think they’re so careful when selecting technology vendors. After all, RFPs are
meant to slow the purchasing process down, ensure that you thoroughly evaluate
a selection of vendors, and pick the best one. However, many technology vendors
are skilled at simply making the sale. They know what to say, they know how to
present a deceptively low price point that withstands legal scrutiny, and they
know how to maneuver through government red tape.
We find that
cities often don’t realize the hidden costs that can come from improperly
evaluating, selecting, and working with technology vendors. When we offer
“vendor management” as part of our services, we often examine the following areas
to make sure that technology vendors are providing you the exact services you
need for a fair price—without bleeding away your money.
we recommend that you make sure a watchdog of sorts oversees and interacts with
your technology vendors. That watchdog can be an experienced member of your
staff or a vendor experienced in municipal IT who has no financial incentive
tied to the vendors you select. As a bonus tip, be careful if your technology
solution vendors recommend other vendors, especially when they have financial
incentives to upsell or cross-sell different products. When technology vendors
don’t have your best interests in mind, there is a risk for wasting money. By
more closely keeping an eye on requirements, hidden costs, contracts, setup and
installation, and ongoing support communication, you’ll more likely reap the
most from your technology investment.
To talk about vendor management in more detail, please contact us.
Are you cybersecure? Are you protected against data loss?
Are you ready if a hacker decides to steal your information?
As cities rely more and more on technology, cybersecurity
expectations and accountability becomes greater and greater. Don’t get caught
off guard by a cyberattack. Our own Nathan Eisner, Chief Operations Officer at
Sophicity, will talk to city staff and elected officials about the
non-technical foundation required to effectively protect government
data—without busting your budget.
We’ll be broadcasting live from Lavonia, Georgia. Join us
online to watch the entire presentation.
online to reserve your seat today.
recall the story of Homer’s Iliad
where the seemingly unbeatable city of Troy was brought down by a simple trick:
the famous Trojan horse. Left behind by the supposedly retreating Greek army, the
Trojans took the horse as a war trophy. But Greek soldiers were hidden inside.
In the dark of night, soldiers leaped out of the wooden horse, unsealed the
gates for the rest of the returning Greek army, and destroyed the city. It’s
not a coincidence that computer viruses today are sometimes called Trojans.
It’s the same idea—one simple virus can take down your entire city.
like we’re exaggerating, but we’ve encountered quite a few instances over the
last few years when a city will feel that investing in information technology
is too expensive. They instead take shortcuts and feel everything is all right as
long as nothing serious happens. But then...there is always an EVENT. And it’s
deadly serious. A hacker steals financial information and money. Mission
critical data is wiped out and there is no backup copy. The website is defamed
and causes serious public embarrassment for days, weeks, and even months.
of a simple virus. The fact that it’s easy for even a tech-savvy person to occasionally be fooled by a virus means that you need more than a free antivirus
program installed on your desktops. Here are some mission critical IT
investments that you need so that it’s much less likely that a virus takes your
insurance, investments in information technology can seem pointless, unfair,
and expensive because you don’t see anything tangible in your day to day
operations. But that’s the point. A sign that you’re making the right
investments is when your day-to-day problems are minimized. And when a virus
hits, that’s like suddenly becoming ill or needing surgery. That’s when
insurance saves the day.
for cities that invest in information technology, they know that:
To talk about viruses and technology investments in more detail, please contact us.
Whatever your politics, personal, non-government, or poorly overseen government email accounts have plagued Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and many government entities
such as the IRS, the Environmental Protection Agency, states, and municipalities. The root cause of many of these tortuously complex scandals and investigations is simple: Using personal email accounts instead of a government email account.
Just look at what happens when someone wants to access those
emails. You may like or dislike Hillary Clinton, but it’s objectively a problem
when she cannot easily produce information related to her role as a government
employee. Plus, the risks of using personal email go beyond transparency. If
your IT staff or vendor isn’t managing your email, who is? Your free email
provider? Are they providing the right level of antispam, or backing up your
emails? Not a chance.
It’s clear that open records laws and the push for
transparency makes it less and less excusable to use personal email accounts
for city business. If you’re still using personal email accounts at your city,
ask yourself the following questions.
If you feel behind the technology curve on email, you’re not
alone. If people at Hillary Clinton’s level are wrestling with it, then it’s
understandable that many other government entities are too. But now is the time
to act. Auditors, lawyers, and the public are becoming less forgiving when
public officials cannot provide emails about something critical to the public
interest. Business-class email allows you to easily respond to open records
requests instead of losing emails in the murk of personal accounts, and it
ensures that employees cannot delete or misplace critical information.
To talk in more detail about email and open records laws, please contact us.
While states vary in their cybersecurity
laws, it’s clear that the stakes are rising for cities to protect their data
from loss or theft. Kentucky’s HB 5 is a great example of how states are
starting to push for higher cybersecurity accountability, and other states are
sure to follow. And it makes sense. With taxpayer dollars funding public
services, it’s important that citizens know their information is protected if
they are required to hand it over for taxes, public safety and municipal court
requirements, business licenses, etc.
Ensuring that you’re cybersecure starts
with certain information technology essentials. Whether you’ve neglected to
invest in your IT for a while or are continually improving it year after year,
it’s worth taking a look to see if you’ve got the right cybersecurity foundation in
Having basics such as data backup,
offsite data storage, business-class email, document management, and IT
professionals monitoring and maintaining your hardware and software will go a
long way toward meeting most of your cybersecurity needs. In rare cases, you
might need more specialized security such as encrypting single computers or
building a private cloud, but investing in information technology essentials
means most of your cybersecurity worries go away. While IT may seem costly sometimes,
ask yourself, “What’s the cost of a data breach if citizens’ personal
information is stolen?”
To talk more about cybersecurity, please contact us.
In the early
days, websites worked a lot like one-way brochures or printed material. You
created something for someone to read, they read it, and the “transaction”
ended there. Perhaps contact information or a next step existed, but it wasn’t
that important. Websites simply communicated information to people, and that
terms like “calls to action” and “conversion” are inescapable when talking
about modern websites. All this means is that websites have become ways to get
your audience to interact with you. In other words, you get them to do
something. If your website shows signs that no one is taking action based on
the information you provide, then it’s considered a failure or a wasted
it might be easier to avoid measuring this kind of engagement, but you will
serve citizens better if you pay more attention to “calls to action” on your
website. In fact, you’re probably already seeing citizens engage more heavily
with some parts of your website than other parts.
some common calls to action that you may want to add, enhance, and improve on
your city’s website.
think of more calls to action beyond the five listed above. No matter what they
are, calls to action help get your citizens to do something, to engage with
you. Signs of their activity will show unmistakable proof that your website is
useful to citizens. You may also find that some calls to action are less
popular, or that calls to action may be too hard to find. Fixing and tweaking
the way you engage with citizens will go a long way toward improving the way
you communicate to the outside world through your website and make it much more
useful to people.
To talk in more detail about website calls to action, please contact us.
One of a city clerk’s most
important duties is handling documents to follow state or local record
retention policies. Because these policies usually follow from a law, it’s
important that city clerks meticulously maintain their records. However, this
job grows more challenging, especially as the volume of information increases
so rapidly today. Paper documents, electronic documents, PDFs, emails, etc. all
require retention according to strict rules.
To handle this kind of policy
precision with such a high volume of documents requires that city clerks rely
more and more on technology. If a city has not considered a modern document
management solution, they may be surprised at the records retention benefits
First, it’s useful to know
two key things that happen with a document management system that will help
your record retention activities.
If you still think that your
current processes are fine and that document management might be overkill,
consider the following benefits that will impact your work as a city clerk.
As you can see, the benefits
of applying record retention policies to a modern document management system
has the potential to save you money, time, and hassle. Once implemented, you
will find that the benefits ripple out much further than just affecting your
role as city clerk. Other departments will enjoy the ease of finding documents
more quickly, elected officials will like the quick responses to open records
requests, and citizens will like the transparency. Many embarrassing city situations
often arise when they cannot find information due to outdated document
management methods. You’ll be ahead of the curve by applying best practices to
your role as a city clerk through leveraging technology to help you do your
To talk about records retention in more detail, please contact us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our very own Nathan Eisner, COO of Sophicity, delivered training to cities on Cyber Security on Tuesday, March 3 in Waycross, Georgia and today in Moultrie, Georgia. Accompanied by Pam Helton from the Georgia Municipal Association, the training sessions focused on preparing city staff and elected officials with a non-technical foundation to ensure their cities are properly protecting their data.
For more information, take a look at the GMA flyer.
for police officers have quickly gone from an expensive novelty to something
that cities need to seriously consider. Even the President is now placing
pressure on cities and pushing for financial incentives to help pay for body
cameras. A recent article from The Arizona Republic points out
that body cameras will actually become the norm within 10 years. Like it or
not, these technology-intensive cameras will eventually become part of your
public safety budget—if they aren’t being considered already.
articles focus on the cameras, the logistics, and the politics of body cameras,
many gloss over the underlying technology. If you’re using, actively planning
for, or discussing the use of body cameras for your police officers, then we
want to offer up a few questions you need to consider that are easy to
might fear the costs of having to invest in body cameras, the situation gives
cities an opportunity to examine the state of their current technology. Many of
the questions above don’t just apply to body camera data. Data backup, disaster
recovery, record retention, data storage, encryption, security, and testing
come into play with all city data and information. Luckily, many of the investments
needed are more cost-effective than ever.
about storage, security, and data backup needs for body camera data, please
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