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Council to Discuss College Park’s IT Infrastructure

At next Tuesday’s worksession, the Council will discuss the IT services and infrastructures, primarily used by the City government at the City Hall and elsewhere. The IT staff will be present at the meeting to address some concerns expressed during Council comments by explaining some of the procedures they follow in IT.

Green Initiatives
Staff  understand the concern for creating a smaller carbon footprint within the City. IT has made some suggested changes from our “Green Team”, which was formed with direction from the CBE. The City no longer purchases PC’s that have a tower and monitor; they are being replaced with ali-in-one desktops as they reach end of lifespan. All employees are instructed to power their PC off before leaving at the end of their workday. Whereas each PC user previously had a dedicated printer at their desk, IT is replacing them with shared network printers as they reach the end of their lifespan. We also have a few virtualized servers which we plan on expanding in the future.

E-mail
In an earlier worksession with the Council, it was explained that we recently purchased a new email server and, soon after, a redundant e-mail server (located at Public Works) to eliminate the loss of e-mails in the event of server failure. Purchasing servers currently is the most cost effective means to sustain our network infrastructure, primarily since hardware and software attached to our network (including audio-visual equipment) may be purchased with P.E.G. funds that we receive under the Com cast and V erizon franchise agreements. If IT includes a maintenance agreement with the hardware purchase, we can use P.E.G. funds for the maintenance. P.E.G. funds are capital equipment grants equal to 3% of cable subscriber fees which are passed through to subscribers on their cable bill. P.E.G. funds may be used for capital equipment purchases but may not be used for maintenance or services. The rules are slightly less restrictive for use of the Verizon grant than the Comcast grant. IT  currently has over $1 million in accumulated P.E.G. funds. As we have recently upgraded all servers using P.E.G. funds, we do not need to budget General Fund monies, which would be the case if we switched to cloud-based services that will increase as mailbox sizes increase due to retention requirements.

IT is very cognizant of what we believe to be the best case scenario for the City. The City has a data warehouse process that was implemented over 9 years ago wherein many reports that are generated from the financial and payroll software are never printed, but are sent directly from the iSeries (AS/400) to our Metafile system (data warehouse). We backup all servers every day to storage servers at City Hall and Public Works, and backup the AS/400 data to Vault400, an offsite disaster recovery vendor.

Tele-work
To address the question of tele-work, in the public sector it becomes a little difficult because many of the services provided by the City are delivered by a multi-agency approach, some conducted in person others via inter-office mail and e-mail, unlike some federal agencies who have numerous employees evaluating or entering data. Although IT staff and some Finance staff have the ability to remotely access the AS/400 and file server from their homes over a virtual private network (VPN), it is simply not practical for any of us to work remotely on any regular basis. The large volume of paperwork and files generated each day would be difficult to cart around. Our City is more “service oriented” for the residents and customers who come in for their transactions.

Listserv
Our IT has also reviewed a listserv option, known as “Constant Contact” which would provide information directly to residents who could subscribe to items like the agenda or maybe a newsletter in the future. It has been researched and can be embedded within our website. It is a very simple process: users would subscribe, they would be added to a distribution list for the particular item they wish to receive, and once the item is created by staff it gets e-mailed out. If you follow this link, there is an example on the website for the City of West Hartford, CT.  http://www.west-hartford.com/i_want_to/register/index.php

Comcate Mobile App
IT has investigated the mobile add-on application offered by Comcate. We use Comcate to administer “College Park Central”, our request and complaint tracking software. We could purchase the module and would be charged an implementation cost. This module would allow anyone with a Smartphone or tablet equipped with WiFi capabilities to take a photo of an issue, open a new case and submit the photo with the new case from their device. Information on the Comcate app is attached. Purchasing the app from Comcate would be much cheaper, easier and faster than having it developed by others.

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