City of Breda, Iowa Addresses Cybersecurity Risks and Supports Staff 24/7
Don’t let the population of under 500 people fool you. Breda, Iowa is one of the most modernized cities in the state. Every house has access to the city’s gigabit fiber optic system, and Breda offers popular amenities such as a beautiful park, golf course, swimming pool, and fitness center. Incorporated in 1877 along the Chicago and North Western railroad line, this west-central Iowa city has a strong local economy with nearly 40 businesses based in or near its city limits.
With a small city like Breda now offering modernized services, that also means it needs the help of information technology to effectively serve citizens. However, Breda—like many small cities—also has a small staff. With no budget to hire a full-time or even a part-time IT employee, Breda still has IT needs as employees rely on computers and software to perform work. Relying on non-technical city staff to fix IT problems is too risky, and so Breda needed to look at unique IT options that met its needs.
Nancy Janssen, City Clerk of the City of Breda, said, “Many small cities have just one person in the office, and that person has too many things going on to find the time to deal with IT problems.” The City of Breda’s small staff, with sometimes just one person in the office at a given time, found itself wrestling with a few technology challenges that they did not have time to address.
- Lack of responsive IT support: With some city staff such as the city clerk only working part-time, there were concerns that IT issues occurring or needing resolution when employees were not working would negatively impact city operations. Plus, city staff, already strapped for time, wasted hours on the phone working with various technology vendors—some of whom pointed fingers at each other instead of working to address problems.
- Uncertainty related to cybersecurity: While the city had some security tools in place, no technical management existed to oversee this security. As a result, some uncertainty existed around the city’s firewall, endpoint protection, and user access.
- Paper documents and unorganized electronic documents putting records management at risk: The city managed cabinets of paper documents that made it tedious and time-consuming to locate records. For a long time, city staff have wanted to implement a more robust records management system that allows the city to scan paper documents and store them in a centralized electronic location for easy search and access. With so many other daily priorities, the limited staff just didn’t have time to tackle this project.
Overall, this lack of IT support and uncertainty around important city business functions meant that the City of Breda needed to consider an IT helpdesk that could support the city around the clock and address important issues—while not breaking the city’s budget. The Iowa League of Cities “Manage Essentials” solution offered the right fit.
Manage Essentials offered the City of Breda municipal-experienced technology professionals who were ready to address these ongoing problems. Once implemented, Manage Essentials’ comprehensive, multi-faceted solution included:
- 24×7 helpdesk: Dedicated 24x7x365 helpdesk support staff now provide Breda IT support both remotely and onsite, depending on the issue. City staff now have just one place to call for all their technology needs—and there is someone to work on IT problems when city staff are not at the office. “Even if our computer is still working but there is an issue with some piece of it, we can continue to do our work while VC3 takes care of the IT problem,” said Janssen.
- Server, desktop, and mobile management: Endpoint detection and response (EDR) software now actively monitors threats. VC3 also implemented cybersecurity best practices to improve security and helped the city secure its IT infrastructure.
- Onsite and offsite data backup and disaster recovery: Onsite and offsite data backups help ensure both quick recovery after small incidents (like a server failure) or a larger incident (such as a tornado). Quarterly testing ensures the city’s data is safe and recoverable.
- Vendor management: VC3 now handles any needed technical calls with hardware and software vendors, resolving issues that used to take up valuable city staff time.
- Document management: The city has begun the process of going paperless and implementing a centralized document management system so that staff can easily apply records retention schedules.
- New city website: Breda received a modern fresh custom-designed website with VC3 hosting the website and managing the content. Plus, city staff can now edit and update website content themselves.
After the city switched over to Manage Essentials, they experienced many positive results.
- Responsive IT support allows city staff to focus on their work: Instead of struggling to figure out IT issues on their own, employees now receive remote or onsite IT support for issues that are often resolved in minutes or hours—lightening the burden on city staff. Now, city staff can do other work while VC3 takes care of IT problems. “By me not having to be the one to do the support work, that just takes it off my plate,” said Janssen. “I can just call Manage Essentials and say, ‘We’ve got a problem. How do we fix this?’ We now know who to call, and we can call one place knowing VC3 will take care of whatever we need.”
- The city is now prepared for a cyberattack: Ransomware, malware, or viruses strike when least expected. Through a combination of proactive IT support, cybersecurity best practices, ongoing training, EDR software, and offsite data backup, the city has the right pieces in place to protect itself. “Security gives me peace of mind, and it’s good to know we can recover our data in 24 hours in a worst-case scenario,” said Janssen.
- The city reduced the risk of permanent data loss: No more uncertainty exists about data backup and recovering data after a disaster such as a tornado. Manage Essentials’ onsite and offsite data backup components—tested quarterly—reassures the city that it can recover its data after an incident. “If a tornado hit, it would take 24-48 hours to get me back in business as long as we could establish an internet connection,” said Janssen. “I know my backups are happening now. I have no doubt about it.”
- Vendor management saved the city time and money: With municipal-experienced senior engineers supporting the city, all hardware and software vendor calls now get handled by VC3—saving valuable staff time.
- The city’s new website addressed risks and gave the city one single point of contact: Instead of contacting multiple contractors and vendors that managed different parts of the website, Breda now contacts VC3. Manage Essentials resolved issues with website hosting and gave Breda a fresh website redesign. VC3 engineers also help upload content to the website if needed. “They’ve done a fabulous job for us, and we’ve been really happy with the website,” said Janssen.
- The city is excited to address long-standing document management issues: As something the city was unable to address for a long time, document management best practices will now be implemented. The city is excited to begin the process of converting its paper documents to electronic documents along with organizing documents in a central location for easier findability.
“I’m a mentor with the Iowa League of Cities, and I mentor other city clerks who might be new in their job. Being from a small town, I work with mostly small cities the size of Breda. I find that many cities don’t see the importance of keeping equipment and software updated and working properly. They’re just slowing themselves down or shooting themselves in the foot by not keeping IT up to date and working as best as it can be.
“This is the age of computers. One thing that I haven’t seen during the last 16+ years that I’ve been a city clerk is cities using computers less. First, we need to embrace the technology. Second, we need to search out technology to maximize our efficiency because the tasks that city clerks do on a regular basis are not lessening either. In fact, the amount of our work is growing. And as the amount of work grows, our cities are not going to invest in more people. They’re going to invest in more technology. If we don’t have the technology, along with an IT helpdesk to manage and take care of that technology, then we’re going back to the Dark Ages. IT is like electricity, and to not keep your IT working as well as your electricity is silly.
"In addition to VC3’s technical help and expertise, I enjoy the personal relationship aspect of Manage Essentials. Their IT engineers are sweet and dear to me. In the Midwest, many of our business dealings are built on a personal relationship. With VC3, it’s easy to develop a personal relationship with them. It’s not just about equipment and services. With a good personal relationship in place, if things do go wrong with IT, it’s so much easier to communicate about what went wrong. It’s fine when everything’s fine, but it’s when things go wrong—that’s when the personal relationship really comes into play.
Nancy Janssen, City Clerk
City of Breda, Iowa
In addition to VC3’s technical help and expertise, I enjoy the personal relationship aspect of Manage Essentials. Their IT engineers are sweet and dear to me. In the Midwest, many of our business dealings are built on a personal relationship. With VC3, it’s easy to develop a personal relationship with them. It’s not just about equipment and services. With a good personal relationship in place, if things do go wrong with IT, it’s so much easier to communicate about what went wrong. It’s fine when everything’s fine, but it’s when things go wrong—that’s when the personal relationship really comes into play.