equipped to handle your most challenging technology problems—such as a
virus or malware attack.
Overall, cities can be well-prepared to deal with a
crisis such as a virus or malware attack. Of course, prevention is best: 24/7
monitoring and alerting, enterprise-level antivirus software, and clear
security policies and training for city staff. But if the worst happens, damage
can be contained by having experienced IT professionals apply best practices
and processes to addressing the problem.
To talk more about dealing with virus and malware
threats, please contact us.
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