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CitySmart Blog

Thursday, July 2, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO

VC3, a market-leading managed information technology (IT) service provider, announced today the acquisition of Sophicity, an IT products and services provider to local governments. The addition of this established firm strengthens VC3’s ability to serve more local governments and expands its geographic footprint into five additional states.

Sandy Reeser, VC3’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “Sophicity is a strong company and I’m very excited that we can combine with a team who shares our culture and passion for local government. This acquisition only strengthens our ability to offer world-class IT services to towns and cities in every state. We’re so excited to expand our new collective service offerings into Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, and Oregon.”

Dave Mims, Sophicity’s CEO and Founder said, "I’m so proud of and humbled by the success of Sophicity. We started small and, through hard work and dedication toward helping local government, we meaningfully impacted the municipalities we serve. This next chapter—for both our municipalities and our employees—is full of possibility. Joining the VC3 team allows us to continue serving our municipalities as we do today while introducing new strengths and capabilities to help them even more. I couldn’t be more excited, and I see a very bright future.”

Reeser said, “I look forward to forging new relationships with municipalities built on the same values and service they’ve come to expect from Sophicity. I have every confidence that our newly combined team will provide a smooth transition for them.”

About Sophicity

Sophicity provides the highest quality IT products and services tailored to local government. Among the features Sophicity delivers in "IT in a Box" are cybersecurity and computer maintenance, 24x7 U.S.-based helpdesk for remote and onsite support, data backup with unlimited offsite data backup storage for disaster recovery, records and document management, email, body camera and squad car camera video archiving with unlimited offsite video storage following record retention policies, information security policy and compliance, a custom designed website that is ADA-compliant and mobile-ready, and vendor management and procurement. Read more about IT in a Box.

About VC3

VC3 is a leading managed services provider with a focus on municipal government and mid-market businesses. Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, VC3 forms partnerships with organizations to achieve their technology goals and harness their data. In addition to providing comprehensive managed IT solutions, VC3 offers cybersecurity, cloud services, website design, custom application development, and business intelligence services. Visit www.vc3.com to learn more.

Friday, June 26, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

It’s understandable that many of us are going stir crazy, wanting to go back to some semblance of normalcy after months of social distancing and quarantining. Sadly, the reality is that 21 states—including Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia—are seeing increases in cases. (Connecticut remains steady while Iowa and Kentucky are actually seeing downward trends.) To keep ourselves and our families safe, this means we will likely need to continue maintaining our social distancing a while longer.

Keeping safety in mind, many municipalities are deciding to cautiously reopen certain critical functions while maintaining social distancing through letting employees work from home as long as possible. If this remains the case until a vaccine is widely available, cities might see a long-term, rather than short-term, shift in employees working from home. As work-from-home employees heavily rely on their computers for a long while, how are you supporting them?

IT in a Box’s helpdesk supports municipal employees as they work from home by resolving IT issues remotely, providing video conferencing, and mitigating the risk of cyberattacks—all at a low cost and with a program endorsed by your municipal league. Many of our municipalities that use IT in a Box are reassured to know a work-from-home employee can call an experienced engineer 24x7x365 for help.

Please do continue to take all precautions possible. I can tell you that COVID-19 is real. It has struck close to home for me personally, so please continue to follow CDC guidelines, stay protected, and be safe.

Enjoy our newsletter. As always, don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have something to share with our local government community.

Blessings,

Dave Mims


New Websites Launched

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Featured Whitepaper

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Save up to 25%

If you are a member of the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) property and liability fund (GIRMA), then you are eligible to receive a grant from GMA’s Safety and Liability Management Grant Program to reimburse your city for up to 25% of the annual IT in a Box subscription fee. Don't miss out! Contact us today to get your grant application submitted.


Featured Cybersecurity Article

IT and Cybersecurity Lessons from the Coronavirus

Are you able to completely prevent the coronavirus, a cyberattack, or a natural disaster from impacting your community? No. Are you able to plan in such a way that you can be resilient—bouncing back from a disturbance, learning from it, and continuing your municipal operations? Yes. We can draw upon some of the resilience lessons we see from our federal, state, and local governments to fight coronavirus and apply them to your town or city’s IT.

READ MORE


Featured Data Backup Article

Technology Helps You with Business Continuity During the Coronavirus Crisis

Disruption. That word is an understatement when we talk about what municipalities have experienced over the last few months. As employees work from home for extended periods of time, your business continuity can become impacted by this disruption. Depending on the strength of your IT infrastructure, tools, and support, you will adapt to this disruption smoothly or…not so smoothly. If you’re having a rough ride so far, then ask yourself the 5 questions in this article.

READ MORE


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5 Safe Telecommuting Practices for Municipalities

Working from home helps with social distancing and prevents the spread of the coronavirus. However, this change from working in the office to working from home may require some adjustment, and employees also need to stay healthy while working from home during this crisis. To address these concerns, we offer five best practices that will help keep your employees safe and healthy while telecommuting.

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Featured Video Archiving Article

5 Unexpected Video Archiving Obstacles for Body Worn Camera Footage

Body worn video cameras represent one of the biggest public safety innovations in the last few years, and many cities are investing in this technology. In this post, we talk about five unexpected body worn video camera obstacles and how you can maneuver through them.

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Friday, June 19, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Nathan Eisner, COO
Nathan Eisner

Disruption. That word is an understatement when we talk about what municipalities have experienced over the last few months. Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have disrupted our daily office operations, environments, and routines. As employees work from home for extended periods of time, your business continuity can become impacted by this disruption.

Depending on the strength of your IT infrastructure, tools, and support, you will adapt to this disruption smoothly or…not so smoothly. If you’re having a rough ride so far, then ask yourself the following 5 questions to see if you can leverage IT better to help with business continuity as your employees work from home.

1. Can your employees remotely and securely access their desktops and municipal servers from home?

Let’s look at three situations:

  • Unable to access anything: In some situations, employees may not be able to access their desktops or municipal servers. This disrupts business continuity either from lack of access or the use of risky workarounds (such as sending files through consumer-grade email accounts or uploading files to their personal computers on a thumb drive).
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN is best when an employee uses a municipal-owned computer secured and supported by IT professionals. Otherwise, if an employee uses a VPN on a computer they own, the VPN is only as secure as the employees’ computer. (Hint: The employee’s computer is probably not that secure.)
  • Secure browser-based remote portal: If an employee is using their personal device, then we recommend using a secured, typically browser-based remote portal. That way, the connection between your employee’s computer and their office desktop and municipal servers is unlikely to get hacked by a cyberattacker.

Ideally, a VPN for city-owned devices or a remote portal for personal devices are your best bets for employees to quickly and easily access their office desktop and documents from home.

2. Can your employees conduct meetings through tools such as video conferencing?

Video conferencing may be a little tricky to master at first but soon it becomes invaluable when people must work from home. Many video conferencing tools exist, some built into software and applications you may already use. Be careful of security issues related to certain tools. If you are discussing sensitive or confidential matters, then make sure you can confidently say that your video conferencing software is fully secure or use a different option (such as a phone call).

You may want to help your employees transition to video conferencing calls by explaining in plain English how it works (don’t assume it’s “easy”), ensuring that employees have working computer microphones and speakers, and giving them some tips on video conferencing aspects like lighting, sound, and a professional appearance. Once employees are used to using these tools easily and professionally, then formal and informal meetings can continue without a hitch.

3. Do your employees have access to responsive IT support when they have technical issues?

Remember, your employees are home. An IT vendor, IT staff member, or tech-savvy municipal employee will not be able to walk around the corner and take a look at an employee’s computer. Inevitably, employees will run into technical issues as they connect through a VPN or secure portal, access municipal applications, and open files and documents. Major IT problems can severely impact business continuity.

This is a good time to assess the state of your IT support.

  • Are they 24/7? Employees may need help at all hours.
  • How do you handle IT support requests? How fast are they handled?
  • Can your IT support handle most problems remotely?
  • Can your IT support ensure that your servers and devices are secure, including your employees’ computers?
  • Is your IT support proactively monitoring and maintaining your IT environment, including security patches, antivirus updates, and software updates for your work from home employees?

4. Do you have a reliable data backup and disaster recovery solution?

When employees work from home, you don’t want to increase the chance they will permanently lose important files and documents. But how do you make sure they’re backing up important files? Using a centralized document management system, enterprise-class email, and software applications residing in the cloud can all help you store data in locations that you can manage and back up. Policies then complement these efforts to warn employees not to store important information locally on their computers.

Ideally, these centralized data storage locations are backed up offsite in different geographical areas (in other words, not at a server or servers located in your city or town hall building where they could fail or get destroyed by a tornado) and tested periodically. That way, if an employee’s computer dies or a server at city or town hall dies, you don’t lose any data and can retrieve it in a matter of hours—from anytime, anywhere.

5. Do you have a website accessible and editable from anywhere?

Some cities and towns may use outdated website technology that limits employees from quickly and easily updating your municipal website. A website is a critical communication tool, especially during a time when people need to hear timely, updated information from you.

If you’re having trouble or an inability to update your municipality’s website during this time as people work from home, consider modernizing it. Part of modernizing your website includes receiving backend access so that non-technical employees can make updates. Employees working from home should be able to log into your website and make needed changes and updates so that citizens stay informed.


With a little technology help, it becomes much easier to ride out this crisis. Municipalities are in a unique situation compared to businesses. While businesses can optionally shut down or make abrupt shifts in strategy, municipalities must stay steadily operational and continue to serve citizens. These citizens are really relying on you during this time. For them to rely on you, you need to rely on your operational capabilities and provide business continuity. Is your technology helping or hindering this mission?

If you need help with your municipality’s business continuity, reach out to us today.

Friday, June 5, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

As communities start to reopen in phases, we begin to reflect on the past few months to see what lessons emerge. Already, we’ve learned many valuable lessons about this crisis that also apply to a municipality’s overall resiliency.

The commonality between a cyberattack, a pandemic, and a natural disaster is that a) you can’t completely prevent them from happening, and b) you can plan for them in such a way that you can be resilient—bouncing back, learning from it, and continuing your municipal operations. Our latest article, “IT and Cybersecurity Lessons from the Coronavirus,” draws upon some of the resilience lessons we see from our federal, state, and local governments and applies them to your town or city’s IT.

As a work from home culture temporarily entrenches itself in our daily lives, it’s important that computers work, video conferencing functions, and cyberattacks do not disrupt your operations. CrowdStrike recently noted increases in phishing emails, tech support scams, and cyberattacks targeting the security of remote connectivity technology. IT in a Box can help secure your employees working from home, provide them a 24/7 helpdesk, and assist them with tools such as video conferencing—all at a low cost and with a program endorsed by your municipal league.

Enjoy our newsletter. As always, don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have something to share with our local government community.

Blessings,

Dave Mims


New Clients

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Preston, Iowa
York, Alabama


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Save up to 25%

If you are a member of the Georgia Municipal Association’s (GMA) property and liability fund (GIRMA), then you are eligible to receive a grant from GMA’s Safety and Liability Management Grant Program to reimburse your city for up to 25% of the annual IT in a Box subscription fee. Don't miss out! Contact us today to get your grant application submitted.


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6 Cyber Risks That Your Municipal Employees Face Working Remotely—and How to Address Those Risks

If people are not used to working remotely and you’re not used to supporting remote workers, you may not realize that various security vulnerabilities exist that don’t necessarily appear at the office. Teleworking introduces increased cybersecurity risks as employees work from home with their personal computers. Read about some areas you need to assess.

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Video Conferencing Safety, Security, Tips, and Best Practices

While some tech-savvy people might take naturally to video conferencing, many employees might be struggling with this technology. Video conferencing can really help your municipal operations during this crisis, but you want to make sure it’s safe, secure, and easy for employees to use. This article looks at several components of video conferencing that will help your employees.

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5 Common Squad Car and Body Camera Video Issues Addressed by Video Archiving

Why is the management of capturing and storing squad car and body camera video so challenging? Because video files are huge—and they need lots and lots and lots of storage space. When we talk to municipalities for the first time about their squad car and body camera video archiving, we often note five common issues that we discuss in this article.

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Friday, May 22, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

As COVID-19 (known popularly as the coronavirus) spreads across the globe, we have seen and learned in real time how prepared and unprepared we are to handle a disaster (in this case, a pandemic). Obviously, there is no way to completely stop all infections and the spread of infections. Governments and public health bodies understand this pragmatic fact and create pandemic plans based on resilience—mitigating the total disruption, lessening future risks, and providing continuity for society.

In Digital Resilience by Ray Rothrock, the author quotes Judith Rodin who says:

“In the twenty-first century, building resilience is one of our most urgent social and economic issues because we live in a world that is defined by disruption. Not a month goes by that we don’t see some kind of disturbance to the normal flow of life somewhere: a cyberattack, a new strain of virus, a structural failure, a violent storm, a civil disturbance, an economic blow, a natural system threatened.”

Commenting on this point, Rothrock says:

“The point is that resilience is not a ‘bonus feature’ of, or an ‘operational accessory’ to, every productive activity and enterprise in the twenty-first century. It must be at their core, a necessity to them. Resilience has always been important, just never more urgently indispensable.”

As noted above, a disturbance can include something like the coronavirus, a cyberattack, or a natural disaster. Currently, these are all threats that towns and cities face.

Are you able to completely prevent the coronavirus, a cyberattack, or a natural disaster from impacting your community? No.

Are you able to plan in such a way that you can be resilient—bouncing back from a disturbance, learning from it, and continuing your municipal operations? Yes.

We can draw upon some of the resilience lessons we see from our federal, state, and local governments to fight coronavirus and apply them to your town or city’s IT.

1. Containment and quarantining

One important strategy that helps slow the coronavirus’s spread is social distancing, containment, and quarantining. Social distancing helps slow and prevent spread. Containment involves keeping infected people from the general population as much as possible by setting up containment zones and buffer zones around areas with high infection rates (such as Wuhan in China). Quarantining involves mandating that infected people stay home until they recover and can no longer infect people.

Similarly, your cybersecurity strategy must involve containing threats when they occur. For example, let’s say ransomware infects one of your computers. You don’t want the ransomware to spread to all your computers and servers. IT professionals can help you with a containment strategy when (and not if) a cyberattack occurs. Containment helps limit the damage from such attacks.

Quarantining emails, files, and infected computers and servers also needs to be part of your cybersecurity strategy through tools such as antivirus software, antispam software, ongoing monitoring, and implementation of your disaster recovery plan.

2. Continuous monitoring

While you are concerned about the coronavirus, it’s safe to say that many interested parties are continuously monitoring it—the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many governments around the world. A threat such as the coronavirus has changed rapidly, and many pairs of eyes have watched developments so that they can adapt quickly.

Who is monitoring your IT environment? Many cyber threats at municipalities become worse because they simply do not know a threat exists. It’s not unusual for malware, ransomware, or a virus to reside within an organization’s network for months before the criminal deploys it. A recent CrowdStrike report “shows a large increase in dwell time to an average of 95 days in 2019 — up from 85 days in 2018 — meaning that adversaries were able to hide their activities from defenders for longer, and that organizations still lack the technology necessary to harden network defenses, prevent exploitation and mitigate cyber risk.”

Having experienced IT engineers continuously monitoring your environment with a mix of automated tools and manual oversight will help you detect threats faster and mitigate risks by addressing them before they do extensive damage to your municipality.

3. Hygiene

When faced with a pandemic, it seems anticlimactic to hear advice from health experts such as washing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding touching your face. Yet, these basic, sound, simple measures go a long way toward helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Similarly, a term—“cyber hygiene”—is frequently used in the same way. We’d like to think of complex, automated tools using cool things like artificial intelligence to battle cyberattackers. Yet, most cyberattacks succeed because non-technical people—including your employees—may not be following basic cyber hygiene that includes:

  • Not clicking on suspicious email attachments and website links.
  • Not falling for scams by learning what clues give the scammer away.
  • Using complex passwords or passphrases, and changing them regularly.
  • Using two-factor authentication (2FA).
  • Ongoing patching and updating software.

4. Everyone taking responsibility

I think we can safely say we are not naïve enough to think that our government, the CDC, or some other entity alone will solve the coronavirus problem without our cooperation. In fact, the opposite is the case. This is a community problem—and we all have a part to play. Whether it’s staying informed, following the recommended guidelines and best practices, and self-quarantining if you suspect you’re sick with coronavirus, every individual action matters during this time of crisis.

Similarly, the days of believing that cybersecurity is an “IT problem” or something the “techies” only need to worry about is a very risky view to have. This is an organization-wide problem—and we all have a part to play. Through their actions, each person at your municipality can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful cyberattack. That includes:

  • Training, and re-training, your staff.
  • Shoring up any security vulnerabilities across your IT network.
  • Backing up your data and regularly testing your data backups to know you can recover.
  • Investing in modernized hardware and software.

We’re all in this together. As time frees up, use this opportunity—among tackling other things you may have long put off—to examine the state of your IT. Are you confidently resilient? Or worried? If you need help, reach out to us today.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Jeremy Jeffcoat, Network Infrastructure Consultant
Jeremy Jeffcoat

Why is the management of capturing and storing squad car and body camera video so challenging? Because video files are huge—and they need lots and lots and lots of storage space. Deciding where to store this video becomes a daily challenge—like directing an always-on firehose toward a repository where you wish to store the water. Once stored, the video keeps coming. Without an appropriate strategy, the water from the firehose will flood your police department.

When we talk to municipalities for the first time about their squad car and body camera video archiving, we often note these five common issues.

1. The use of physical media to store data

Police departments often store video data on external hard drives and DVDs. Physical media is a risky way to store video records. Such external media can fail and does not give IT professionals an opportunity to manage and monitor its proper functioning. These storage devices can physically break or malfunction if someone drops them. People can steal or misplace them. And they may not actually store all the critical files you need.

2. Uncertainty related to data backup

It’s common to hear “no” in response to “Do you back up your video data?” It’s also common to hear about municipalities burning critical video data to DVD. Those are high risks. Hardware fails and people make mistakes. Relying on a single piece of hardware is data loss waiting to happen. Relying on people to manually back up video data, especially when that data is deemed critical, is data loss waiting to happen.

Instead, police departments need a real data backup and disaster recovery strategy involving onsite data backup (for quick recovery in case of a server failure) and unlimited offsite data backup where the video data is automatically archived, managed, and stored following records retention policies. This way, body camera and squad car video records are not lost and court cases are not put at risk.

3. Storage limits

Servers run out of storage. Physical media runs out of storage. Even cloud storage is charged in increments or blocks. These limitations force you to buy more storage over time, whether it’s more servers, more physical media, or more cloud storage. In fact, storage vendors know your storage needs will continue to grow. They know eventually you will hit your limit and need to increase your storage. This can throw your budget off and you either must pay up or delete data to make room for new data.

4. Single points of failure

A single point of failure means that your data is only stored in one place. If something happens to that data, it’s gone. Forever. How can that be acceptable when you must produce body camera and squad car video for police investigations and Open Records Requests?

Single points of failure can include a server with no data backup, an external hard drive with no backup, or even relying on a person to back up video data. If that person forgets to do that task, then that data is at risk.

5. Dependence on people for manual tasks

We hinted at people dependence in a few places above, but it’s worth mentioning as a standalone item. For example, tasking someone to buy physical media as needed, manually upload video to an external hard drive, or conduct non-automated data backup tasks introduces risk. People may get behind on buying physical media, all video may not get uploaded to the hard drive, or data backup tasks might get forgotten during a busy week. People make mistakes and forget.


Video archiving can help municipalities address storage issues by providing fixed cost unlimited storage that follows video records retention policies, addresses data loss issues by providing redundancy onsite and offsite, and avoids the risks of human error by automating, monitoring, and managing video data. If you need help addressing your squad car and body camera video issues, then reach out to us today.

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