We put the IT in city®

CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Georgia Municipal Association

Television shows such as The Walking Dead have placed the city of Senoia squarely in the spotlight. That means more tourists, more attention, and more demands on city services. Plus, stricter expectations of government entities about records retention, data backup, and cybersecurity led the city of Senoia to consider ways of quickly modernizing its information technology.

After looking at some costly options that would have addressed each technology area, Senoia took a look at the Georgia Municipal Association’s IT in a Box service. Not only did it fit the city’s budget, but the service also modernized many technology areas in one fell swoop including data backup, disaster recovery, and hardware.

Senoia City Clerk Debby Volk spoke to GMA about how IT in a Box—powered by Sophicity—helped modernize the city’s information technology, how it improved their response to open records requests, and why cities need to modernize critical aspects of their information technology before an emergency happens.

What made you decide to take a fresh look at the city’s information technology?

As a growing city, we needed to modernize our information technology on a few levels. First and foremost, we identified a need to more effectively archive our email. We also lagged behind in many technology areas such as data backup, disaster recovery, document management, hardware, and networking equipment. Other productivity issues, such as everyone having different versions of Microsoft Office, also made it hard to share documents and files with each other.

We did attempt to look at these problems in a piecemeal fashion, but the solutions were costly and required high cost IT consultants. Plus, we needed more responsive IT support without it breaking our budget. Sometimes it could take up to three days for someone to help us out with an IT issue, and that was becoming too long a wait.

How did you make the case to prioritize modernizing the city's IT?

First, it’s important that email archiving is modernized and as up-to-date as possible. The expectations attached to open records requests increase each year, and we wanted to make sure we could respond quickly without consuming many days of staff time. All cities are eventually going to need to modernize email archiving, and Sophicity provided a strong platform while also offering the ability to conduct the email searches. The mayor, city manager, and city attorney all saw that aspect as important.

Second, our city manager made some calls about IT in a Box after hearing that it was offered through the Georgia Municipal Association. He was very pleased about what he heard. Because Sophicity provided so many essential aspects of IT bundled together under a low price, it was really a no brainer—especially because we knew many other Georgia cities used it.

What results did you see from IT in a Box?

Our emails are now archived and they can be easily retrieved. When we receive an open records request now, Sophicity handles the difficult work of finding the emails. We sit back and let them handle it. Because it’s an enterprise class email system, we don’t have to worry about a host of problems that plagued us before. For example, even if a user deletes an email, it’s still archived and findable if it’s needed as part of an open records request.

Also, Sophicity modernized our information technology across so many areas. They helped us replace servers and network equipment, upgraded our software, and established 7 day a week helpdesk support. Our technology is now faster and more stable, and we’re able to do so much more than previously. If there’s a problem, we call Sophicity. If there’s a problem with a hardware or software vendor, Sophicity handles all communications. They work with those vendors to resolve issues and keep all software continually upgraded. Sophicity even came down onsite on a weekend in order to handle an important issue with our public safety’s technology.

This modernization has saved us a lot of time and allows for a predictable IT budget instead of reactive, unpredictable hourly charges. All of our Microsoft software is up-to-date and consistent, so we can all share files with each other easily. And probably most importantly, we’re prepared in case of a disaster. If a server crashes or even if a major disaster destroys our buildings, our data is recoverable and accessible in hours. Our data is stored both onsite and offsite, and Sophicity tests our backups on a regular schedule.

For other cities in similar situations, what advice would you give them about addressing their information technology issues?

Cities need to find an information technology solution that covers important needs from email archiving to data backup. Like insurance, it’s not a matter of if but when an emergency will happen. Cities need to find a solution to their IT needs before an emergency occurs. Luckily, we haven’t had an emergency but we now feel secure knowing that Sophicity handles such important needs with our data and technology. Things like email archiving and data backup are not nice-to-haves anymore. They are necessities. It’s good to know that GMA and Sophicity are taking care of us, and it’s one less worry for us here in the office.

Originally published on the Georgia Municipal Association website.