Bull Shoals is an important recreation destination in Arkansas. Established in 1946, the city grew alongside the development of Bull Shoals Dam—a dam that created the Bull Shoals Lake, the city’s centerpiece. Offering 1,000 miles of shoreline and over 70,000 acres of lake area, the lake and surrounding area attracts many visitors seeking great fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, and water sports. The White River, flowing south of the lake, even features a world-famous trout fishery. Ideal for retirees and tourists, the City of Bull Shoals is a small slice of paradise in North Central Arkansas.
A city constantly marketing itself to tourists while also catering to citizens means that Bull Shoals needs information technology to run efficiently, safely, and securely. But Bull Shoals is a small city with a limited staff and budget. They do not have the resources to build out an in-house IT team and infrastructure. Yet, they still need robust information technology that works reliably and allows Bull Shoals to serve citizens and tourists.
A few years ago, Bull Shoals was not in a good place with its information technology. According to Mayor David Nixon, “Basically, everything IT was cobbled together out of string and baling wires. It didn’t work.” Previous IT support also approached computer problems in an obsolete way, lacking experience and clear processes. Sometimes their fixes worked. Sometimes their fixes made things worse and created other problems.
Without a reliable source of IT help, many problems weighed Bull Shoals down.
- Unreliable IT infrastructure: The city’s servers and computers were unreliable and unstable. Often, the old, outdated computers froze up or didn’t work properly.
- Uncertainty related to data backup: The city was not certain it could restore data in the event of an incident such as a server failure or disaster.
- Inability to access city records: Because of a lack of policies and procedures, the city was unable to access a significant portion of electronic city records for an extended period of time. Mayor Nixon said, “Our ability to maintain records is essential for all phases of our operations. We’re concerned with Legislative Audit, our ability to document processes and procedures, and the external and internal security of our systems.”
- Unreliable email: The city could not rely upon its email software and employees often found it didn’t work properly.
- Non-existent website: Mayor Nixon called the city’s previous website “worse than non-existent.” For a city that relies so heavily on tourism, the lack of a website hurt the city’s efforts to market itself and provide information and services to citizens.
The city started looking for alternative IT support a few years ago, briefly considering a few options before coming across VC3 through the Arkansas Municipal League’s ‘IT in a Box.’”
AML’s IT in a Box offered the City of Bull Shoals municipal-experienced technology professionals who were ready to address these ongoing problems. Once implemented, IT in a Box’s comprehensive, multi-faceted solution included:
- 24×7 helpdesk: Dedicated 24x7x365 helpdesk support staff now provide Bull Shoals IT support both remotely and onsite, depending on the issue. “When we have a problem, we call and get tech support in a relatively timely way,” said Mayor Nixon. “People are willing to come out and serve us. They are professional, with no hissy fits. Their engineers are not put out by simple issues. We get professional, competent, and courteous service in a timely manner.”
- Server, desktop, and mobile management: Enterprise-class antivirus and antimalware 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. This is a favorite IT in a Box feature at Bull Shoals.
- 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: Bull Shoals 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 IT in a Box, they experienced many positive results.
- A streamlined network and long-term technology plan: VC3 helped simplify the city’s IT network design, including the way the servers, computers, and network equipment all worked together. This helped increase the speed and efficiency of existing IT infrastructure. VC3’s IT engineers are also working with the city to develop a long-term plan for modernizing and upgrading its technology.
- The city reduced the risk of permanent data loss: No more uncertainty exists about data backup and recovering data (including body camera videos) after a disaster such as a tornado. IT in a Box’s onsite and offsite data backup components—tested quarterly—reassures the city that it can recover its data after an incident. Mayor Nixon said, “I’m now confident that if we had a catastrophic event in our city, our continuity of operations would not be significantly impacted because we have offsite backup that is reliable. If we have a failure on an individual computer that’s covered under the IT in a Box contract, that data will not be lost and can be recovered in fairly short order. We lose almost no data. The ability to operate with some confidence that our operations will be stable and continuous in the event of interruptions is enormously important.”
- City records recovered and records management plan in place: VC3’s engineers were able to access city records on a server that previously was configured improperly, preventing city employees from accessing these records. “Our records retention system was opened expeditiously in a matter of seconds,” said Mayor Nixon. “We could then move forward with codifying our records and putting a record retrieval system in place. This would have been impossible without VC3.” The city is currently working on a plan to move all its scanned digital documents to IT in a Box’s document management platform. “We have requirements for records retention that we are now able to meet with VC3’s assistance—at a reasonable cost,” said Mayor Nixon.
- Robust, reliable email system: Bull Shoals now has a modernized, enterprise-class email system that works consistently and reliably.
- Modernized, amazing-looking website with IT in a Box support: The new Bull Shoals website has been very well received by employees, citizens, and tourists—and the city also enjoys VC3’s support to help employees maintain it. “We could not have operated our city’s website without VC3’s input and support,” said Mayor Nixon. “Our website now allows greater convenience for our citizens, and we’re now comfortable putting payment mechanisms into our website because we know it’s secure. We would never have dreamed of doing that before because we’d be putting anyone who used our website at risk financially. We use the website to promote our community to external markets and to educate and inform our citizenry. With VC3’s IT support, we now have the ability to post documents and inform citizens about ongoing public issues and affairs in a timely fashion through our website.”
“In my previous work experience, IT departments reported to me. I knew fairly well what VC3 proposed to provide our city with IT in a Box. Once implemented, IT in a Box provided us a competent, contemporary IT support infrastructure. I am still pleasantly surprised that VC3 responds to service tickets so quickly. I knew what kind of IT services I wanted and I found them in VC3—at a cost that’s doable for a small city.
“Municipalities have three choices:
1. Continue doing what you’re doing and put your entire operations and citizenry at risk. Lack of a proper IT foundation means non-compliance, risk of catastrophic failure, and opening yourself up to litigious activity. You can be sued for failures, and you really aren’t in a position to do anything about it if something bad happens.
2. You can hire staff and invest in the needed IT infrastructure to create your own internal system. That’s very expensive, time-consuming, and often cost-prohibitive.
3. Go with VC3 and get state of the art IT infrastructure that will ensure the security of your citizens, government, and information—at a reasonable cost.
Those are your choices. Make whatever decision seems prudent and appropriate to you. For Bull Shoals, VC3 seemed the most cost-effective solution to protect our continuity of operations and the integrity of our community. I’m glad that the service VC3 provides exists. Otherwise, many municipalities would not function properly.” – David Nixon, Mayor, City of Bull Shoals, Arkansas
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VC3 is a leading managed services provider with a focus on municipal government and mid-market businesses. Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, VC3 forms partnerships with organizations to achieve their technology goals and harness their data. In addition to providing comprehensive managed IT solutions, VC3 offers cybersecurity, cloud services, website design, custom application development, and business intelligence services. Visit www.vc3.com to learn more.
Among the features VC3 delivers in “IT in a Box” are cybersecurity and computer maintenance, 24×7 U.S.-based helpdesk for remote and onsite support, data backup with unlimited offsite data backup storage for disaster recovery, records and document management, email, body camera and squad car camera video archiving with unlimited offsite video storage following record retention policies, information security policy and compliance, a custom designed website that is ADA-compliant and mobile-ready, and vendor management and procurement. Read more about IT in a Box.
Original Date: 3/4/2020