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CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Brian Ocfemia, Engineering Manager
Brian Ocfemia

Are you a hoarder? Do you keep everything—every record, every video, every file—indefinitely? In some cases, this leads to expensive physical or electronic storage costs. In other cases, you may find yourself crushed by the operational burden of storing and managing so much data. You may think, “I need to be ready in case we need it.” Or maybe you are just too busy to regularly and consistently prune information.

Hoarding records may seem responsible on the surface, but it’s not. Hoarding opens your city up to legal, operational, and financial risks. Let’s look at some of these risks in more detail.

1. You’re adding a legal risk to your city.

Records retention policies provide you a record lifecycle that begins with creation and ends (for most) with disposal. Depending on your adopted records retention policies, you are only required to keep most records for a finite amount of time. Then, you may dispose of those records. That means if someone requests a record after you legally dispose of it, you are not required to produce it.

Not following this process opens yourself up to legal risks. For example, someone may ask you to produce records that go far back in time. If you have those records, then you must produce them. This creates unnecessary work and opens you up to legal issues that could have been easily avoided.

2. You’re adding an operational burden to your city.

No matter who does the work to search for records—you, your staff, an IT vendor, a legal team—someone is using up your time and money. The more records you indefinitely store, the more labor you will need to find those records. Those operational costs add up and a request can be highly interruptive (especially when members of your staff dedicate time searching for records). After producing the record, you may need additional time reviewing and redacting what you’ve found.

Managing less records by disposing of them according to your retention schedule, along with better organizing existing records, allows you to lessen the amount of retrieval time. An IT vendor with experience in municipal records retention storage and retrieval can also help you reduce operational costs.

3. You’re adding a storage burden to your city.

Whether you have physical records or electronic records, the cost of record storage grows year after year as you hoard records. By following records retention schedules, you lessen the amount of physical and/or electronic storage needed—reducing your costs and data management burden.

This is especially helpful in a storage-intensive area such as body camera video. Video records create a large record footprint to manage, but you don’t need to compound that problem by retaining records past the retention schedule. In Kentucky, it’s 60 days (unless part of a criminal investigation). In Georgia, it’s 180 days (unless part of a criminal investigation). Other states vary, but the timeframes are relatively short. There’s no reason to keep such large amounts of video past the retention deadline when the data takes up massive amounts of storage and incurs legal and operational burdens.


Following records retention best practices not only helps you comply with the law but also benefits you financially and legally. Reduced costs, reduced risks, and reduced operational and data management burdens all result from not hoarding any and all records.

Need help tightening up your records retention processes to reduce risks and costs? Reach out to us today.

Monday, July 9, 2018
For Bryan County Now

As reported by For Bryan County Now, the city of Pembroke was recently awarded a Liability Grant from the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) in the amount of $3,200 for the purchase of IT in a Box.

IT in a Box is technology the GMA helped create that can be used for backing up and securing data to modernizing websites.

“This program allows each city to stretch their budget dollars and provide a safer work environment for their employees,” said Eileen Thomas, marketing field manager for the GMA, on June 11.

 

IT in a Box services include: 
  • Cybersecurity and computer maintenance
  • A 24x7 helpdesk
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Records / document management and email
  • Video archiving
  • Policy and compliance practices and procedures
  • Website production and management
  • Vendor management and procurement

 

The GMA Safety and Liability Grant program was introduced in 2000 to provide a financial incentive to assist members in improving their employee safety and general public liability loss control efforts through training and the purchase of equipment or services. Since the inception of the program over 130 cities have received grant money through the program, over 500 grants were approved totaling nearly $1.5 million to fund items such as bulletproof vests, training videos, confined space entry equipment, reflective safety vests, fire department turnout gear and police department in-vehicle video systems. These grant funds have helped leverage the purchase of over $2.6 million in this type of equipment and training.

Based in Atlanta the GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit consulting services to its over 500 member cities.

Friday, July 6, 2018
Jeremy Mims, Account Executive
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Dave Mims, CEO
Friday, June 29, 2018
Jeremy Mims, Account Executive
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

Last weekend at the 85th Annual Convention of the Georgia Municipal Association, I participated on a panel in a session titled “Cyberattacks and Georgia’s Cities.” Joining me on this panel were Brittany Denney (Public Relations Manager, City of Hinesville), Cam Mathis (IT Director, City of Savannah), and moderator Kenny Smith (City Manager, City of Griffin).

Over the last year, quite a few Georgia cities have experienced the high cost and painful results of successful cyberattacks related to ransomware, malware, and hackers. I pointed out that every city—not just those recently affected—is at risk of a cyberattack. But that risk can be lessened. I talked about how bad password policies, lack of patching, and a failure to train employees about cybersecurity are the root causes of most cyber incidents. To help cities better prepare against these inevitable threats, I offered tips, best practices, and advice centered around concepts of what I call the Wall, the People, and the Escape.

To find out more about how you too can lessen the risk of a cybersecurity incident at your city, check out my entire presentation here.

Questions about your ability to fend off cyberthreats? Reach out to us today.

Friday, June 22, 2018
Jeremy Mims, Account Executive
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Dave Mims, CEO
Dave Mims

Recently, I participated on a panel in a session titled "Social Media and Cybersecurity” at the 2018 Arkansas Municipal League Annual Conference. Joining me on this panel were Kevin Settle (Vice Mayor of Fort Smith), Officer Carmen Helton (North Little Rock Police Department), and Christopher Smith (Communications, City of Herber Springs).

My contribution to the panel focused on the cybersecurity risks every city faces today. I shared stories about cities that have been victims of cyberattacks, the contributing factors that led to such cyberattacks, a list of warning signs that cities can use to assess if they are at risk, the top three cybersecurity risks affecting all cities, and what a city can do to best prepare against the thousands of cyberattacks hitting cities every week.

Check out my entire presentation here.

Questions about your ability to fend off cyberthreats? Reach out to us today.

Friday, June 15, 2018
Jeremy Mims, Account Executive
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Michael Chihlas, Account Manager
Michael Chihlas

The idea of an “IT guy” as a repairperson to fix your servers and computers is obsolete and, in today’s cyberworld, very risky. Even with cities that use a more sophisticated helpdesk through a vendor, these helpdesks can be frustrating, reactive, expensive, and staffed with unknowledgeable engineers who know little about municipal environments. In a recent case study with Forrest City, Arkansas, we noted that “challenges arose with things such as printing issues and employees needing help accessing their computers. The city’s technology support had trouble even completing such simple requests.”

With IT support, you need a sophisticated group of IT engineers who can handle the simple stuff, the complex stuff, and what’s unique to municipalities. How do you know if you’re getting it? Take this 5-question assessment to see if your IT support is helping—or hindering—your city.

1. When you call, are you hearing an awkward script or someone actually helping you diagnose your problem?

You know the feeling. You’ve got a specific problem, and you’ve called IT support many times. Yet, you can clearly hear a nervous entry-level or junior-level Tier 1 support person awkwardly stumble through a script full of obvious questions. You want to scream at them, “Stop with the script, listen to me, and help me now—or get me someone who can!”

A well-trained IT helpdesk works like a team. First, there are no junior-level Tier 1 support people. A team puts the experienced starters out on the court, not the green newbies. When you contact IT support, you expect an experienced engineer who is ready to address your issue. The person on the phone should help diagnose your problem in a specific, helpful way—troubleshooting, collecting useful information, and eliminating any obvious problems. Then, either they fix the problem or escalate the issue to another team member who has more experience with your issue.

In other words, when you contact IT support you are engaging not a call service or a junior engineer but someone who can help and address your issue.

2. How long does it take for your IT helpdesk to respond?

During our conversations with cities over many years, we’re often appalled by the amount of time it took previous IT support vendors to get back to cities. Days, sometimes weeks. Why are you paying for IT support if they don’t get back to you? Taking too much time to return a phone call or email can be the difference between your city functioning or not functioning that day.

Your IT helpdesk needs to respond in a timely, consistent, and predictable fashion. In other words, you know they will get back to you in a reasonable amount of time. That way, you address problems quickly. Going days or weeks without a response is unacceptable.

3. How many people are a part of the IT helpdesk?

A small IT vendor faces similar challenges that a city sees when it hires an in-house IT person such as:

  • What happens when they are helping someone else?
  • What happens when they get sick?
  • What happens when they are on vacation?
  • What happens when they leave?

You need a helpdesk with enough people to provide staffing redundancy so that resources are always there and ready to help when you call.

4. Is there continuity of service from your IT helpdesk?

In other words, when a member of your IT helpdesk ends their shift or 5 p.m. hits, is there seamless continuity with a different person the minute you pick up the phone? Even if you talk to a different person, are they up to speed on your problem because they have your notes and status right in front of them?

Some cities struggle with IT helpdesks where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. After working on a problem, you shouldn’t have to explain the entire problem again to a next person who has no idea what’s going on. Continuity means your IT helpdesk seamlessly supports you and resolves problems as a team.

5. If you call after hours, are you interrupting dinner or waking up your helpdesk?

If you’re interrupting dinner or waking up your helpdesk after hours, it’s not a proper helpdesk. Relying on an “IT guy” or repairperson who may or may not answer the phone after hours puts your city at risk. Just think about public safety—a department that runs 24/7—to consider the risk of relying on someone who might be asleep when a server crashes.

To serve a city, your helpdesk needs to operate 24/7 with fully staffed, knowledgeable engineers as ready to solve a problem for you at 1 a.m.. as they are at 1 p.m.


Because of cybersecurity risks, modern citizen service demands, and increased legal requirements and scrutiny for cities, it’s essential to rely on an experienced IT helpdesk that serves municipalities 24/7. That includes addressing any IT issue both remote and onsite—ASAP.

Need to reassess your IT helpdesk? Reach out to us today.

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