When cleaning out your house, you’ve probably experienced the
shock of realizing you’ve acquired way more stuff than you thought. After staying
in one place for a while, it’s tough to go through your attic, garage, shed,
basement, or other storage areas to decide what to keep and what to throw out.
However, it’s quite a relief when you finally throw out a lot of unneeded
things and free up space.
Information technology works similarly. Over time, technology
objects pile up and lead to excess servers, desktops, laptops, network
equipment, and software. Each city department may accrue excess technology, and
that multiplies the extent of the problem. When it comes time to assess your technology,
you might be surprised or shocked to find a bunch of useless or redundant
equipment and software.
That’s because IT assessment and consolidation is always an
ongoing process for any business or organization. From our experiences
consolidating many city IT environments, we’ve provided some tips in case
you’re about to tackle this kind of initiative. When you’re consolidating,
always ask, “What are my city’s business goals? And how is a particular
technology investment helping me achieve those goals?”
While assessing your technology can involve a lot of upfront
time, the benefits are worth it. Like cleaning your house, you’ll free up space
and get rid of unnecessary junk. More importantly, your city stands to reduce
costs, gain a lot of efficiency, and simplify your IT management. Once you
consolidate, plan to reevaluate your technology assets at least once a year to
see if any new or improved hardware and software may help you with further
consolidation. IT consolidation is an ongoing process, and you’re always
fighting against inertia, time, and technology innovations.
To talk more about IT consolidation, please contact us.
A recent article from Microsoft points out that technology alone
cannot improve your IT security. You need informed, participating end users—your
city employees. When they are informed about security policies through proper
communication and training, the true power of your IT security blossoms.
However, this article overrates the trickle-down effect of
communicating security policies to employees. Don’t get us wrong. Establishing
security policies are absolutely important and provide a great way to detail
all important aspects of a security strategy for your city. But ask an employee
about the last time they read or looked at a security policy.
We find that a great way to tie security policy to employees
is by illustrating tactical, everyday scenarios that often place a city at
risk. Through these everyday scenarios, you can discuss IT security policy in a
way that relates to everyone.
By sharing everyday tangible security examples with
employees, you will be able to connect normally abstract security policy to
their day-to-day jobs. After all, it’s in these specific scenarios that most
security breaches occur. The biggest breach in the last few years (in South
Carolina) happened when an employee clicked on an email. Weak passwords have
allowed hackers to publicly expose sensitive information. And we hear stories about
stolen laptops every so often, with those stolen laptops containing social
security numbers and other publically identifiable information. When employees
hear these kinds of examples, it’s more visceral—making your security policy
more likely to stick in their minds.
To talk about IT security in more detail, please contact us.
You probably recall times when you’ve had to manage documents
through email. Most of the time, you’re trying to figure out who has the
document, who already provided feedback, and who hasn’t reviewed or approved it
yet. It’s like herding cats, and you expend more effort managing the document
workflow than you do actually creating or reviewing the document.
In a document management system, you have the ability to set
up workflows that force people to follow a series of tasks. From document
creation to review to approval, workflows help you focus on the work—not
managing the workflow. While there are some technical aspects to setting up a
workflow (and some workflows at large organizations can be extremely complicated),
most smaller cities will have relatively simple workflows that help manage
Here are some tips to help you think about how you create
workflows. As you can see, these are mostly business decisions, not technical
With a strong document management workflow, you increase the
morale of city employees and make it much easier for them to do their work.
Managing documents through email or document management systems without a clear
process increases stress, errors, duplicate work, and frustration. If your city
is especially working toward greater transparency, document management workflow
is a small but important step to clarifying how documents are created,
reviewed, approved, archived, and deleted.
To talk about document management workflow in more detail, please contact us.
Back in the 1980s, Judge Wapner used to open up each case on The People’s Court by
saying, “I know you've been sworn, and I have read your complaint.” The popular
show, still running to this day (unfortunately without Judge Wapner), gave
people a surface understanding of the workings of a municipal court—albeit
with all of the tedious parts edited out. People often see the legal system as
obscure and mysterious, and it helps when an entertaining show shines some
light on how it works.
However, when citizens have to actually go to municipal court
for whatever reason, the process is often just the opposite. People get
confused, worried, and tripped up over what to do, where to show up, and how a certain
legal process works. While court can be a hassle, you can make it less of a
hassle by providing clear, useful information on your website.
Since people usually don’t voluntarily plan to go to court,
they will often come to your website on a mission and probably not in the best
mood. What greets them when they’re looking for information? The following tips
will help you make this website visit as pleasant as possible for your citizens
or those needing to use your court system.
Additionally, when applying the tips above, it’s tempting to
provide reams of legal information. After all, it’s a court and it deals with
law. While accurate and thorough, legal language is intimidating to most
people. You can provide it as extra detailed information, but make sure you
don’t bury your most helpful information in legalese. It will only frustrate
and confuse people visiting your site.
Municipal courts ultimately reduce all legal situations to
simple processes—what to do, where to show up, and how to resolve the issue.
Your website is an extension of that simplification and, with the right
content, provides a great public service to your citizens. Then, citizens won’t
mind getting sworn in, and having their complaint read.
To discuss your municipal court website content in more
detail, please contact us.
KLC helps city stabilize data backup and disaster recovery,
better respond to open record requests, and delegate all IT
support to experienced professionals.
Residing in the beautiful northeastern Kentucky mountains
within the Daniel Boone National Forest, Morehead is a city of
almost 7,000 people approximately 70 miles east of Lexington.
It’s also home to Morehead State University, ranked as a top
public school in the south, and Cave Run Lake, an 8,270-acre
reservoir that attracts many recreational enthusiasts.
Like many smaller cities throughout the United States, a small
dedicated staff oversees many of the day-to-day operations.
That means everyone, including the mayor, is hands on
helping citizens. But as information technology becomes more
complicated in its variety, requirements, and integration with
legal aspects of local government, it can be overwhelming to add
its hassles to an already overburdened staff workload.
For many years, the mayor and city staff handled any technology
needs and requirements for their city. That meant setting up
their own computers and calling software, Internet, telecom, and
hardware vendors for support requests. Not surprisingly, this
essential work can get overlooked and even shelved when day-to-day tasks take over.
This frantic scramble to keep up with technology was a symptom
of deeper problems. Without a dedicated person to focus
on technology, the city also had uncertainty related to the
reliability of its data backup, a compromised ability to respond to
e-discovery or open records requests from using an email service
that was difficult to support, and no website to communicate
However, the potential high cost of hiring IT staff and upgrading
the city’s technology prevented Morehead from moving forward.
Morehead solved these challenges by using KLC’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, online payments, onsite data backup, unlimited offsite
storage of backups, email, document management, Microsoft
Office for desktops, server, desktop, and mobile management,
vendor management and a 7-day a week helpdesk.
“IT in a Box” helped Morehead:
We now have a level of security unimagined
beforehand with constant monitoring and
reliable offsite backups. I worry much less with
the Sophicity team watching things for the City
of Morehead. – Mayor David Perkins
Print-friendly version of the Morehead, Kentucky IT in a Box case study.
Sophicity is an IT services and consulting company providing technology solutions to
city governments and municipal leagues. Among the services Sophicity delivers in “IT
in a Box” are a website, online payments, onsite data backup, unlimited offsite storage
of data backups, 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.
While larger cities benefit from having procurement offices
to spend time researching, selecting, and negotiating with vendors, smaller
cities can feel at a disadvantage when procuring items—especially technology
products and services. And even procurement directors can have trouble keeping
up with the latest hardware, software, and technology solutions.
Despite the overwhelming technical aspects of technology
procurement, we’ve found through our experience that there are some basic tips
that help cities get the best bang for their buck. Even if you’re not a
technical expert, these tips can help you better prepare when you’re ready to
invest in technology.
Technology purchases can be quite expensive and complex.
That’s why it helps to follow the steps above to make sure you’re vetting each
purchase rigorously and appropriately. With many city revenue streams in a
precarious state, you want to make sure you’re investing in the right
technology responsibly. You don’t want to become so paralyzed with fear that
you don’t buy anything, but you need to have the right guidance and expertise
on hand to help you step boldly forward in your investments that will help
achieve your city’s vision and business goals.
To talk more about technology purchasing, please contact us.
In a December
2013 report titled “Cyber Security: Pay Now or Pay More Later. A Report on Cyber Security in Kentucky,” author Adam Edelen discusses some of
the biggest cyber security risks to government—including local government.
Coming from the state of Kentucky’s auditor of public accounts, the
recommendations are serious and worth a read.
I had the good
fortune to be on a panel discussion with Adam back in October 2013 at the
Kentucky League of Cities’s annual conference. Together, we talked about the
risks of cyber security for cities. While we’ve shared our insights concerning
the basics of cyber liability in a past blog post, we want to highlight
some important and often overlooked cyber security points that Adam mentioned
in his report.
While there are
many more issues contained in the report, these are the five most important
cyber security points that we feel are overlooked by cities. Sometimes, IT
vendors can be accused or suspected of hyping up these same security issues in
order to sell products and solutions. So when the state of Kentucky’s auditor
of public accounts is discussing these cyber security threats in such detail as
part of an official report, it’s an extra signal to take action and address
these issues at your city.
The good news is
that most of the security breaches that Adam mentions in the report could have
been prevented by addressing some of the basic security measures above, along
with implementing preventative tactics such as data backup, ongoing IT support,
and antivirus software. In the report, Adam says, “When attacks
against public sector entities are successful, citizens begin to lose
confidence in government’s ability to protect the data it stores.” If you don’t
want your citizens to lose confidence in your city, it’s best to address your
cyber security risks now—rather than after an embarrassing disaster.
talk about cyber security in more detail, please contact us.
If you’ve ever added or updated content to a website without
doing anything technical, you’ve most likely used a content management system.
The phase “content management system” (or CMS) is a bulky term for a tool that
simply makes creating web content easy. After all, its goal is to remove
technical barriers that prevent you from making changes to your city’s website.
However, confusion sometimes exists about what exactly a
content management system is and does. In our latest article to help demystify
a common technology term, we will explain what a content management system is
and what it’s supposed to do for you.
When websites first evolved, technical webmasters, coders,
and software developers made any and all changes. In order to make changes
yourself, you would need to know how to code, how to access the technical back
end of your website, and how to upload and publish any changes. These were the
days when technical professionals held the keys to your website. Making any
changes without technical knowledge was all but impossible.
Of course, websites were also simpler back in the 1990s and
early 2000s. But as websites grew more complex, they also began to mature and
require more timely information. Updating simple news items or correcting an
error on a website became more important to business but could take a long time
if there were other requests in the webmaster’s queue. This situation was not
sustainable as the Internet became a more critical source of communication for
businesses and organizations.
While content management systems have existed since the
1990s, these early systems were technical and hard-to-use. By the mid-2000s,
content management systems began to incorporate user-friendly features and
remove many of the technical obstacles that prevented non-technical users from
publishing website content. When blogging exploded in popularity in the
mid-2000s, blog content management systems became so easy to use that those
tools pressured website content management systems to replicate many of these
easy-to-use features. Today, every organization with a website is, in a sense,
a publisher. And it needs a CMS to quickly publish and update content.
As an application, a content management system may either be
part of your website or a third party application that needs to be integrated
with your website. This content management system application gives you a back
end interface connected to your website that allows you to create, upload, edit,
publish, and update content without technical knowledge.
Beyond these features, modern content management systems are
also often cloud-based. That means they are accessible from anywhere as long as
you have an Internet connection. In the early days of the Internet, someone
would have to be at the city and access a web server to make any changes. With
a content management system, people can manage your website content if they are
at work, at home, or traveling.
As long as you explore a website option that includes remote
hosting in a data center or through the cloud, your content management system
will likely have the benefit of remote access. Such ease-of-use also reduces
the cost of having a technical professional having to help you create, publish,
and update content. That’s because you are able to do it yourself.
While content management systems certainly are capable of
much more than we’ve discussed here, these features are the core of why content
management systems have become standard back end applications for websites. If
you’re still using a webmaster or someone is coding your website updates, then
you’re long overdue to explore some website options that offer a content
To talk about content management systems in more detail, please contact us.
With so many recent advances in website design, email
software, and social media, the importance of online website forms are often
overlooked. Yet, they remain one of the best ways to capture information and
Online forms are not great for every situation. When used in
the wrong place (such as having someone fill out a form to read an article),
they can annoy people and cause them to leave your website. But for situations
such as general contact submissions, specific customer service requests, and
questions targeted for a department (rather than a specific person), online
forms can be a great tool.
With online forms now easier to create and implement on
websites more than ever before, we’ve shared some benefits that may get you
thinking about how to use this helpful tool on your website.
A recent Mashable article listed online forms
as a great alternative to email in certain situations, signifying that online
forms definitely remain a great tool to use on your website. Take a look at
common questions that inundate your email inboxes, customer service requests
that typically take place by email or phone, and forms that you have tied up in
PDFs or paper. Then consider if online forms might be an easier way to deal
with these requests for information while also increasing customer service for
citizens and easing the email burden on city employees.
To talk about online forms in more detail, please contact us.
While there are many data backup solutions out there, they
can be misleading when you think they all do the same thing—completely and
flawlessly back up your data. If you believe that they all work the same way, it
can be a rude awakening when a server fails or disaster hits. At that point,
you might find yourself unable to recover or piece together your data into a
reasonable working condition.
For cities, data backup needs to go beyond consumer-grade
backup or a cheap automated solution requiring little oversight. Why? Here are
a few things that a data backup solution does not automatically cover.
The important point is that data backup consists of more
than just the act of backing up data. There are a variety of important
processes that must take place around this activity, and some upfront planning
and organization helps customize your data backup solution to your particular
situation. Never assume the data backup solution is “just working.” Make sure
you have IT professionals helping you organize, test, and restore data while
guided by an overall plan.
To talk about data backup in more detail, please contact us.
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