Your Internet access is your key to the
world. But it can also be an expensive pain for your budget. It can seem that
you’re trapped with only one or two options in your city, and it’s true that
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a near-monopoly in many areas of the
country. However, ISPs have generally improved their services enough so that
you should reexamine what you have if you haven’t done a self-assessment in a
That’s because technology improvements
often mean lower costs, but many ISPs can fail to innovate, to share innovative
improvements with you, or to inform you voluntarily about ways you can reduce
costs. Remember, Internet access becomes faster and covers more geographical areas
every year. In conjunction with these technological improvements, there are
ways to potentially lower your ISP costs with a few simple strategies.
By the way, we
cannot emphasize this point enough. A city (or any business) should always,
always, ALWAYS go with a business-class ISP over a consumer-class ISP no matter
how much difference there is in the price. If you’ve ever had an Internet
outage at home (using a consumer-class ISP), you might have been told it will
be a week from Tuesday before the ISP will get out there to fix it. That’s why business-class
service is an essential ISP choice for your city.
exciting thing for cities is that ISP costs are probably one of the easiest
costs to reduce, and with the biggest payback. All it takes is a little
research, negotiation, and knowledge about how ISPs work and structure their
costs. At the same time, make sure you don’t go overboard in reducing costs.
Consumer-class ISPs are not suitable for your city, and neither is copper.
Don’t take shortcuts. Define a certain standard of quality, and then negotiate
price based on those quality standards.
To talk more about reducing ISP costs, please contact us.
For day-to-day collaboration and project team meetings, tablets are handy for easy video chats, conference calls, and exchanges of information. Especially if you have people working from home, on the road, or traveling across the country, tablets make it easy to connect due to friendly collaboration software, ease of use, and ubiquitous Internet connections. While laptops are still often used for this purpose, tablets are much easier to use and more convenient to set up in crowded places such as a plane, airport, or coffee shop.
Tablets are nearing the end of the nice-to-have stage and are quickly becoming essential for business. They’re even being adopted by many people traditionally considered “technology luddites,” and those people like using them. It helps their productivity in ways that even the laptop could not, and businesses now have to meet that need.
To talk about tablets in more detail, please contact us.
any other city web page, your elected official page represents the most direct
connection to citizens. After all, these are the city officials who citizens
elect to represent them. They are public servants. Through city council and
regular communications, their jobs are to stay in touch with citizens and pass
on constituent concerns to city council.
neglect their mayor and city council pages because they don’t have a clear
service component like news, events, City Hall, or department pages. But if you
neglect certain pieces of key content on your mayor and city council page, you
risk sending the message that you don’t care, that it’s difficult to contact
elected officials, and that your local government might not be transparent
Here are a
few basic tips to make sure you’ve got the essentials covered on your mayor and
city council page.
this is all basic information and relatively easy to obtain. Shoring up this
information on your website will make citizens happy and the functioning
of your elected official communications that much smoother. It’s really just
about information—about the elected officials, the meetings, and the
decisions they make. Citizens may disagree or want to debate city issues, but that’s
good. It’s bad when citizens are angry over lack of information.
To talk more about mayor and city council website content, please contact us.
management is one of those areas that happens to you whether you have software
or not. After all, your city probably creates documents every day and there is
a process for managing those documents. It may not be the best process, but
it’s a process. This leads many cities to ask us, “What’s the difference
between my document management and Document
understand the term “document management” more formally and to understand why
software is used to help with this process, it’s helpful to look at the history
of problems and issues that led to document management.
those are the problems. But what does document management software do that your
own manual processes can’t do?
As you can
see, a document management system is less mysterious than it looks at first
glance. It really just solves a variety of problems that occur when you don’t
have software that can manage the document process better. For cities, a
document management system becomes much more important when considering the
legal aspects of documents for open records requests and document retention. A
good archiving strategy is much easier with document management software.
To talk about document management in more detail, please contact us.
Dawsonville, incorporated as a city in 1859, is the county seat
of Dawson County in Georgia. Steeped in Southern history,
Dawsonville is speeding quickly into the future. While still small
at 2,536 residents, the city experienced a population increase
of 139% between 2000 and 2010. That’s probably because of its
high quality of life. Dawsonville hosts a number of festivals and
events, including The Mountain Moonshine Festival that features
cars, arts and crafts displays, clogging, and other entertainment.
For many years, the city mostly worked with a basic set of
technologies: some servers, computers, and a website. The
servers and computers were repaired or replaced as needed, and
they were even used for data backup. Trying to get employees to
regularly back up their data onto a server introduced uncertainty,
especially when the servers ran out of disk space.
The city’s lack of technology strategy indicated a variety of
deeper problems and missed opportunities to serve citizens.
The city also had an outdated website that made it difficult to
communicate with citizens, and no real document management
system that digitized and securely stored paper documents to
mitigate the risk of data loss at City Hall.
Despite wanting to be proactive in dealing with its technology
issues, the city found that the potential high cost of upgrading its
technology prevented city leaders from moving forward.
Dawsonville solved these challenges by using the Georgia
Municipal Association’s “IT in a Box” service. Powered by
Sophicity, “IT in a Box” is a complete IT solution for cities and
local governments. The service includes a website, data backup,
offsite storage, email, document management, Microsoft Office for desktops, server and desktop management, vendor
management, and a seven-day a week helpdesk.
“IT in a Box” helped Dawsonville:
Dawsonville also saved $26,868 (or 58%) of the costs typically
spent modernizing a city network of their environment and
size. “IT in a Box” also helped Dawsonville establish a strong
technology foundation and create a predictable IT budget.
Sophicity came to our attention at the perfect
time. Their ability to analyze our systems and
guide us in establishing what works for us,
and not just provide a stamped out package,
was amazing. Great people, great systems,
and great teamwork—all working together. It’s
indicative of the same teamwork GMA provides
in bringing us new and better ways to improve
our cities. - W. James Grogan, Mayor
Print-friendly version of the Dawsonville, Georgia IT in a Box case study.
Sophicity is an IT products and services company providing technology solutions to city governments and municipal leagues. Among the services Sophicity delivers in “IT in a Box” are a website, data backup, offsite data storage, email, document management, Microsoft Office for desktops, server, desktop, and mobile management, vendor management and a seven-day a week helpdesk. Read more about IT in a Box.
budgeting season for many cities, and information technology is a line item
that often get scrutinized during this time. Technology has evolved rapidly
over the past five years not just in terms of speed and capabilities but also
with how typical costs are structured. So, what do these technology shifts mean
to city budgets?
up with technology can be frustrating, the benefit of technology's
evolution to cities is a lower price for more capabilities. For example, with the advent
of cloud computing (a truly disruptive technology), the entire model of
technology budgeting is shifting from capital to operational expenses.
To see where
you might be able to save costs, both in the short-term and for the long haul,
we explore a few potential ways to slash your city’s budget with newer
surface, it can seem that these technologies might increase costs, especially
if you haven’t taken a look at your technology assets in a long time. Many
cities even don’t include IT as a budget line item (or bury it in other areas
of the budget). However, by eliminating hardware, revisiting contracts,
switching to cloud software subscription models, shifting to a proactive predictable
IT support model, and automating manual processes, you open up the possibility
to seriously and positively impact your budget.
To talk more about city IT budgeting, please contact us.
In the past, we’ve talked about many aspects of document
management, sometimes hinting when certain aspects (like indexing) affect
search. But let’s tackle the art of document management searching itself, since
it’s something city staff will perform constantly as part of their daily work.
Often, city staff can grow disappointed when they expect
document management searching to work like Google. That’s a bit unfair, since
Google’s search engine is the best and most sophisticated in the business.
Plus, Google is indexing and showing search results for the entire Internet in
the best way they feel suits most people’s needs.
Since your documents are your own assets, that means you’re
responsible for taking steps to make them searchable and findable. Some of
those aspects are automated depending on the type of document management system
you choose. But others need your business input along with the help of an IT
expert, document management expert, and (in sophisticated cases) an information
For most small and medium cities, the following tips will get
you started on building a foundation for making your documents easier to search
within your document management system.
As you can see, search technology can become complicated
rather quickly. However, your IT staff or document management vendor can help
guide you through the search capabilities of your document management system.
In many cases, providing better searching for city staff is easy but tedious as
you decide the rules and implement tagging and metadata. However, the reward is
the better search results. No longer will you be frustrated that you only
receive a bunch of random results that only contain an exact search phrase.
Instead, you’ll see relevant results based on your own tagging and empowered by
smart use of technology.
For more information about document management searching, please contact us.
encompasses a lot—everything from new buildings that take years to build to
fixing potholes. Because of that broad scope, it can be difficult to focus your
public works content on your website. As a result, many city websites cover a
broad range of topics that confuse people seeking out public works information.
public works pages may include utilities, parking enforcement, or some overlap
with planning and development content, we’re going to use this post to
address content that assumes you’re communicating about soon to start or in
progress public works projects. However, our first tip will remind you of the importance
of deciding what is and isn’t public works content, and how you will present
that content to citizens.
short-term projects or simple ongoing maintenance and repairs, many of the
above tips apply on a smaller scale but you can also apply some of our customer
service tips from previous blog posts about city website content. Overall, it really helps if you decide what content public works
includes and stay consistent with that focus. If your citizens seem better
helped by calling the information something different (since many people don’t
tend to use the phrase “public works”), it’s perfectly valid to explore ways of
organizing and presenting your public works content in language that your
about public works website content in more detail, please contact us.
As we’ve grown accustomed to email over the years,
one of the ongoing struggles has been the user’s desire to keep all of their
emails versus the reality of hitting the limits of storage space. This has
traditionally been a real problem for cities. With tight budgets, cities often
needed to cap email storage space at a certain limit. That meant deleting
emails to make sure cities had enough space for new and incoming emails.
Not today. As this infographic shows, the price of storage -
including email storage - has dropped to ridiculously low levels. It’s not
unusual for a modern cloud email system to provide about 50GB of storage for
businesses. That’s enough storage for employees to pretty much save every email.
Cities need to take advantage of cloud email’s
extremely cheap storage not only for the user benefits but also because there
will no longer be any legal reason to delete important emails. For example, the City of San Diego had an email deletion policy when they were using their more obsolete email
systems with limited storage space. The public is in an uproar now and wants
the city to keep all important emails. The city has no choice but to agree with
the public because the email storage technology now exists to do it.
To get a glimpse of the many email storage problems
that go away with cloud email, here’s a sampling of some common problems that
you probably struggle with if you have an outdated email system.
Cities with aging on-premise email solutions or
“discount” email software provided by their local Internet Service Provider are
going to become less scalable and more untenable in the future. Since
government is getting pressured by both citizens and the law to switch to the
cloud for transparency, security, and budget purposes, now is a good time to
explore cloud email. It will help eliminate many of the problems listed above
and also possibly reduce your email budget by a significant amount.
To talk about cloud email in more detail, please contact us.
With so many security threats taking place in cyberspace
through the exchange of bits and bytes, it’s easy to overlook the physical side
of information security. While viruses, phishing, and hacking into servers all
take place in “virtual” reality, many serious threats to information also happen
within good old normal reality.
A recent article in SC Magazine is representative
of a need for IT professionals to align both information and physical security.
Employees and other people with inside access to organizations are the source
of many information security breaches, so your physical security needs to
complement your information security to provide the best protection against
It’s easy to assess your current physical security state,
and the list below may help you identify some gaps at your city.
By reviewing the items above, you can
turn them into a checklist to begin assessing the quality of your physical
Remember, your physical security helps
complement your information security. It’s like yin and yang. Make it hard, if
not impossible, for a person to access or damage your equipment, and you’ll
find that you’ve mitigated many of the risks that lead to most government
To talk more about physical and
information security, please contact us.
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