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CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Ray Pedroso, Apptix VoIP Business Specialist
Financial responsibility. Effective communication. Internal efficiency. These are goals that government agencies work hard to meet every day. However, the technology used to reach these goals has changed; email, websites, and security cameras are all tools that have become important in just a few years. Yet one piece of indispensible equipment too often gets neglected, even though we use it every day – the good old-fashioned telephone. But how “good” is your phone?
 
Voice over Internet Protocol, better known as VoIP, is an internet-based form of telephone service. It offers a reliable, technologically advanced alternative to traditional PBX systems. Although VoIP has been around for years, many government agencies and organizations have not adopted it for a simple reason: their current phones are still working. However, hosted VoIP service has a number of features and benefits that can help you reach your goals better than traditional telephony solutions.
 
Financial Responsibility
VoIP represents significant cost savings on a monthly basis, with plans providing reasonable local calling and unlimited long-distance in the United States and Canada. Low set-up fees and affordable equipment (whether purchased or leased) contribute to a low total cost of ownership for state-of-the-art functionality. In addition, hosted VoIP service is completely scalable. Adding or deleting users is simple, and you only pay for the users you have.
 
Effective Communication
Because VoIP is internet-based, it is possible to have identical, seamlessly integrated services across multiple locations. Enterprise-class call management capabilities, including extension dialing, call transfer, call forwarding, call waiting, email to voice mail, and an “auto-attendant” (virtual receptionist) are all standard features available even to small organizations. Telephone communication becomes more powerful and more professional through these advanced features, with no loss of quality. Your calls are carried over a private, managed network that ensures top Quality of Service (QoS) for your voice and data calls.
 
Internal Efficiency
The transition to VoIP is easy – most providers pre-configure the equipment and some may even assign a dedicated resource to guide users through the process. In addition, there is no loss of productivity associated with the move –Local Number Portability (LNP) allows users to maintain the same phone numbers that constituents are familiar with, so government communications can continue as usual. 
 
Once the system is in place, web-based system management tools provide anywhere, anytime access to mange accounts, create greetings, add hold music or messages, or to set inbound and outbound calling rules. Internet devices such as PCs can function as “phones” on a VoIP system, enabling you to stay connected with the same level of quality and functionality from virtually any location.
 
An investment in a hosted VoIP system is an investment in the quality of your communications. VoIP is flexible, scalable, and cost effective, allowing governments and agencies to take advantage of updated technology without a large up-front expense.  VoIP ensures that your phone really is good enough to meet your needs.

Ray Pedroso is a VoIP business specialist for Apptix, a premier provider of business communication and collaboration services including voice, email, and web conferencing. For more information about Apptix VoIP services, visit www.apptix.com or contact Ray at 866.688.0127 ext. 4015.

Friday, August 12, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

Anyone would be foolish to say my IT environment is completely safe. But many IT security compromises are the result of not following simple best practices. If you are not giving basic ongoing attention to maintenance, patching, antivirus, antispam, strong passwords, expiring passwords, and the like, then it is just a matter of time before you will be compromised.

 
Local government decision makers need to be asking whomever is responsible for their IT:
  • Are we following industry accepted IT best practices? If not, then 'why'?
  • Are we keeping our entire environment patched and updated?
  • How many users have administrative access?
  • Is antivirus installed on all servers and workstations?
  • When was the last time we were audited?
  • What are strong passwords? Are we using them?
  • At what frequency do our passwords expire? If never, then 'why'?
  • Why do we get so much spam?
  • Is all of our data backed up? Where is it backed up to? How soon could we recover? How long can Public Safety be down?

Even if you have vendor hosting your websites or a vendor managing your IT systems, ask them the same questions above. Ignore IT best practices and you will be compromised. Ignore IT best practices and who will the citizens be asking “How did my data get stolen and what are you going to do?”

Monday, August 8, 2011
Dave Mims, President

Sophicity today announced its acquisition of Think IT Solutions, Inc., a Microsoft-based network infrastructure consulting firm located in Atlanta, GA. For over 7 years, ThinkIT has provided managed network services and IT support to its clients.

In acquiring ThinkIT, Sophicity will leverage the firm’s experience to bolster its growing Network Infrastructure team. Nathan Eisner, Principal of ThinkIT, will join Sophicity as a Network Manager. Nathan brings with him over 10 years of experience in delivering technology consulting to metro Atlanta businesses in the local government, telecommunications, healthcare, not-for-profit, manufacturing, property management and services industries.

"Acquiring ThinkIT is a great opportunity” said Dave Mims, President of Sophicity.  “Sophicity offers an umbrella of technology services to cities, municipal leagues, and businesses.  Growing our Network Infrastructure Practice with additional staff and client base is the right move. Nathan brings much to the plate with his technical ability, management experience, and customer relationship skills that will strengthen our team here at Sophicity. "

ABOUT THINKIT
Established in 2004, Think IT Solutions is the premier provider of information technology services in the Atlanta area. Our staff brings years of experience and a skill set that few IT service providers can match. Above all, we emphasize customer service first and foremost. Visit www.think-itsolutions.com.

ABOUT SOPHICITY
Sophicity’s deep expertise provides cities and municipal leagues with the IT consulting services they need to unleash the potential of government IT. Sophicity puts the IT in city. Visit sophicity.com.

Friday, August 5, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Is your city being just as intentional as Steven VanRoekel (@stevenvDC)? Steven is our new U.S. CIO, and he plans to focus at the national government level on:
  • nimble adoption of technology
  • cloud computing
  • cybersecurity
If local government is not focusing on these very same things, then:
  • how much money is being wasted?
  • how much productivity is being lost?
  • is city data at risk for loss?
  • is city financial data at risk for compromise?
  • is personal citizen data at risk for compromise?
  • is a hacker being more intentional with our city?
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
I recently attended the Atlanta Technology Summit’s Security in an era of Cloud Computing event. There were lots of nuggets shared, and one in particular was learning about the Cloud Security Alliance.  This is an independent consortium of security professionals working to establish security standards for the cloud.
 
The summit was a day well spent meeting with peers in our industry exchanging insight, lessons learned, and warnings on this topic. My top 3 takeaways from the summit are:
  • Pick a cloud provider that has been around for a long time, i.e. Google, Microsoft, Amazon.  The larger the entity, the more they will have to lose if a breach or failure occurs.
  • Create a strategy for migration to a cloud provider and also prepare a plan for migration away from it.  Make sure that you know what your exit strategy looks like when the cloud provider discontinues services or you decide to leverage another platform from a different vendor.
  • You can outsource the infrastructure but not the responsibilities. You are still responsible for testing and auditing your processes to ensure that reasonable due diligence has been done to avoid risks and issues.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Not just a risk to small businesses in our communities! This is also a recommended read for awareness for our local municipalities too. Don't take malware lightly. Read more at http://t.co/UVudHND
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager
Be careful of reusing usernames and passwords! That's one way hackers compromised this Public Safety office. Read more at http://tinyurl.com/42mjhur
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
Imagine law enforcement being able to instantly and accurately ID a suspect by snapping their picture from up to five feet away with an app on their mobile device.  Read more at http://tinyurl.com/44l39pn
Friday, July 15, 2011
Dave Mims, President
Sophicity recently published The Myth Behind 'Managed Services' and the Cost to Municipalities in the July 2011 issue of South Dakota Municipalities magazine. The magazine is published by the South Dakota Municipalities and focuses on a variety of contemporary municipal issues. We encourage you to read the complete article and also visit South Dakota Municipalities online.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Dave Mims, President

GovTech had a great article recently about the public sector’s response to cloud computing. Compared to the private sector, state and local government is adopting cloud computing at a much slower pace. The statistics are alarming, and here’s why:

1. “42 percent of private-sector organizations are operating on some level in the cloud, while 23 percent of public-sector organizations are doing the same.” We have seen this kind of percentage not just with cloud computing, but with information technology adoption as a whole. Continuing to run old systems and not embracing technology innovation is costly and very risky to municipalities.

2. “75 percent of responding public-sector entities said they didn’t have the IT skills in place internally to support a cloud environment.” What about the IT skills to support data backup, disaster recovery, financial software, website hosting, ERP systems, etc. etc. Saying you don’t have the skills when you are the steward for public services is a very risky argument to make. Where will citizens turn when an emergency occurs? How can a public steward respond that “our systems were down” or that “our City is X years behind the technology curve”?

3. “59 percent of the U.S. public sector saying they were concerned about security issues in the cloud. 37 percent said they feared the potential for data loss in the cloud.” This is where the biggest dose of reality is needed. We would argue from experience that local government, with their existing on-premise systems, are significantly less secure and at more risk for data loss than a cloud solution. Very large technology organizations like Google, Microsoft, Amazon and others have been heavily investing into the highest standards possible. By contrast, underfunded cities with obsolete technology, talent shortages, and lack of federal or state regulation as to the quality of their information technology will often increase the probability of having significant security issues.

We encourage you to read our article from last year about cloud computing, but at the very least to take away a few points:

- Cloud computing has the potential to save you a LOT of money.
- Cloud computing is typically MORE secure than systems you now have in place.
- Cloud computing removes some IT management burden and frees up staff time.

If cities are not seriously exploring cloud options, they are (once again) missing the boat.

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