Viewpoints

Viewpoint: Six common, yet costly IT mistakes

Keep IT infrastructure operating smoothly by avoiding these mistakes

By Dan Adams

Municipalities across the country are battling to balance budgets while new IT systems and upgrades take a backseat. “We’ll budget for it next year,” is the echo resonating along the halls of local governments. The only problem is that next year something more pressing takes priority.

Most communities have computers that are so outdated even local charities wouldn’t accept them. It’s not surprising that the cost of a 4-year-old computer in the used market is less than $100.

Although budgets may be tight, communities cannot afford to ignore their technology issues. Local governments can better manage their IT infrastructure by avoiding the following six common problems:

1. Living in “Run to Failure” – “Run to Failure” describes the tendency of not addressing an issue until it completely fails to operate, and a crisis occurs. Unfortunately, it is commonplace for municipalities thinking they are stretching a dollar to expect their systems to keep running, even though signs point to imminent failure.  

2. Every department is an island unto itself – Most communities have multiple departments that could benefit from resource sharing. Often, however, individual departments are completely isolated from each other, causing higher operational costs and lower productivity.

3. No one has the global picture – If the recreation department needs a new database and the planning department needs new software and the tax collector needs a new app, all of these needs should be part of an overall municipal strategy. Instead, they are addressed separately, and the “must-haves” listed by these departments don’t work well together because they are not part of a single strategic solution.

4. Spending in areas that do not yield the best results – That new server looks great on the website and promises faster results, but does it integrate with the other systems in the office? Usually the spiffiest box on the shelf, when opened, leads to disappointment.

5. Old or non-verified back-up – No need to worry. All your systems are backed-up, right? I’ve seen municipalities that still use tape back-up or even worse, a thumb drive to save important department files. They’re missing the business continuity picture. If the system fails and you think a thumb drive is going to save the day and get you back in business the next day, think again.  

6. Lack of security – I would bet that if we tested the security of many municipal IT systems, the average 12-year-old hacker could get into more than half of them. I have even witnessed some communities using free online security program downloads, thinking they provide adequate protection. They don’t.

In today’s fast-paced world, people expect technology to deliver exactly what they want at the time and place they want it. That includes their local government’s IT system. If it fails, residents are not likely to be understanding. Municipal officials can avoid a horde of angry constituents by addressing problems in their IT system now — before it fails.

Dan Adams is CEO of New England Network Solutions (NENS), based in Woburn, Mass. NENS has provided a wide range of technology solutions to Massachusetts municipalities for the past 15 years. Dan can be reached at dadams@nens.com

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