CitySmart Blog

Thursday, February 04, 2016
Nathan Eisner, COO

Nathan EisnerCities may already know that document management systems will help them with storing and accessing documents in a central location. But there are a lot of lesser-known advantages within a modern document management system that will help a city save time, increase productivity, and just plain old make your job easier.

Because these document management systems often contain a dizzying array of features, we’ve sifted through them and highlighted a few that you might not know about. And we think you’ll agree that these features will help any city clerk or staff who deals with documents every day.

1. Collaborate on documents with others while tracking edits.

When you’re working on documents with multiple people, it can be difficult to create a draft that incorporates everyone’s feedback. Document management systems allow you to work on documents together (sometimes even in real-time) with all edits tracked. That way, you know you’re looking at the current work in progress. This feature makes document collaboration much easier and less confusing.

2. Keep all versions of documents as they get created and revised.

One of the biggest pains for many people at cities is trying to figure out what document is the latest version. You struggle to figure out who has the latest version and sometimes you may work on a version not knowing that another person created the latest, greatest draft. With document versioning, you can see the latest document version in seconds so that you know you’re working with the right one.

3. Restrict document editing, sharing, and access.

On a practical level, restricting document editing helps “lock” documents when someone is editing them. That way, you’ll know that no one is making changes to the latest version as you’re editing it. More importantly, restricting access to documents helps with security and records management. You can make sure only authorized users access and share specific documents.

4. Set up automated archiving and workflow processes.

Manual document archiving introduces the risk of making mistakes or overlooking documents. By setting up automated archiving features built around your records retention policies, you can make sure that documents are managed based on clear rules. This mitigates the risk of problems with open records requests.

5. Tag documents so that they are easy to find.

Modern document management systems offer a lot of ways for you to tag documents to make them easier to find. Tagging helps you find documents without necessarily having to dig through chaotic folders that various people have created over time. For example, you might tag documents by department, project, author, event, year, etc. Then when you use the normal search or advanced search function, documents will come up that match your search terms. It may take some upfront planning and time investment to tag documents, but it’s worth it.

The most important point about the five benefits above is that your document management system won’t magically solve all of your problems. Instead, you’ll rely on your document management system to help you carry out important business processes such as creating, revising, finalizing, approving, storing, archiving, labeling, securing, and decommissioning documents. The good news? What used to be difficult to enforce and carry out becomes much easier in a document management system.

Questions about how a document management system can improve your city? Reach out to us to talk about your particular situation.

Thursday, January 28, 2016
Dave Mims, CEO

Dave MimsMany cities have some form of data backup. But it troubles us to find a lot of uncertainty about actually recovering that data if a disaster hits. In a FierceITSecurity article from late last year, the online magazine reported:

“Data loss has increased 400 percent since 2012, while 71 percent of enterprises are not fully confident in their ability to recover after a disruption, according to a survey of 3,300 IT decision makers by Vanson Bourne on behalf of EMC.”

While it’s likely that you’re doing something to back up your data, those efforts may not be enough to recover your data.

Wondering if you can recover after backing up your data? Ask yourself the following five questions.

1. Do you regularly test your data backup?

This is the most critical aspect of making sure you can recover your data. It’s essential to perform a full disaster recovery simulation at least once every quarter to make sure you can actually recover your data. Don’t find out you can’t recover your data after a disaster occurs. By then, it’s too late. During a test, assess your data backup and disaster recovery effectiveness, identify issues, and solve those issues as soon as possible.

2. Do you back up your data to a completely separate place?

You’re not backing up if you’re just replicating data in the cloud or on a server. Erasing replicated data in one place will erase it in all places. Backing up also doesn’t mean using business class servers such as RAID servers (that duplicate data within the same server) or other virtualization technologies that allow multiple servers to be hosted within one server. Sure, using those technologies reduces risks and increases efficiencies, but what if something happens to that entire server? Backed up data needs to be stored both in a completely separate location onsite and in a distant data center (preferably a cloud data center) offsite.

3. Do you use business-class data backup software?

We’ve written about this subject in the past as we’ve reported on the downfalls of relying on consumer-grade data backup. The biggest risk of cheap, do-it-yourself consumer-grade data backup is that you may not be backing up all of your critical files. Only managed, business-grade data backup and disaster recovery ensures that you are backing up all of your critical data and that it can be recovered. A business-grade data backup solution also makes sure you answer “yes” to questions 1 and 2 above.

4. Do you have modern technology?

Just because you’re backing up your data doesn’t mean it will easily reload in a timely fashion onto any possibly existing dated servers or even procured new servers. Time-to-recovery advantages that modern technology offers creates the benefit of being able to have your data and systems back up and running much faster. In addition, the quality of your networking equipment (such as your data transfer speed) may also affect your ability to recover quickly. Make sure your technology is modern enough to handle full data recovery.

5. Are you prepared for full disaster recovery?

You might answer “yes” to the four questions above...for onsite data backup. But if you’re not backing up offsite, you’re still at risk of not recovering after a disaster. A fire, flooding, or a tornado can jeopardize your best onsite data backup efforts. And don’t think that “offsite” means a building next door or down the block. The same disaster that hits your building can also hit the building nearby. Offsite means geographically dispersed, preferably in data centers in different parts of the country.

With data backup, your goal is not just to back up the data. Your goal is to recover it. Work at addressing your data backup gaps until you can answer “yes” to the five questions above. Until then, your city has some important work to do!

Have questions about your ability to recover your data? Reach out to us.

Thursday, January 21, 2016
Victoria Boyko, Software Development Consultant

Victoria BoykoResearch shows that people make a snap judgment about you through your website in 50 milliseconds. Given that people tend to research and find out about your city primarily through your website, that first impression is significant, crucial, and important.

So, for the citizens you serve, the businesses considering relocating or expanding, and people looking for places to move—how’s your website doing? What’s that first impression like?

Many cities get busy with other projects and tend to neglect their websites. If you’re one of those cities, don’t worry! It’s a brand new year, so here are five questions you can ask yourself to see if your website needs a 2016 overhaul.

1. When was the last time you freshened up the look and feel of your website?

That first impression is quite visual. People look at the layout, design, colors, fonts, and arrangement of text and visuals. If it looks crappy and run down, guess what people will think about your city? Take steps to modernize and freshen the look and feel of your website. You don’t have to go overboard, but that visual first impression is incredibly important.

2. When did you last update information on your website?

It’s easy to not think about your core website content for a long time. As years pass, contact information becomes inaccurate from people leaving, department information grows outdated, and new information hasn’t been posted. People can quickly see if you take care of your website by checking out a few key webpages. Just like you wouldn’t abandon your city hall for months on end, you shouldn’t abandon your website once you set it up. Review it periodically to update information.

3. How often do you post new and timely information?

Cities look bad when the last news item is from 2013 or city council minutes take too long to get posted online. Websites are your public-facing information resource with your audiences: citizens, businesses, prospective residents, and visitors. To look vital, you need to share news, events, city council meeting information, and updated information about departments on a regular basis.

4. What citizen services do you offer or provide information about on your website?

Increasingly, citizens with computers, smartphones, and tablets are turning to your city’s website to make payments, apply for business licenses, or download forms. If they have to drive down to city hall or talk to someone on the phone for simple tasks, then you’re creating a huge inconvenience for them. Make sure you’re offering basic citizen service options like online payments, explanations of common processes, and any needed documents and forms.

5. How much visual information do you offer?

A text-heavy website is boring, hard to navigate, and doesn’t appeal to a person’s different ways of consuming information. Consider a more constant supply of photos, images, and videos to add some visual appeal to your website. Examples include posting photos from events, showing images that touch upon the history of your city, and providing videos of city council meetings. This kind of visual content is also great for sharing on social media like Facebook or YouTube.

As you can see, people expect a lot more from websites than they did even 10 years ago. They truly are an information hub and a first impression for visitors. Similar to how you keep city hall looking great for walk-in visitors, you need to keep your website looking just as good for online visitors.

Considering an overhaul of your website in the new year? Reach out to us with any questions.

Thursday, January 14, 2016
John Miller, Senior Consultant

John MillerAs you wade into a new year, it’s inevitable that you will soon take a close look at your city budget. That includes your technology spending, including both operational and capital technology costs. A few years ago, we wrote a series of three articles about municipal IT budgeting that have proved popular every new year. We recommend you read these three articles (scroll down below) to explore the areas discussed in this post in more depth.

However, for this post we’re providing a quick basic overview of technology budgeting based on these three articles. Many cities do not clearly break out technology as a line item in their budget or they tend to lump it in with various departments. It’s worth looking at technology budgeting as clearly as possible to understand where you might be losing money or failing to invest properly for important business activities and projects.

Area 1: Broken Technology

Broken technology is an obvious place to start with technology budgeting. If hardware, software, your website, or data backup constantly fail you, then you are losing money due to lessened productivity and effectiveness. You may need to invest more in certain technologies if you underinvest or take dangerous shortcuts. The most common broken technology symptoms include:

  • Data backup that fails you when you need it
  • Aging hardware (more than five years old)
  • Poor quality Internet service provider and telecom services
  • Reactive or overwhelmed IT support (staff and/or vendor) always putting out fires
  • Aging software that doesn’t work with modern Internet browsers or the cloud

Area 2: Costly Technology

Okay, so maybe your technology works. But have you performed a cost analysis lately? You may find that newer, modern technology solutions and services exist that can trim down your technology budget. Unlike Area 1, the goal of Area 2 is to save money if you’re spending too much. Some costly technology areas often include:

  • Hardware that you may no longer need if you move to the cloud
  • Software that may work better if modernized and will cost less if it’s in the cloud
  • Expensive, hourly IT support or high salary IT employees that don’t give you the biggest bang for your buck
  • Manual (instead of automated) data backup processes such as tape or external hard drives that waste employee time
  • ISP and telecom service contracts that have not been examined in a long time

Area 3: Unhelpful Technology

Even if you have modernized technology, it may not help your city achieve specific goals related to the city’s vision or to assist with important projects. Technology is not simply another utility. Wise technology investments can help you achieve important city business goals in less time and/or with an end result even better than what you originally envisioned. Some key areas to focus on include:

  • Technology resources and options to help major departmental projects and initiatives
  • Software requirements and vendor evaluations
  • Returns on technology investments
  • Long-term operational goals
  • Citizen services such as online payments

Read our three-part series for more information about each area. When budgeting for technology, make sure you look at your broken technology, places where technology might cost you more than you need to pay, and opportunities for technology to help your city meet its most important goals.

Municipal IT Budgeting Part I: Fixing What’s Broken

Municipal IT Budgeting Part II: Maximizing Your IT Investments

Municipal IT Budgeting Part III: Let Technology Spur Your Vision

Questions about your technology budget, or not sure where to start? Reach out to us.

Thursday, January 07, 2016
Alicia Klemola, Account Manager

Alicia KlemolaA new year provides a good excuse to take a fresh look at your city’s information technology. After all, it’s 2016. The great thing about information technology today is that many services have drastically improved in quality while lowering in cost over the last few years. If you haven’t taken a fresh look at your information technology during the last two or three years, then you might be missing out on some powerful cost savers and productivity boosters.

But where do you begin? Here are some technology areas and questions to help you assess the current state of your IT. Use this assessment to help you take a fresh 2016 look at your city’s technology investments.

Your city’s website.

Today, many people first go to your website to find online services, research your city, or look for city council information. That means your website needs to work even harder than city hall to provide information on a constant basis and serve as the first impression of your city for many people. Because first impressions are so important, ask yourself:

  • How old is our website? Has it been five or even 10 years since we had a redesign?
  • How old is the content on our website? Have we updated it recently with fresh news, events, and city council information?
  • Do we offer online payments and services?
  • Do we host our website with a reliable, reputable provider? Does our website go down a lot?

Your data backup and disaster recovery.

Currently, many cities use aging, unreliable, or incomplete data backup solutions that fail during a crisis. Data backup is one of those things that goes unnoticed—until a server fails or a disaster strikes. In those moments, you may discover too late that you cannot recover critical data. Ask yourself:

  • Is all of my important data backed up?
  • Can I quickly recover any lost data from an event like a server failure?
  • Do I back up my data offsite in case of a severe disaster?
  • Have I tested and audited my data backup recently?

Your ability to find information and respond to open records requests.

As you may know, finding information is half the battle when it comes to open records requests. But many cities use insufficient email programs or lack modern document management systems. Free or cheap email software prevents cities from easily finding information and blurs the boundaries between personal and business email. And if your city isn’t storing documents in a centralized place where authorized people can easily search for information, then you’re making city business that much harder for yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Do I use a free, cheap, or difficult-to-use email program?
  • Do I have enough storage for email and documents? Or am I always hitting storage limits?
  • Can I easily find emails and documents, especially for open records requests?

Your hardware, software, and network equipment.

Many cities slow down to a crawl because of aging equipment. Old servers, workstations, and network equipment (like routers or firewalls) can lead to constant crashes, slow computers, and frustrated employees. Plus, aging software that consists of expensive servers and software licenses may need revisiting by looking at some modern cloud options. Ask yourself:

  • Are my servers and workstations more than five years old?
  • Do I often have major issues with hardware and software?
  • Are there cheaper cloud options available for which I don’t need to have as much hardware on site?

Your IT issues getting resolved.

Do you have overworked IT staff who take a long time to get to technical issues? Or maybe you use an “IT repairperson” of sorts who comes over every now and then to fix a lot of issues at once? In the meantime, lingering technology issues means your employees wait a long time for fixes and struggle to do their work. A 24/7 helpdesk used to be a luxury for many organizations, but today they have become more cost effective. For way less than an IT person’s salary, you get experienced engineers constantly working on any IT issue you throw at them. Ask yourself:

  • Is my current IT staff or vendor always available to help me?
  • Do IT issues get lined up in a long queue that takes seemingly forever to get resolved?
  • Is someone clearly accountable so that I can always follow up on the status of an issue?

With this assessment, you’ll be able to quickly identify if you have any problem areas or opportunity for improvement. If at least three of these areas worry you, then seriously consider evaluating the current state of your information technology in depth. Look for more modern, cost-effective options that meet the needs of your employees while lessening the number of ongoing problems.

Want to talk about any of these areas in more detail? Reach out to us today.

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Brian Ocfemia, Technical Account Manager

Brian OcfemiaAccording to the most recent data as of this post, Windows 10 has only about 9% market share. Most people and businesses are still using Windows 7, Windows 8 (including 8.1), and even the now dangerously outdated Windows XP. If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10, you’re definitely not alone.

When hearing about the benefits of upgrading to Windows 10, you might be tempted by any number of things: a better look and feel, more features and benefits, and even just the lure of trying the latest, greatest thing.

If your city wants to upgrade to Windows 10, then at least consider the following things as you evaluate your decision.

  1. Confirm with any of your critical line of business application software vendors that it’s safe to upgrade. Before you do anything, you first need to make sure that your most critical line of business applications (such as your accounting software) will work with Windows 10. In our conversations with many software vendors, we hear that their applications “should” work but that they are not officially supporting them on Windows 10 yet. If that’s the case, you’re taking a big risk if you upgrade. Have your IT staff or vendor confirm with the software vendor that it’s safe to upgrade—and also make sure you have kept your software up-to-date.
  2. The actual upgrade to Windows 10 is easy. It’s been our experience that the act of upgrading will go smoothly. Microsoft has made Windows 10 one of the easiest operating system upgrades in its history. And you don’t have to worry about reinstalling common applications like Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, iTunes, and others. These common applications will seamlessly transfer over.
  3. Your employees will need to adjust to a new look and feel. Usually, a lot of problems in an operating system upgrade involve less technical users who get used to a particular operating system. An adjustment to a new operating system like Windows 10 may be really hard on them. You will need to prepare and possibly train your employees about the subtle changes to the look and feel of Windows 10. Everything will not be exactly the same as before, and you need to prepare users for that change.
  4. Your employees will need to adjust to a new Internet browser. Internet Explorer has been around seemingly forever (in technology time), and it’s a browser that many of your employees probably use. In Windows 10, Microsoft dumped that browser and instead provides the new Microsoft Edge browser. While it’s not radically different from Internet Explorer, it’s still different. Less technical users may have some trouble adjusting if they have used Internet Explorer for many years.
  5. Back up your data...just in case. You should have a data backup and disaster recovery plan anyway. But if not or if you still use a manual data backup system, make sure you back up your data before an upgrade to Windows 10. While Microsoft has made the upgrading process fairly easy, you never know if something might go wrong. If it does, at least you will be able to restore your data.

We don’t have a cut and dry answer for your city if you want to upgrade. However, we can (and do) bring up the concerns and comments above to help a city through its decision. As with most new operating systems, you’ll find that it takes a long time until the majority of businesses adopt a new one. Many software vendors will support the most common operating systems a couple of releases back. But we do strongly recommend, as with any new technology, to make sure you consult with your IT staff or vendor before performing any upgrades.

Have additional questions about Windows 10? Reach out to us today.

Thursday, December 03, 2015
Nathan Eisner, COO

Nathan EisnerA recent GovTech article pointed out that “...80 percent of information security professionals have experienced a data leak and call the problem a substantial concern.” So what’s a data leak? For an obvious example, think about when an employee shares sensitive information through email to the wrong people by accident. Quite simply, a data leak is when information becomes available to unauthorized people.

Cities often worry about threats from the outside such as hackers and disasters that threaten data loss. But GovTech rightly points out that data leaks can affect your information security just as seriously.

So what can you do? Here are five tips to help not only with preventing data leaks but also to help tighten your overall information security.

  1. Set up an internal security policy about how to handle sensitive information. As much as technology can help, you still need to train employees and communicate to them about the importance of keeping information secure. That includes employees sharing sensitive or confidential information to the wrong people through email, leaving computers out in the open and unsecured, and saving files on personal devices that are not connected to the city’s network (such as a home computer or smartphone). In short, you need to designate how employees handle the most sensitive and confidential city information.
  2. Properly maintain the software and systems in your environment. Your city needs to use modern software that’s supported by the software vendor, kept up-to-date to the latest version, and regularly patched. Any older, dated software and unpatched modern software opens you up to data breach risks. Keeping your software modern and up-to-date is critical because software vendors constantly release software updates to not just enhance features and functionality but also to close up holes that hackers may exploit.
  3. Set up permissions and authorize only certain people to access information. Modern document management systems are great for restricting access to documents. With the help of your IT staff or vendor, you can set up permissions for documents so that unauthorized users don’t access them. This level of security goes a long way toward preventing accidental leaks of information.
  4. Proactively monitor and maintain your information technology. Proactive, 24x7x365 monitoring and alerting helps enforce security best practices and actively looks out for security risks. This way, you identify security risks in real time and protect yourself against many possible security issues before they occur—including data breaches. A reactive IT environment increases the risk that you’ll only notice a security issue long after a data leak happens.
  5. Encrypt your city’s computers. In case a laptop or tablet gets stolen or lost, you want to make sure the information is encrypted. This means that the information on the laptop or tablet is useless to anyone who accesses it. It’s an extra layer of security that’s well worth the investment just in case someone does get access to unauthorized information.

When thinking about information security, it’s much easier to think about the big threats like hackers and viruses. But the day to day actions of your employees can also contribute to information security vulnerabilities. Taking the time to modernize your technology, proactively monitor and maintain it, and set up a strong employee policy will tremendously help in preventing both data breaches and leaks.

Need a fresh look at your information security? Reach out to us with your questions.

Thursday, November 19, 2015
Victoria Boyko, Software Development Consultant

Victoria BoykoYou might have seen CEO Dave Mims’s recent video that shows many great examples of modern city websites that not only look great but also have begun impacting the lives of citizens. As Dave says in the video, when people first think about your city, where will they go first? That’s right. Your website.

So, if they’re going to your website as an introduction to your city, are they seeing a website that reflects your community well?

If your answer is not a resounding YES, then you might want to explore modernizing your website. Luckily, what we talk about below can be done extremely cost-effectively—just as we’ve done for many of the city examples you will see.

Let’s look more closely at the benefits of a modern website that most help cities.

1. A modern, nice-looking custom design gives your city a look and feel that fits your city’s image.

As you can see with the City of Marshallville, Georgia’s website, a great modern look and feel can convey some powerful messages about your city’s beauty and charm. You have cost-effective options to not only modernize your website but customize it based on the unique aspects of your city. Maybe it’s your history, tourist attractions, economic strengths, or beautiful parks and scenery. Whatever it is, your website needs to serve as a beautiful, warm welcome that conveys a lot of important things about your city in the first few seconds that someone sees it.

Marshallville, Georgia 

2. Timely information helps keep citizens informed and engaged.

A city like Dawsonville, Georgia uses its new website to keep citizens informed about news and events. Because it’s so easy to upload content to this modern website, city staff can post information in seconds. Citizens stay engaged by signing up for a newsletter or sending in their own events—all from the city website. A modern website allows cities to create as many pages as they need to help the specific needs of citizens and businesses. Content such as city council agendas and minutes, meetings, calendars, videos, and photos all keep citizens informed, educated, and up-to-date about city happenings.

Dawsonville, Georgia 

3. Online payments give citizens and businesses better customer service and more flexible, convenient options.

As you can see with the City of Bethel Heights, Arkansas, they offer the ability to pay sewer bills and tickets. Many people are accustomed to paying bills online, and so citizens come to expect the same kind of service from cities. In our digital age, it’s frustrating if snail mail, phone, or in-person payments are the only options. By providing online payments, you are giving your citizens and businesses an extremely convenient way to conduct business with your city.

Bethel Heights, Arkansas 

4. Let your city website do some “heavy lifting” by providing useful content 24/7.

You can only give in-person tours during the day, but Jonesboro, Georgia gives an online historical tour of its city 24/7. This is just one example of a great way to let your website work for you when you’re not working. There are many creative ways to provide information through photos, videos, and text to create tours, guides, and checklists about anything important related to your city. People can access this information anytime / anywhere, allowing them to learn more about your city and get their questions answered—without you lifting a finger.

 Jonesboro, Georgia

5. Quickly direct people to information.

Most importantly, you want your city website to speedily direct people to the information they need. The City of Georgetown, Kentucky does an excellent job by providing some quick links along with clear steps such as “Ask a Question or Make a Request,” “Find Information,” and “View My Questions/Requests.” While you want to present some softer content like tours, pictures, and city history, never forget that citizens often come to find specific information—fast. And you need to deliver that information and make it easy to find.

Georgetown, Kentucky 

Watch Dave’s video for a quick recap of these benefits and reach out to us if you’re interested in modernizing your website.

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Dave Mims, CEO

Dave MimsMany cities often wait to reexamine and modernize their technology only until a major disastrous event such as a server failure, virus, or natural disaster hits. But that likely doesn’t mean the technology worked perfectly until that point. Warning signs probably existed that were ignored or accepted as the status quo.

We understand. It’s sometimes hard to realize how bad you have it when aging technology and reactive IT support are your norm. Use the following assessment to see if you’ve been ignoring or putting up with failing technology—and ask yourself if it’s time to take a good, hard look at your current technology investments.

  1. Your city website goes down a lot. Your website is your public portal to the world, used by citizens to find information and visitors to learn more about your city. If your website is often down or unavailable, that situation doesn’t reflect well on your city. Often, website crashes stem from hosting issues either on your own servers or through a cheap web hosting provider. Because websites aren’t optional or nice-to-have anymore, you need a reliable web hosting provider that minimizes downtime.
  2. Your Internet access is slow or spotty. Internet access is essential to government business today. Many of your employees spend each day connected to the Internet in some crucial way to conduct city business. When Internet access becomes unreliable, productivity instantly lowers. A robust, reliable, high-speed Internet connection is absolutely essential. Internet problems usually originate with poorly set up wireless access points or ongoing problems with Internet service providers that have never been fully addressed.
  3. You can’t easily find electronic files and documents. Cities using free email accounts or lacking document management systems usually find it incredibly difficult to locate electronic information. This problem becomes especially apparent with open records requests. It becomes a major hassle to access an employee’s personal email account or documents located only on a person’s desktop. Cities really need business-class email software and document management systems to professionally and systematically collect, organize, centralize, track, and access information.
  4. Your IT support staff and technology vendors are always putting out fires. If there’s always a technology crisis going on, that’s not acceptable. Yet, this situation is often one that becomes a status quo at many cities. If servers always have critical problems, if computers are always crashing, and if there are always problems with your IT network, then your city is just limping along from day to day. Your technology needs to work like a utility, not like an old car that you constantly fix. Proactive IT maintenance, modernized technology, and upgraded software all help put out fires permanently.
  5. You use paper and phone calls as workarounds because technology fails you. Sure, paper and phone calls may do the trick when you’re frustrated with technology. But they are just stopgaps and time-wasters when technology needs to handle the brunt of repetitive, labor-intensive tasks. Paper adds to storage costs and presents a higher risk of data loss. Phone calls usually result from frustrated employees not able to rely on email or electronic document sharing, or from citizens calling when the website is down. Relying too much on paper and phone calls are signs that technology may be failing you.

It’s easy to become so accustomed to a negative technology environment that you think there isn’t much wrong with your situation. Hey, as long as you’re getting by day by day. But letting these technology problems go on introduces many risks including:

  • Making it more likely that a major disaster will lead to permanent data loss and a long outage.
  • Frustrating employees and citizens, which affects morale.
  • Slowing productivity to a crawl when you could be running.

How did you do on this assessment? If you’ve noticed some issues and problems, reach out to us today.

Thursday, November 05, 2015
John Miller, Senior Consultant

John MillerAt a smaller city, a common reaction when your IT person leaves is to hire a new one. Or maybe you’ve never hired one before and you think that having a full-time IT person will benefit your city. Perhaps. But information technology is one of those costly areas where it’s critical that you explore and vet other options.

The reason your municipal association has a program like IT in a Box is because they have listened to you. They know the unique needs of cities. IT in a Box is a technology service tailored to local government that provides many benefits to cities—including cost-saving alternatives to hiring a new IT person.

Let’s break it down.

Salary and Benefits Cost

Hiring a full-time person means paying that person a competitive salary and benefits. It’s currently a tight IT job market and that means you’ll need to pay a lot for a good, experienced person. You might get to pay a lower market salary, but not much lower. And don’t expect that person to stay long.

What Happens When Your Expensive, Salaried Employee Isn’t Around?

So, you hire a full-time person who dedicates themselves to their IT job during the day. Let’s say they even go the extra mile and remain on call most of the time. But your full-time employee will inevitably get sick or go on vacation. What then? Who is taking care of ongoing, regular IT issues and maintenance? You’ll potentially experience service interruptions when they aren’t around. Even worse—what happens when your IT person leaves for another job? Your IT will potentially be neglected until you hire a new person—which can take a long time.

What Happens When Your Expensive, Salaried Employee Is Around?

Even as your IT employee puts in time on the job, they will experience various problems as a department of one.

  • Support bottlenecks. Your IT employee must prioritize and eventually get around to a long list of support requests. That leaves many problems lingering for days, weeks, and (at worst) months.
  • No activity when your IT employee isn’t working. No IT work is getting done between the time they go home and come in the next morning.
  • Lack of comprehensive expertise. Even at a small city, an IT employee will need to handle many aspects of technology including end user support, hardware and software support, network management, upgrades, vendors, the city’s website, email, document management, cybersecurity, and much more. Technology changes so fast. That’s a huge burden for one person to shoulder and it’s rare to find one person who is good at everything.

By contrast, consider IT in a Box for a few compelling reasons.

A 24/7 Support Team of Municipal-Experienced Engineers for Less Than the Cost of a Full-Time Employee

When looking at cost, you have to look at what you’re getting. Options now exist to simply get much more bang for your buck. If you can pay less than one full-time normal salary to get the capabilities of an entire experienced IT team who is always available, then you seriously need to look at this option simply from a budget perspective. With such an option, it’s harder to justify paying a salary (or even salaries) with benefits for a time-limited, less experienced person.

Ongoing Stability and Continuity Without Pause

A 24/7 support team of municipal-experienced engineers provides proactive monitoring and management of your IT environment. They never get sick, never go on vacation, and never leave for another job. That’s because a team manages and supports your IT environment so that multiple people on your city staff can get supported at the same time. This kind of setup removes support bottlenecks and allows you to more proactively handle your IT issues, needs, and projects.

Engineers Experienced in Different Aspects of Technology

Instead of the impossible expectation of one person trying to be an expert in everything, a team of engineers will have blended skill sets. That means different people may handle your basic IT support, your website needs, your email, your document management, or your cybersecurity. Small cities can now have a team of engineers that only large companies usually have access to—all for less than the cost of one full-time employee.

When considering IT in a Box, your cost will be based upon the number of supported users. That means small cities will benefit from a much lower cost and way more bang for their buck than they would get from a full-time employee. Based on the number of users, a monthly flat fee is set up. You will not pay any upfront onboarding, equipment, setup, or project fees, and you will not be charged any unpredictable hourly fees along the way.

Considering hiring an IT employee, or did an IT employee recently leave? Talk to us first about IT in a Box.

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