We put the IT in city®

CitySmart Blog

Friday, April 3, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

We know you are going through a serious, stressful time. You are worried about vulnerable loved ones getting sick. You are stressed about the economic repercussions of what’s going on in our world today. You are adjusting to a life staying at home and socially distancing yourself from other people.

Like you, we want everyone to stay safe and healthy. It’s sad that we cannot gather at conferences, events, and meetings—but the blessing and silver lining is more time spent with families and loved ones at home. We all must make the most of this unprecedented situation—not only caring for our families but also working and doing our jobs for all those who depend upon us.

Know that we are here for our customers, 24/7, during this crisis. Our helpdesk remains fully staffed and ready to help you any time—even for your employees working at home. Yes, we can support you and your staff anywhere, anytime. IT in a Box includes technology that allows you to remotely and securely access your desktops and servers in the office from home with your browser, video conferencing for calls and meetings from your PC or laptop, and much more. And because so many municipal employees starting to telecommute can be a big adjustment, our latest article—5 Safe Telecommuting Practices for Municipalities—may be of help to you during this time.

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

Newell, Iowa


New Websites Launched

Falkville, Alabama


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

Stop Using Windows 7 Now! 5 Reasons to Upgrade as Soon as Possible

Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. While making the investment to upgrade hardware and software may seem like a lot of money, the costs and risks are much higher if you stick with Windows 7 as it grows less secure and reliable over time. If you’re still on Windows 7, learn why you need to upgrade today.

READ MORE


Featured Data Backup Article

What Needs Backing Up? 4 Pieces of Critical Data That You May Overlook

It’s too common to see cities still relying on consumer-grade solutions or manual data backups—and never testing them. Whether you use an online consumer-grade data backup solution, external hard drive, or even tape backup, don’t assume that your tool is backing up everything you need. Read about four kinds of critical data that your data backup solution may not be backing up.

READ MORE


Featured Helpdesk Article

Remote or Onsite: Is Your IT Support Visiting Only When Needed?

Should your IT support vendor help you remotely or arrive onsite to resolve an issue? Use our checklist to see if your IT support vendor handles your IT issues with the right blend of remote and onsite support.

READ MORE


Featured Website Article

Live Video Streaming Tips and Best Practices for Cities

As a city, you’ve probably already tried live streaming or want to explore this content option more. If so, we’ve got a few tips and best practices to keep in mind as you get those video cameras recording.

READ MORE


Newsletter Signup

Sign up for Sophicity's CitySmart Newsletter. Get all of the latest city government news, articles, and interviews.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

In calmer times, many municipalities may have optionally offered telecommuting to employees under special circumstances. Today, for many, there is no option—especially because the current national health emergency qualifies as a Family and Medical Leave Act event for municipalities. This Act requires municipalities to pay employees for 10 out of 12 weeks of leave.

That is, according to the law, unless an employee can telecommute.

Working from home helps with social distancing and prevents the spread of the coronavirus. And while preferable to paying employees for 10 weeks of non-productive leave, telecommuting also makes sense in terms of business continuity. It’s important to keep your municipality’s operations running when your citizens need you most. Telecommuting allows many of your employees to keep serving citizens.

Because of modern technology, fast and reliable internet bandwidth, and wide mobile connectivity, telecommuting is a much more viable option for employees compared to a decade or two ago. Many employees can seamlessly do their work from home with just a computer, internet connection, and smartphone.

This change from working in the office to working from home may require some adjustment. Many of your employees may be telecommuting for the first time, or telecommuting regularly for the first time. On top of this change, we are in the midst of a national health emergency—the worst since the flu pandemic of 1918-1920. Employees need to stay healthy while working from home during this crisis. And, beyond the coronavirus, this is a good opportunity to educate employees about other telecommuting best practices to stay safe—especially if they lack the daily amenities of your municipality’s office setup.

To address these concerns, we offer five best practices that will help keep your employees safe and healthy while telecommuting.

1. Follow CDC and government guidance about keeping yourself safe from the coronavirus.

First, and most importantly, follow CDC and government guidance. That includes many tips that you’re hearing all over the news such as:

  • Stay home as much as possible, leaving only for essential reasons.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue or your elbow.
  • Disinfect commonly used surfaces and objects (such as your computer keyboard!).

Obviously, if your employee is sick or has sick family members—whether the sickness is caused by coronavirus or not—they need to stay home and remain isolated while following the direction of their healthcare provider.

2. Leverage technology to schedule meetings and communicate informally throughout the day.

We live during an age when technology exists to help us easily stay connected. Video technology is easy-to-use and seamless. Instant messaging technology allows us to constantly communicate during the day. Smartphones keep us talking and texting all day. Encourage your employees to use these technologies in place of any in-person meetings.

This may seem obvious for people used to remote work, but old habits die hard for office workers. Some employees may think that telecommuting only applies to “work work” and not “meeting work,” and so they may attempt to set up in-person meetings in a public place. Employees may also want to sneak out for a working lunch with a co-worker. Urge them to stay home. For all meetings, tell them they must use video conferencing technology from their desktop PC, laptop, or phone.

3. Avoid typical social errands.

When we work in an office, we get used to stepping out to grab lunch, running to the bank or a store, or meeting up with people. Employees need to avoid these activities, despite temptation. Urge them to practice alternatives such as:

  • Order takeout and have it delivered.
  • Order groceries online and have them delivered or pick them up curbside.
  • Use online banking.
  • Order items (such as office supplies) online.
  • Use drive-through services.

Overall, employees need to avoid groups of 10 or more people and avoid any bars, restaurants, and food courts—no matter how tempting it is to grab a bite to eat.

4. Cybersecurity

While staying inside because of the coronavirus, employees will—or should—discover that cybersecurity applies to their home as well as the office. You don’t want employees opening your municipality to cyberattacks—especially during these uncertain times when you’ve got enough on your plate. In the office, you may have cybersecurity tools and best practices built into your daily operations. At home, employees may be less secure.

This may be time to address cybersecurity weaknesses such as:

  • Ensuring that the employee’s device (workstation or laptop) is updated, patched, supported, encrypted, and maintained by IT professionals.
  • Securing Wi-Fi—such as the employee using a strong password or passphrase instead of their wireless router’s default password (or no password).
  • Ensuring that the employee has antivirus software—ideally business-class antivirus software centrally managed by IT professionals.
  • Ensuring basic network best practices, such as having a firewall with appropriate security standards. If you want to be extra careful, provide your employees a VPN and city issued laptop.
  • Ensuring that any web-based systems accessed by employees are secure (using an “https” URL and not just “http”). If two-factor authentication (2FA) is available, it should be enabled on these systems.
  • Taking physical security into consideration, including basic tips like locking doors and windows so that workstations and laptops with valuable information are not stolen.

If VPN is provided as a means of remote access, ensure it does not allow employee personal devices to connect. The devices that connect through a VPN should be city-issued and city-owned laptops and computers. You cannot control what employees do with their personal devices, so they are more likely to become compromised by a security vulnerability. A compromised device connected to your municipal network through VPN is no different than a compromised device residing physically at City Hall. If allowing employees to use personal devices is unavoidable, we strongly recommend providing access instead through a secured, typically browser-based remote portal.

5. Workspace and ergonomics

Many modern offices and workspaces are designed with health and safety in mind. But your employees’ homes may not be set up that way. Consider sharing best practices with employees such as:

  • Using an ergonomic keyboard to ease strain on their hands, wrists, and arms.
  • Using a desk that’s the right height and gives your employee plenty of leg and foot room.
  • Using a chair that properly supports your employee’s back, arms, and legs, especially when sitting for a long time.
  • Encouraging employees to get up and stretch every 30 minutes or so.
  • Avoiding any workspace hazards (such as electrical hazards or clutter may lead someone to trip).
  • Making sure their young kids—home from school—are safe by restricting access to your office and preventing them from touching your workstation, laptop, or other important work equipment and supplies.

While this is a scary time for the United States, municipalities play a huge role during this crisis. During a recent teleconference with the nation’s governors, Vice President Pence said that fighting this crisis is “locally executed, state managed and federally supported.” Local government is an important link in the chain of helping citizens, and municipalities need to stay operational. Telecommuting gives you an opportunity to keep your local government running as seamlessly as possible—and supporting your employees’ health and safety through the best practices above is important.

IT in a Box already has your municipal staff prepared to work from home. Included with IT in a Box is technology allowing you to remotely and securely access your desktops and servers in the office from your browser, video conferencing for calls and meetings from your PC or laptop, 24x7 IT support ready to help you at any location (including at home) at any time as you have needs, and much more. Questions about telecommuting during this difficult time? Reach out to us today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Cale Collins, Senior Consultant and Team Lead
Cale Collins

Recently, a customer raved about a recent service call with one of our helpdesk engineers. When the person tried to download files through an internet browser, the browser kept saying “virus scan failed” and would not let them download any files from emails or even their online storage in the cloud. In under five minutes, our helpdesk engineer dug deep into a specific place in the person’s computer registry and solved the problem.

Now, we don’t want to give the impression that all problems are fixable in less than five minutes! Many problems challenge even the best engineers, require troubleshooting, and involve complex fixes. However, we use this example because the solution to this internet browser problem immediately became apparent to this senior engineer. When you not only stay on top of current IT trends but also have deep, historical knowledge from many years in the industry, then you are able to spot problems quickly—similar to how an experienced car mechanic or plumber can diagnose problems fast.

Too commonly, cities do not have IT support and instead wait for something to break. While it seems as if you’re saving money without IT support, this situation ends up costing you possibly more by wasting so much of your time—especially if a vendor bills you at an hourly rate. In this post, we give you a few observations about the heavy junior-level IT support that many vendors offer and how too much reliance on inexperienced engineers wastes your time—and money.

1. Heavy reliance on scripts

Scripts sometimes work well as a process backbone. When you call into a helpdesk, the engineer should have a process to follow. However, there is a difference between leaning on process to help analyze the information you provide as a way to quickly assess an issue versus reading through a script no matter what problem you present.

As an example, let’s say you call in with a problem about a printer not printing. A senior engineer will read notes about any past issues with the printer, assess your issue against their knowledge and their team’s knowledge base, and eliminate a lot of noise about what the problem isn’t before narrowing in on what the problem is. They will talk to you like a human, get to the point quickly, and either fix the problem or escalate it.

A script reader will stick to their script no matter what. “What’s your name again? And your company? What kind of printer is it? Can you share the model number? Have you tried resetting your computer? Are you having internet connectivity issues? Is the printer plugged in? Is the printer on? When was it last working? Try to print something. Have you tried turning the printer off and on?”

On and on it goes. While something in those questions may resolve the issue, it’s time-consuming at best and unlikely at worst. A heavy reliance on scripts wastes time.

2. “Let me get back to you.”

You’re on the phone with a script reader for a long time and they ask you 20 or more basic questions. After staying on the phone with them for a long time, they finally say, “Let me get back to you” or “I’ll need to connect you with our Tier 2 specialist.” You’ve wasted time getting to a senior engineer, or you have to wait while the junior-level engineer learns on the job.

Too many “let me get back to you”s suggests that you’re dealing with a very inexperienced IT support team. They do not have enough experience and knowledge to immediately address common problems or see patterns in how your problems map to other IT issues they’ve addressed in the past.

3. Sledgehammer versus a scalpel

You’ll often see this kind of frustrating situation on online help forums for major technology companies. The answer that you may see on these forums for any specific or nuanced bug is to do a factory restore of your operating system by wiping your computer and starting from scratch. Yes, that solves the problem—but rather like burning down your house will definitely get rid of your pest control problem!

In the case of our browser example in the introduction, a junior engineer using the sledgehammer method might recommend that you uninstall and reinstall your browser or, even worse, your operating system. What a waste of time, and it still wouldn’t fix the problem. Asking a user to reinstall software for small issues, bugs, or functionality problems is usually a sign that the junior-level technician does not have enough know-how to recommend a more nuanced solution.

4. Inexperience leading to errors, misconfigurations, and sloppy work

A customer told us that a few years ago, an IT vendor struggled with a very slow computer. For weeks and weeks, the user had to keep calling IT support because the computer slowed to a crawl. The junior-level engineers spent a long time talking to the internet service provider, despite other departments in the building not having issues. They tried to uninstall applications “wasting space,” even though the computer had plenty of memory and storage. Finally, on a whim, the user asked about patching and updates. Turns out, the computer had not been patched or updated in six months! That ended up solving the problem.

When inexperienced yet enthusiastic junior-level engineers are largely on their own, putting out fires, and rewarded for closing tickets, they’ll try anything. That “anything” leads to errors and oversights such as failing to perform basic computer maintenance. They can also misconfigure hardware and software, leading to security and performance issues.


As you can see, relying too much on cheap, inexperienced IT engineers can hurt you in the end—wasting time and risking your municipality’s security, operations, and data. Obviously, we’re not against the use of entry-level or junior-level engineers in the IT industry. But in some situations—like IT support for municipalities with limited budget—the help you need requires senior engineers on the frontlines. As public stewards, you need to make sure your municipality’s IT runs smoothly and securely while wasting as little time and money as possible. Only senior-level municipal-experienced engineers can help you achieve this goal.

Considering making changes to your IT support? Reach out to us today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Michael Chihlas, Senior Consultant and Team Lead
Michael Chihlas

Should your IT support vendor help you remotely or arrive onsite to resolve an issue? This may seem like a simple question, but we find that many IT vendors supporting cities often do not make the right decision—as shown by the vendor’s IT support actions. We still find too many cities getting charged for onsite visits when vendors resolve issues that they could easily solve remotely. Conversely, IT support vendors often lack proactive remote monitoring tools that identify issues long before they happen, allowing serious hardware failures to blossom into full IT fires that they do not address onsite until the IT fire is raging.

We often talk about the needed blend of both onsite and remote support for an IT helpdesk, but we’ve never written a post focused on the difference between remote and onsite support. You can use this checklist to see if your IT support vendor handles your IT issues with the right blend of remote and onsite support.

Remote Support

Remote support is when an IT engineer can help you resolve an IT issue without coming to your office at all. They can help you by accessing your systems from afar, logging onto an individual’s computer and taking control of it in order to resolve a problem, helping you by phone to address an issue, or calling a vendor on your behalf to resolve an issue.

Here are some common situations where remote support works best:

  • Monitoring for issues: An IT helpdesk should use monitoring software that connects to your hardware, software, and systems to help identify issues with performance. For example, IT engineers can monitor your firewalls for signs of suspicious activity or see if a server is starting to fail.
  • Patching and updating software: Patching and updating is important to prevent cyberattacks while making sure your software runs smoothly. As one of the most important IT support items, engineers can patch and update software remotely with minimal interruption to your systems.
  • Resolving everyday user problems: As you know, city employees will have individual problems with their computers and other devices. Maybe an employee forgot their password. Maybe an employee accidentally deleted an important file. Maybe the printer isn’t working. These are all problems usually best solved remotely. An IT engineer can initiate a remote session where they connect to your computer, server, or printer, or they can just talk you through a problem while troubleshooting for further issues.
  • Deploying some software and cloud “hardware”: If your city uses software that does not require any servers, or if your city uses virtual servers in the cloud that do not require any physical servers, then IT engineers can often remotely install and deploy this hardware and software without need of an onsite visit.
  • Responding to cyberattacks: When a cyberattack takes place, you need to act now. You don’t have time to wait for an onsite visit. Luckily, a 24/7 helpdesk can act now—mitigating an attack by shutting off hardware and software remotely, using your firewall to fend off the attack, and containing the damage so that it doesn’t spread.
  • Resolving website issues: Many website issues can be resolved remotely, assuming an IT engineer has access to your hosting provider, content management system, or website server.

Onsite Support

Obviously, everything cannot be handled remotely. Some items that still require onsite support include:

  • Interactions with physical hardware: If hardware such as servers, computers, laptops, printers, wireless routers, and networking equipment fails in physical ways, then an onsite visit is a must. Sometimes, physical hardware needs an in-person diagnosis and fix. Also, any hardware deployments, installations, and rebuildings require an onsite visit.
  • Extensive IT issues: Sometimes, IT issues are extensive enough that they need an onsite visit. For example, assessing the state of your hardware, data backup, or document management may require an onsite visit to ensure that IT engineers understand the exact nature of your problem and can ask questions of city staff. Or, you could be experiencing a longstanding issue with another vendor, such as an internet service provider, that requires onsite investigation to help you resolve the issue.
  • Training: While online training has its benefits and is not a bad thing, onsite training is usually better to increase the chance of employees retaining the information. They will be more engaged, more likely to ask questions, and more present when doing exercises.
  • Planning: When doing IT planning and strategizing, it’s best to meet in person. Sitting around a table, thinking aloud on a whiteboard, and generating good ideas works best in person.
  • Major projects: When working on a major project such as data backup and disaster recovery, document management, or a new email system, it’s good to have IT engineers on site. Even if many pieces could be handled remotely, these kinds of projects usually are complex and have a lot of moving pieces. For coordination purposes such as involving important stakeholders and documenting what’s needed to complete the project, having someone on site is good to ensure that all details are captured.

Receiving both remote and onsite support means that your IT support vendor must understand when to use each kind of support. A good 24/7 IT helpdesk will be able to help you as much as possible remotely, leaving onsite visits for only necessary items or situations where in-person engagement is better. After looking at this list, consider if your IT support vendor’s capabilities are serving you, or not, with their way of approaching remote and onsite support.

Need help evaluating your IT support? Looking to receive more efficient IT support? Reach out to us today.

Friday, March 6, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

Bull Shoals is an important recreation destination in Arkansas. Established in 1946, the city grew alongside the development of Bull Shoals Dam—a dam that created the Bull Shoals Lake, the city’s centerpiece. Offering 1,000 miles of shoreline and over 70,000 acres of lake area, the lake and surrounding area attracts many visitors seeking great fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, and water sports. The White River, flowing south of the lake, even features a world-famous trout fishery. Ideal for retirees and tourists, the City of Bull Shoals is a small slice of paradise in North Central Arkansas.

A city constantly marketing itself to tourists while also catering to citizens means that Bull Shoals needs information technology to run efficiently, safely, and securely. But Bull Shoals is a small city with a limited staff and budget. They do not have the resources to build out an in-house IT team and infrastructure. Yet, they still need robust information technology that works reliably and allows Bull Shoals to serve citizens and tourists.

Challenge

A few years ago, Bull Shoals was not in a good place with its information technology. According to Mayor David Nixon, “Basically, everything IT was cobbled together out of string and baling wires. It didn’t work.” Previous IT support also approached computer problems in an obsolete way, lacking experience and clear processes. Sometimes their fixes worked. Sometimes their fixes made things worse and created other problems.

Without a reliable source of IT help, many problems weighed Bull Shoals down.

  • Unreliable IT infrastructure: The city’s servers and computers were unreliable and unstable. Often, the old, outdated computers froze up or didn’t work properly.
  • Uncertainty related to data backup: The city was not certain it could restore data in the event of an incident such as a server failure or disaster.
  • Inability to access city records: Because of a lack of policies and procedures, the city was unable to access a significant portion of electronic city records for an extended period of time. Mayor Nixon said, “Our ability to maintain records is essential for all phases of our operations. We’re concerned with Legislative Audit, our ability to document processes and procedures, and the external and internal security of our systems.”
  • Unreliable email: The city could not rely upon its email software and employees often found it didn’t work properly.
  • Non-existent website: Mayor Nixon called the city’s previous website “worse than non-existent.” For a city that relies so heavily on tourism, the lack of a website hurt the city’s efforts to market itself and provide information and services to citizens.

The city started looking for alternative IT support a few years ago, briefly considering a few options before coming across Sophicity through the Arkansas Municipal League’s ‘IT in a Box.’”

Solution

AML’s IT in a Box offered the City of Bull Shoals municipal-experienced technology professionals who were ready to address these ongoing problems. Once implemented, IT in a Box’s comprehensive, multi-faceted solution included:

  • 24x7 helpdesk: Dedicated 24x7x365 helpdesk support staff now provide Bull Shoals IT support both remotely and onsite, depending on the issue. “When we have a problem, we call and get tech support in a relatively timely way,” said Mayor Nixon. “People are willing to come out and serve us. They are professional, with no hissy fits. Their engineers are not put out by simple issues. We get professional, competent, and courteous service in a timely manner.”
  • Server, desktop, and mobile management: Enterprise-class antivirus and antimalware software now actively monitors threats. Sophicity also implemented cybersecurity best practices to improve security and helped the city secure its IT infrastructure.
  • Onsite and offsite data backup and disaster recovery: Onsite and offsite data backups help ensure both quick recovery after small incidents (like a server failure) or a larger incident (such as a tornado). Quarterly testing ensures the city’s data is safe and recoverable.
  • Vendor management: Sophicity now handles any needed technical calls with hardware and software vendors, resolving issues that used to take up valuable city staff time. This is a favorite IT in a Box feature at Bull Shoals.
  • Document management: The city has begun the process of going paperless and implementing a centralized document management system so that staff can easily apply records retention schedules.
  • New city website: Bull Shoals received a modern fresh custom-designed website with Sophicity hosting the website and managing the content. Plus, city staff can now edit and update website content themselves.

Results

After the city switched over to IT in a Box, they experienced many positive results.

  • A streamlined network and long-term technology plan: Sophicity helped simplify the city’s IT network design, including the way the servers, computers, and network equipment all worked together. This helped increase the speed and efficiency of existing IT infrastructure. Sophicity’s IT engineers are also working with the city to develop a long-term plan for modernizing and upgrading its technology.
  • The city reduced the risk of permanent data loss: No more uncertainty exists about data backup and recovering data (including body camera videos) after a disaster such as a tornado. IT in a Box’s onsite and offsite data backup components—tested quarterly—reassures the city that it can recover its data after an incident. Mayor Nixon said, “I’m now confident that if we had a catastrophic event in our city, our continuity of operations would not be significantly impacted because we have offsite backup that is reliable. If we have a failure on an individual computer that’s covered under the IT in a Box contract, that data will not be lost and can be recovered in fairly short order. We lose almost no data. The ability to operate with some confidence that our operations will be stable and continuous in the event of interruptions is enormously important.”
  • City records recovered and records management plan in place: Sophicity’s engineers were able to access city records on a server that previously was configured improperly, preventing city employees from accessing these records. “Our records retention system was opened expeditiously in a matter of seconds,” said Mayor Nixon. “We could then move forward with codifying our records and putting a record retrieval system in place. This would have been impossible without Sophicity.” The city is currently working on a plan to move all its scanned digital documents to IT in a Box’s document management platform. “We have requirements for records retention that we are now able to meet with Sophicity’s assistance—at a reasonable cost,” said Mayor Nixon.
  • Robust, reliable email system: Bull Shoals now has a modernized, enterprise-class email system that works consistently and reliably.
  • Modernized, amazing-looking website with IT in a Box support: The new Bull Shoals website has been very well received by employees, citizens, and tourists—and the city also enjoys Sophicity’s support to help employees maintain it. “We could not have operated our city’s website without Sophicity’s input and support,” said Mayor Nixon. “Our website now allows greater convenience for our citizens, and we’re now comfortable putting payment mechanisms into our website because we know it’s secure. We would never have dreamed of doing that before because we’d be putting anyone who used our website at risk financially. We use the website to promote our community to external markets and to educate and inform our citizenry. With Sophicity’s IT support, we now have the ability to post documents and inform citizens about ongoing public issues and affairs in a timely fashion through our website.”
“In my previous work experience, IT departments reported to me. I knew fairly well what Sophicity proposed to provide our city with IT in a Box. Once implemented, IT in a Box provided us a competent, contemporary IT support infrastructure. I am still pleasantly surprised that Sophicity responds to service tickets so quickly. I knew what kind of IT services I wanted and I found them in Sophicity—at a cost that’s doable for a small city.

"Municipalities have three choices:

1. Continue doing what you’re doing and put your entire operations and citizenry at risk. Lack of a proper IT foundation means non-compliance, risk of catastrophic failure, and opening yourself up to litigious activity. You can be sued for failures, and you really aren’t in a position to do anything about it if something bad happens.

2. You can hire staff and invest in the needed IT infrastructure to create your own internal system. That’s very expensive, time-consuming, and often cost-prohibitive.

3. Go with Sophicity and get state of the art IT infrastructure that will ensure the security of your citizens, government, and information—at a reasonable cost.

Those are your choices. Make whatever decision seems prudent and appropriate to you. For Bull Shoals, Sophicity seemed the most cost-effective solution to protect our continuity of operations and the integrity of our community. I’m glad that the service Sophicity provides exists. Otherwise, many municipalities would not function properly.” - David Nixon, Mayor, City of Bull Shoals, Arkansas

Contact Us Today

If you're interested in learning more, contact us about IT in a Box.

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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

Did you know that local municipalities are the most popular ransomware target? Or that 45 percent of government ransomware victims were municipalities with under 50,000 in population? If you’re a small city, then you are at risk for ransomware. Our 10 Important Ransomware Stats and What They Mean for Municipalities article will give you a broader sense of this serious problem.

After attending recent events such as the ACCMA 2020 Winter Conference, GMA’s Cities United Summit, the Georgia Clerks Education Institute Conference, Georgia’s 2020 Newly Elected Officials Institute, and AML’s 2020 Winter Conference, we can confirm through our conversations with municipalities that ransomware and cybersecurity remain a big concern. Are you ready for such attacks? If you want to know more about how IT in a Box can help, start here.

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

Forsyth, Georgia
Special Districts Association of Oregon


New Websites Launched

Cochran, Georgia


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

10 Important Ransomware Stats and What They Mean for Municipalities

We've collected some facts, statistics, and research about ransomware’s impact on municipalities to drive home the point that cities and towns must address cybersecurity vulnerabilities that leave them open to cyberattackers.

READ MORE


Featured Data Backup Article

Where Do I Begin? Building a Strong Data Backup Strategy Step by Step

Obviously, cities don’t want to permanently lose data. In many cases, though, they lack a strong strategy and foundation—leaving them at risk to still lose data even when they think they are taking the right steps. After thinking about the five critical components in this blog post, ask yourself whether you need to build a stronger data backup strategy to truly protect your city’s data.

READ MORE


Featured Helpdesk Article

Fast and Cheap IT Support Puts Your City at Risk

Untrained staff or even previous IT engineers and vendors working too fast to solve issues often reveals that cities are trying to take shortcuts in three ways.

READ MORE


Featured Website Article

Behind the Rise of ADA-Compliance Lawsuits and What Cities Can Do

The nation has seen a spike in ADA-compliance lawsuits that include the targeting of municipalities. These lawsuits have become so numerous that municipalities fear getting hit with a lawsuit. To give a brief overview of this situation, this post answers a few of your most common questions and provides additional resources if you want to learn more.

READ MORE


Newsletter Signup

Sign up for Sophicity's CitySmart Newsletter. Get all of the latest city government news, articles, and interviews.


We hope to see you at these upcoming events:

GCCMA 2020 Spring Conference
March 18-20, 2020
Augusta, Georgia

Disaster Preparedness (Advanced Certification Course-Level 2)
March 18, 2020
North Little Rock, Arkansas

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Nathan Eisner, COO
Nathan Eisner

As of this blog post publication, Windows 7 currently has a 32 percent market share on desktops and laptops. Yet, Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. What does this end of support mean? A few things:

  • Microsoft no longer provides technical support for Windows 7 (with only some very rare or super-costly exceptions).
  • Microsoft no longer provides software and feature updates for Windows 7.
  • Microsoft no longer provides security updates for Windows 7.

Rationale for staying on Windows 7 often involves certain attitudes, myths, and assumptions that can be dangerous.

  • “They’re trying to scare me with empty threats. This is just a way for Microsoft to make money. They force upgrades on people. I’m sticking with Windows 7.”
  • “My antivirus will make sure Windows 7 stays secure.”
  • “My IT support vendor can keep Windows 7 running for me.”

These statements are misleading and inaccurate, as we will see below. And while you may not like Microsoft’s business model, reality is reality. If they are no longer supporting software released in 2009 (an eternity in IT time), then that means they are no longer supporting it.

Let’s look more closely at the dangers of staying on Windows 7.

1. Security

This is your biggest concern—by a longshot. Windows 7 will no longer receive security patches. That’s important. Software patches are an essential part of a security strategy. Vendors patch software on a regular basis as security vulnerabilities are discovered. Without patching, hackers have a way to break into your systems, deliver ransomware and malware, and steal data.

The longer Windows 7 does not get patched with any security updates, the less secure it becomes. If any of your city employees use Windows 7, then their desktop or laptop is like an unlocked door that welcomes burglars to City Hall.

What about antivirus software? No—it won’t protect Windows 7. Software patches and antivirus software are completely different tools protecting completely different security vulnerabilities.

  • Think of viruses like an unauthorized person trying to enter a restricted room in City Hall (such as the mayor’s office) through a legitimate, monitored entrance. Antivirus software would be your mechanism (city employees, security guards, sign-in processes) to prevent the unauthorized person from entering.
  • Think of software vulnerabilities (such as Windows 7 vulnerabilities) like parts of your City Hall building where people can break in (unlocked doors, windows, openings, etc.). Patching is like a lock, a security alarm, or building improvements that prevent people from entering or wandering inside through a building vulnerability.

Your antivirus software can prevent viruses and malware from infecting your computer, but a weakened Windows 7 will remain open for hackers to exploit through vulnerabilities in the software.

2. Basic computer functioning

Without patching, functionality with Windows 7 becomes a risk. Computers may freeze. Unpatched software bugs impact your employees doing work. Your IT support vendor flounders as they try to work around a dying operating system. If you are non-technical, it’s easy to think of computers like cars or appliances. Get a good mechanic and they can fiddle around with the machine until it works.

Computer operating systems do not work this way. There are no “Windows 7 mechanics” with access to the software’s source code. As Windows 7 grows more obsolete, this unsupported operating system will become less functional as it lacks regular patching and updates.

3. Incompatibility with modern applications

Why do people upgrade their smartphones so often? It’s because they want popular apps to work, videos to play without slowing or freezing, and GPS to work smoothly. That’s exactly the rationale behind transitioning from Windows 7 to a newer operating system. The obsolete, unsupported Windows 7 will not be able to support many modern applications.

Think about it. If Windows 7 was released in 2009 and mainstream support ended in 2015, that means at least five years (again, an eternity in IT) have passed since Windows 7 was considered a modern operating system. So many modern applications built or upgraded since 2015 exceed the software limitations of Windows 7 and may not work. As time goes on, you may encounter situations such as:

  • Wanting to upgrade your accounting software, but unable to do so because you have Windows 7.
  • Running into issues with cloud software that you access over the internet because Windows 7 is incompatible with certain up-to-date modern features.

4. Obsolete hardware

Where you find Windows 7, you will also likely find obsolete, aging hardware. For a more in-depth look at why you need to modernize your hardware, read our post “5 Reasons to Modernize Your Hardware.” Specific to Windows 7, it’s actually beneficial to upgrade hardware at the same time you upgrade your operating system. If you cling to Windows 7 and old hardware, your support costs will increase more and more, making that original hardware investment even more expensive as you pour money into dying technology. Instead, modern hardware is less expensive and faster than what you bought five or 10 years ago. In addition to running a modern operating system like Windows 10, modern hardware will also improve your municipality’s productivity and ability to use modern software.

5. Compliance

Municipalities must comply with laws that require them to secure and protect sensitive and confidential data. If you use Windows 7 knowing that it is no longer supported and patched, then you place your city’s information at risk. Continuing to use Windows 7 may create legal and compliance risks related to the security and protection of tax, public safety, payment, personnel, and other sensitive information.


Upgrading from Windows 7 is overdue and essential—especially now that no more patches or support will come your way. While making the investment to upgrade hardware and software may seem like a lot of money, the costs and risks are much higher if you stick with Windows 7 as it grows less secure and reliable over time. If you’re still on Windows 7, we urge you to make the move to upgrade today.

Need help upgrading from Windows 7 to a newer operating system? Don’t know where to begin? Reach out to us today.

Monday, February 10, 2020
Kevin Howarth, Marketing & Communications

We hope to see you at the following municipal events this week!

2020 Newly Elected Officials Institute
February 10-12, 2020
Tifton, Georgia

Arkansas Municipal League 2020 Winter Conference
February 12-14, 2020
Little Rock, Arkansas

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66 | 67 | 68 | 69 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 73 | 74 | 75 | 76 | 77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 |