In many places across the United States this past winter,
the so-called polar vortex led to freezing cold temperatures and dangerous ice
storms. In Kentucky, a large part of the state shut down because of a snow and
ice storm. Throughout the South, a place unaccustomed to the severity of many
of these storms, citizens were left stranded on roads and unable to navigate
the ice with their cars. Schools, government entities, and businesses shut down
rather than play dangerous guessing games about having employees come into the
office or not.
Atlanta especially received a lot of negative national
attention when motorists were stranded on roads for more than 24 hours in some
extreme cases. Learning a harsh lesson about government communication and
coordination, citizens were awaiting important information not only through
traditional media outlets but also through timelier government website and
social media updates. Since so many states had city closures because of this
severe weather, we’ve provided an overview of some ways that cities can learn
from the harsh winter and use technology to better communicate with citizens
during such stressful events.
During Atlanta’s January ice storm, many citizens unfortunately
found out they couldn’t rely on Georgia’s state government for timely, updated
information. For example, Mayor Kasim Reed pointed out that his city could only
take action within certain geographical boundaries inside Atlanta’s city limits
because of the metro Atlanta area’s decentralized organization of cities,
highways, state government organizations, and schools. Until that decentralization
problem is solved (like in New York City), you’ve got to step in as a powerful
communication channel for people in your city.
Some quick tips include using your website to:
While it’s useful to update your city’s website as a
central repository of important information, you need to also make an effort to
broadcast and push that information out through social media channels. People
are always checking Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date during severe
weather, and it helps when your city is part of their news and information
To augment your website communication efforts with social
For any employees who absolutely don’t need to be on
site, teleworking provides them the ability to serve citizens and communicate
important information without coming into the office. If you’re not equipped
for teleworking, and if employees must come into the office to access and
communicate city information, then you’re at a serious disadvantage in a
disaster. After all, it’s during a disaster that citizens need cities the most.
If your city operations are easily crippled by bad weather, then your city is
not able to serve citizens when they need you the most.
While you can read
our past articles about teleworking for more information on how
to provide this benefit for your employees, some tips related to bad weather
Covering the basics of your website, social media, and
teleworking capabilities will help your city shine in severe weather. Citizens
look to cities for help during snow and ice storms but grow quickly frustrated
and disappointed if those cities appear to be out of touch. With the right
website, you can push out updates on your homepage and through Twitter and
Facebook. And your employees should be able to do all of this from home,
essentially keeping your city staff connected and working despite not being
able to come into the office. With modern technology, this kind of business
continuity and real time response to severe weather is absolutely possible.
To talk more about how your technology is able to handle
a snow and ice storm, please
Once seen as a perk, teleworking appeared at first as a
luxury but not as a normal way that people should work. Today, many
organizations actually look at teleworking as a great way to increase morale, give
employees more flexibility with family and personal time, and, yes, reduce
costs with less office space and overhead.
While we’ve talked many times in the past about technologies that help enable teleworking, one of the key
obstacles is making sure that employees are definitely “at work” while working
remotely. That means the human interaction side of working needs to be
supported by technology, just like the individual productivity side.
In this post, we cover some of the aspects of teleworking
collaboration that technology has enabled and made easier when employees work
From tools that are old hat to emerging tools such as Yammer,
there are now a variety of ways to keep employees connected when they work
remotely. While it’s still good to have human interaction, we live in such a
volatile schedule-heavy world where people have different demands, family
needs, and personal challenges. Plus, in a still struggling economy, it’s hard
for people to always live close to where the jobs are. For your city, if you
can make it easier to hire excellent employees who happen to live farther away,
you can actually hire better talent, keep those people happy, and also increase
the productivity of your city by improving collaboration. No more waiting for people
to come into the office—you’ve got technology to help you meet and communicate
To talk more about collaboration technologies, please contact us.
In this new series, we will talk about the benefits of
transitioning a common technology item to the cloud—starting with servers. As
cities have started to consider the cloud as a way to reduce costs and increase
efficiency, they’ve especially looked at one of the most expensive investments
in their technology budget: servers.
When a city’s servers are hosted onsite, it’s always an
expensive line item. Servers take up space, cost money to purchase, and require
maintenance, upgrades, and eventual replacements. However, leaving all these
problems behind by moving into the cloud might seem too good to be true.
Having transitioned many cities from onsite servers to the
cloud, we’ve outlined some of the key benefits you may experience when making
Moving from onsite servers to the cloud is one of the biggest
technology culture shifts we’ve seen since getting involved in this industry.
It’s a shock at first to see the servers that your IT staff or vendor has taken
care of for years “disappear” into the cloud. However, with more and more
federal, state, and local government entities not only embracing the cloud but
also finding extraordinary value in this shift with reduced costs, increased
security, and higher quality maintenance, the end game after making this
transition leads to a more efficient, better-run government.
To talk more about transitioning from onsite servers to the
cloud, please contact us.
You’ve probably experienced the frustration of making edits
to a document and submitting it to someone, only for them to say, “Oh, wait.
Edit this one instead. Jim added his edits to the older version.” “What?” you
scream. That means you need to go back to the older version, incorporate Jim’s
changes, and then reincorporate your changes. What a waste of time!
Modern document management systems include versioning—a
method of keeping track of various versions of documents as edits are made
along the way. Versioning provides a host of benefits that get rid of a lot of
document editing headaches. Since versioning is one of the key features of a
document management system, we’re listing a few of the biggest benefits in this
Once cities get the hang of document versioning, it becomes
an essential feature of document management that helps out the workflow process
when editing. Nightmares go away. No more wondering who has the most recent
document, or if you should be editing it or not. Plus, it’s nice to know where
to find the most recent version, stored in a convenient, centralized location
where everyone has access to it.
If you’d like to talk more about document versioning, please contact us.
For cities, the public safety page is always an odd page to
create. That’s because most of the important interfacing with a city’s public
safety department takes place with 911 and in-person encounters as police officers
and firefighters interact with citizens. It’s easy for the public safety page
to become an afterthought. In fact, when looking at a variety of public safety
pages for cities, the content ranged all over the place—even for award-winning
In making our recommendations for public safety content,
we’re not focusing on some of the things you’ll see on many city websites such
as mission statements, welcome messages, and historical information. The most
important content needs to serve your audience. That means public safety
content must be prioritized to connect with your citizens.
So, when considering what content best complements 911 and
in-person public safety service, we’re providing some suggestions on how to
maximize the impact of your public safety pages.
While other information can find its way onto your public
safety pages, it’s important not to prioritize information that gets in the way
of helping citizens. An impersonal mission statement, a giant stock photo of a
fire truck, or a long list of links to webpages and documents might have seemed
great in the website design meeting but they may hide your most important
information. Just because 911 can be called in emergencies doesn’t mean to
ignore the usefulness of your public safety page. There is a lot of potential
to connect with your citizens, keep them informed and aware, and represent your
police and fire departments in the best light.
To talk about public safety web content in more detail, please contact us.
It’s easy to adapt to your environment and accept it as just
the way things are. However, despite information technology’s rapid evolution,
people tend to settle into as much of a technology routine as possible for the purposes
of stability. That’s understandable, since cities should not necessarily stay
on the bleeding-edge of technology and upgrade all hardware and software to the
latest and greatest every year.
With time though, hidden operational costs can creep up on
cities if they haven’t evaluated their technology assets or operational
environment in a long time. This is the classic danger of IT underinvestment:
you think you’re saving money, but you’re actually bleeding it in places indirectly.
While there are many aspects of operations where you can take
a look at your indirect IT budget, here are five common areas where IT
underinvestment cripples cities and wastes lots of money.
A good way to justify a shift in the way you look at
operational expenses is to analyze areas where you are bleeding money. Talk
about it in terms of time and lost productivity, and you can begin to build a
business case. Then, you can consider technology investments in terms of a
return on investment. For example, new software might shave so much time off a
paper-based process that the software might pay for itself in a year. Begin
analyzing your IT environment in this way, and you might find some ways to save
and free up operational budget that you didn’t think was there.
To talk more about IT operations, please contact us.
While people often say “the cloud” when referring to most
software applications accessed through the Internet, Software as a Service
(SaaS) is still a term you’ll hear a lot. SaaS refers specifically to software
offered over the Internet as a service to you. But there is still a lot of
confusion about SaaS and why it’s an improvement over previous software
Traditionally, purchasing software has been a cumbersome
process. It involved an expensive upfront cost to buy servers and software
licenses that dictated how many users could install and use the software. Your
IT staff and software vendor helped install the new server (or servers) and
installed the software on each person’s computer.
Then, the real fun began. Ongoing server maintenance involved
software vendor support costs combined with IT staff or an IT vendor helping you
manage those servers, apply software updates and patches, and help users with
any issues. Many cities then find that their expensive software becomes
outdated after about 3-5 years unless the vendor aggressively updates it on an
ongoing basis. And those updates cost more money. Upselling is not uncommon as
software vendors rapidly turn out new products to which they suggest you upgrade.
It seems like you’re always dishing out upfront costs, unpredictably.
If it sounds like we’re making the old software delivery
model sound bad, our analysis is supported by the advantages of SaaS and trends
showing where technology is going. Software vendors have mostly switched to
offering SaaS models for nearly all important software and SaaS sales are already
in the billions every year. Those sales are expected to keep increasing.
So what led to SaaS rising to such prominence when it seems
like yesterday that buying onsite servers was the way to go? Here’s what
With such financial and quality benefits over traditional
software delivery models, SaaS has emerged as a clear winner for most businesses.
However, there are a few drawbacks that still linger around SaaS.
Even though there are a few negatives, most cities,
government entities, and other organizations have mostly agreed that those
risks and exceptions become more isolated and rare as time goes on. SaaS
becomes extremely compelling when cities realize they can eliminate capital
expenses, get rid of hardware, reduce overall costs, lessen the amount of IT
staff or vendor time dedicated to software support, and know that the vendor
will provide software updates along the way as part of the monthly fee.
In the 2010s, SaaS has truly evolved into a revolutionary
technology and has become part of the technology landscape for business and
government. The federal government has even passed legislation to push
government entities into moving to SaaS. If you still struggle with using traditional
software, it’s time to take a look at SaaS options to help save your city
To talk more about SaaS, please contact us.
Sophicity is excited to announce that we are now providing IT in
a Box to cities through our new municipal league partnership with Arkansas. We officially announced our partnership and answered questions for
cities when we participated in the most recent Arkansas Municipal League (AML)
Winter Conference on January 31. Arkansas cities were excited to talk about
their technology needs, and we look forward to helping those cities with a
complete IT solution that’s custom priced affordably for them.
Below, you’ll find the official announcement from AML’s
Executive Director, Don Zimmerman.
I am excited to announce that the Arkansas Municipal League
is now offering a new service aimed at providing cities with state-of-the-art
information technology tools supported by experienced, highly skilled IT
professionals. The service is called “IT in a Box” and it’s being offered
through a contract with Sophicity. For one monthly all-inclusive fee, a city
will receive a website, data backup and offsite data storage, email, document
management, Microsoft Office for desktops, server and desktop management,
vendor management and helpdesk support seven days a week.
The city of Yellville was the first to join the service in
Arkansas! Currently, there are several cities speaking with Sophicity and are
expected to come aboard very soon. To learn more about the service, please
click on the link below to the League website.
For additional information, please contact one of the
Chris Hartley at 501-978-6106 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Whitnee Bullerwell 501-978-6105 or email@example.com
Randy Weaver at 770-670-6940, ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathan Eisner at 770-670-6940, ext. 103 or email@example.com
Executive Director, Arkansas Municipal League
One thing that often prevents regular data backups from
occurring at cities is simply the inefficiency of it all. Using external hard
drives or tape usually means someone is manually backing up data, carrying it
to a secure location, and storing it for future use in case of disaster. If
you’re using an online data backup program, it could mean managing servers,
running memory-hogging backup programs, and spending time ensuring that an
entire backup has completed without issues.
If you identify with these struggles, then you may have an
opportunity to make your data backup much more efficient. Many advances in data
backup technology, especially in the last five years, have made data backup a
much more seamless and quick process. The best data backup solutions are so
efficient you almost don’t notice them.
So, how do you get there? Here are some tips on evaluating
the inefficiency of your current data backup process and considering a more
Even though we work with the latest technologies on a
day-to-day basis, we’re even amazed at how far data backup has come in just a
few years. Transitioning from bulky servers and physical media to the Internet,
we’ve seen a clear shift to cloud data backup, unlimited data storage, and data
restored in minutes or hours—not days or weeks. You might think these kinds of
solutions are cost-prohibitive compared to your external hard drives, tapes, or
servers, but you may actually be wasting money with your older solution compared
to more modern data backup. It’s worth taking this checklist, examining your
current data backup situation, and considering some other solutions.
To talk more about data backup, please contact us.
Recently, an alarming cybersecurity report from the U.S. Senate highlighted some disturbing security breaches at
three major agencies: the Department of Homeland Security, the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission, and the IRS.
A few quotes from the report included:
When hackers are trying to steal government data on a daily
basis, these kinds of weaknesses are simply unacceptable. While these agencies
get more scrutiny than local government, they highlight the importance of
implementing basic cybersecurity protections that are actually quite simple and
Here’s what you can learn from this report to make sure that
your city is ahead of the game—and doing a better job than our federal
government at protecting its most sensitive information.
Sadly, many of the federal government’s IT problems are
easily preventable. The good news for you is that cities can follow the steps
above to create a great foundation for cybersecurity. While there is more work
to do beyond what’s listed above, by focusing on policies around passwords, IT
maintenance, antivirus, physical security, and devices, you’ll eliminate a lot
of easy security holes that hackers can exploit.
To talk about cybersecurity in more detail, please contact us.
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