Graham Ford 21 November 2016

Future-proofing technology

With more local councils now conducting business in much the same as most small to medium enterprises (SMEs), they have put themselves in the shop window as attractive employers. By future-proofing and embracing new technology, councils have become particularly appealing to the very tech-savvy younger generation.

In our experience, we’ve seen that smaller local councils may actually have had a pretty decent local IT supplier, but could no longer leave themselves open to potential downtime. An increase in the number of IT users tends to be the prompt, as pain points become too frequent to bear. They outgrow their support because response times to problems simply have to be much, much faster – with immediate, or almost immediate action.

There is also a growing need for council to become less paper-based and more centralised, conversing increasingly by email via tablets – bringing in appropriate software and apps as part of the need and desire to be more modern, efficient and flexible, with information at one’s fingertips from whatever location.

One of the key ‘pain points’ is undoubtedly that of cyber attack, but taking the right preventative measures can prevent one in the first place. Whilst cyber attacks prevail, local councils should of course review the strength of their comms security and ask ‘what if’, to see just how secure their relationship really is with their supplier. You’d also be amazed at just how laptops/tablets go missing, get stolen or broken – with each one presenting a potential opportunity for a breach of data or need to retrieve important information.

Following cyber attack strains such as Locky and Cryptolocker, local councils also now need to be on guard for the alarming increase in Ransomware. This very malicious software scrambles data on a victim's PC and then demands payments before restoring the data to its original state. To unlock this data can cost from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand. Traditional anti-virus software can’t handle these new attacks, so it’s all the more reason to work closely with a trusted IT/communications provider who knows about these problems and is already helping you before you even know it.

Our local council customers certainly want more flexibility for personnel to be able to work away from the office when necessary. This then brings connectivity into play – for example whether laptops/tablets can depend just on w-fi, or whether they should have SIM cards.

There’s also the much-neglected weak spot - printers and multi-functional devices (MFDs), which have completely changed the office environment. Despite being a networked device, the need to protect them and keep valuable data secure, is overlooked all too often. Government figures put the cost of a data breach at around £310,000 per incident.

In addition to preventative measures against cyber attacks, councils should future-proof IT, whereby a pro-active supplier will combine tried and tested communications solutions with updates that keep everything one step ahead. IT/Unified comms is a fast-changing environment, so it is vital to have that forward-thinking roadmap, preferably for a five-year period.

Graham Ford is technical director at Excalibur Communications.

This feature first appeared in Local Government News magazine. Click here to register for your free copy.

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