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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Clint Nelms, Practice Manager: Network Infrastructure
For the past twenty years, cities that desired business-class email and communications needed the expensive infrastructure to support the technology, leaving smaller cities with sub-par email solutions to conduct business. This dynamic has begun to rapidly change as advanced hosted email solutions gain traction in the market. While this may not be a perfect fit for every city at this time, these hosted solutions can strongly compete with the features offered from onsite email and do so at a cost point that makes it easier for some cities to afford.

But why should a city think about switching over? Below are three key advantages to implementing a hosted email solution at your city.


Eliminates Hardware / Software Expenses

On-premise email systems require hardware and software to handle the processing and storing of email. Depending on the size of your city the cost can be anywhere from prohibitively expensive to negligible. However, the real cost lies in the ongoing support of the email system: maintenance, upgrades, virus protection, anti-spam, backups, licenses, power consumption and physical security all add significant repeating costs to the city’s operating budget. Hosted solutions move these costs and responsibilities to the service provider who maintains an offsite datacenter providing all of the necessary equipment, software, and support to run the email system. This provider will handle all upgrades, updates, replacements and anything else associated with the hardware or software of the email server as part of its service offering, eliminating many of the city’s hardware, software, licensing, and utility costs.


Reduces Maintenance and Support Costs

Along with the technical infrastructure email servers also require on-going maintenance and support which can significantly add to costs. From administering daily data backups to upgrading software, installing new hardware and running a help desk, city IT support staff will need to spend a significant amount of time managing an on-premise email solution. A hosted service provider will include all of these costs in their offering, fully supporting the email system so that it requires no time from city staff when issues arise. They’ll also be able to leverage their economy of scale to provide a more robust backup and disaster recovery option than some cities could alone maintain. When you add it all up, it means that a hosted email solution can cost significantly less than traditional options year after year while offering equal or better service.


Increases Availability / Reliability

One weakness of on-premise email servers is that not all cities can afford to meet the business-class availability standards that people expect. With email being a crucial part of the city’s daily communications even a few hours, let alone a few days, of downtime is simply not acceptable. Problems affecting availability can range anywhere from hardware failure to disaster, theft, or viruses. Even with great support staff, not every city has the infrastructure to run a high-availability environment with redundant systems, high security, and backup power generators. However, due to their singular focus and economies of scale, most hosted email service providers do have the infrastructure to insure that the email server is properly protected and secured by utilizing state-of-the-art data centers that feature redundant systems, high physical security, backup power generators, and teams of highly skilled engineers. Thus, these services allow cities of any size, whether its 5 mailboxes or 5000, to tap into the high reliability and availability of an advanced datacenter without the associated operating costs.



As email continues to be a dominant form of communication for governments, as with other industries, a robust email system is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement. While the technology may not be a fit for every city at this time, hosted email systems should be a serious consideration for those looking to modernize and increase services without budgeting for a huge capital outlay. The real advantage lies in what these systems allow some smaller cities to have, that is a business-class email solution that is secure and highly available at a price that’s easy on the yearly budget. By eliminating hardware and software capital outlay, reducing support costs and increasing reliability, hosted email allows cities to better serve citizens and more easily meet the stringent demands that email retention policies and Open Records Act requirements place on municipal governments. When considering an email upgrade carefully weigh the pros and cons of an on-premise or hosted email solution to discover the best fit for your city’s needs. You might be surprised what you find.

Friday, March 12, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Sophicity was a finalist in the American Marketing Association Atlanta Chapter’s 2010 AMY Awards in the B2B Visual Branding/Identity category. While we didn’t win the award, just being a finalist in this prestigious event was an honor in itself. Special thanks to our marketing partner Arketi Group for giving us an identity that we’re all proud of. The award event itself was a great time and full of beautiful marketing folks (myself included) in the equally beautiful FOX Theatre in Midtown Atlanta. Here's to another year of great marketing!
Friday, March 12, 2010
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastrucutre Practice Manager
No matter how secure your environment is to outside threats, if you don’t properly protect the internal PC’s that access your network all of the firewalls in the world are rendered useless. Case in point, a city in Ohio had its website hacked and harmful files were flooded onto the web server. The city thought it couldn't possibly be blamed because it had “an extremely strong firewall” but after an investigation it was discovered that one of the PC’s used to update the website was not protected by any sort of antivirus software, giving the hackers a back door into the web server. In a sense, they didn't have to do any fancy hacking, the PC probably had a key logger installed which grabbed the password to the website, giving the hackers full access. In a case like this, your firewall won’t protect you. For a truly secure environment, if you’re going to spend money a great firewall, spend the comparatively minute sum to add virus protection to every PC in your environment. Otherwise, it’s a bit like building a vault with the unlock code etched on the door.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
As smartphones become more prevalent in the municipal government space the rules and regulations around how they are used are just now being written. One of the interesting sticking points is what to do with the information that comes through these phones. Is it all publically available data? Only some of it? Are personal calls/txt’s subject to FOIA requests? Once such case comes to us from Boulder, Co. where city officials have been given iPhones, causing some to question the reason behind the move. While handing over email logs is easy for cities, handing over phone records, conversations, and even texts is hard because the city does not operate the mobile network. These questions will likely need to be hammered out through a combination of laws and court cases, but since smartphones are not going away, I think it would be premature to simply say that they have no place in city government. How does your city handle smartphone use?
Friday, March 5, 2010
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has been a busy man since he first entered office. While his main push has been for transparency, he’s also been really looking at how the federal government uses IT, or perhaps better yet, how it doesn't . In this interview, he details some of the inefficiencies he’s discovered at various Federal departments and how it affects their service delivery. While this is at the Federal level, cities face many of the same problems and could benefit from such an analysis. If your city is still doing things manually, it might be time to start looking into a assessment to uncover some of those unsightly inefficiencies.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Looking to bring more features into your municipal Twitter and/or Facebook profile? The ever forward thinking San Francisco, in conjunction with a number of other cities, has just released an new API called Open311 that will allow any city to link up its 311 system with various social media sites. As an open platform it will be available for free but will likely require customization in order to work directly with a specific 311 system. This is a great example of how cities can work together to create an application that better helps them stay connected with their citizens. This isn’t likely to replace existing eGov services but it is a great additional channel. We’ll be watching this one closely to see how it evolves.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Last week we wrote about Google’s new municipal broadband plan and cities appear to be very excited about the prospect. Topeka was so excited that it actually renamed itself to Google, Kansas for the month of March. The act has caused a lot of buzz (and given Google loads of free advertising) and it’s nice to see that Topeka’s city government has a sense of humor. I’m sure that will get Google’s attention but only time will tell.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
Here’s a novel idea for internet access: why not use some of the unused space between the TV frequencies to provide internet access. That’s exactly what a few companies are doing and the first test cities are going live as we speak. Engadget has a write up on how the technology, called White Space Internet, works and details how Wilmington, NC is the first major city in the nation to adopt the technology. What does it mean? It means free wifi in city parks, increased traffic camera monitoring, and various infrastructure uses for the city (probably for public safety.) This could be an interesting technology to watch.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
GovTech is running a piece that questions whether Facebook will end up killing the traditional city website. It looks at the story of San Francisco, which is moving most of its eGov services to its Facebook page. Chris Vein, the city’s CIO, seems to envision a day in which Facebook will be the dominant form of government communication and is making moves for San Fran to be on the forefront.

However I don’t think that this is really case. While Facebook and any other social media platform may represent new channels for information, they are by no means ubiquitous. Just like email hasn’t killed the telephone, there are always going to be folks who prefer to use the webpage, go directly to city hall, or just call over the phone. Also, its important to note that Facebook actually controls the data on the site and might raise privacy concerns over who has access to key city data. While city Facebook pages will certainly continue to grow, I find it hard to see how they could possibly kill off the traditional web portal.

Monday, February 22, 2010
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Interested in a trip to California? Governing is holding its annual Managing Technology conference in Sacramento from March 17-18. It’s a collection of state and local IT experts discussing best practices for employing technology at the government level. The IT industry moves at light speed so these kinds of conferences are great for continuing education and for staying on top of the latest trends in the IT space. Hit up this page for more information.
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