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Why Local Governments Need Managed IT

The IT challenges that local governments face and how an MSP can help.

City and county governments handle vast amounts of information for their jurisdictions, from processing payments to storing data about their residents and local businesses. Divisions that control utilities, public works, parks and recreation, and other functions each play a vital, unique role in keeping their cities running. Emergency services are an especially critical part of various communities that depend on local governments.

No matter what department it is, each component of a local government system heavily depends on technology to succeed. Many city and county governments contend with aging infrastructures, outdated equipment, and limited resources. A city's IT department can feel like they're plugging holes in a sinking ship to keep its network running while resolving everyday issues.

Fortunately, some solutions can provide comprehensive IT services for local government at the city and county levels. Working with a managed service provider (MSP) can be an incredible asset that helps officials better serve their communities while protecting their operations, data, residents, and businesses. Here are 4 common challenges local governments face and how they can overcome them by partnering with an MSP.


1. Budget limitations

Financial constraints are one of the core obstacles that city and county governments face, and many subsequent issues can stem from this initial challenge. Because their budgets depend on taxes, annual funding is limited to a significant extent. These funds must be approved well in advance and be sufficient enough to support multiple departments and agencies. Kent Vancil, Senior Solution Consultant at Bit-Wizards, says the approval phase of the annual budget process narrows the restrictions even more.

"Each county or city manager has to get money appropriated and set in a proposed budget, and it's up to their council or board to approve it," he explains. "Even if they submit a budget request for an increase in IT funding, there's no guarantee they'll get the full funding."

Considering these limitations, IT improvements often fall by the wayside throughout a city or county's departments. This obstacle typically extends to staffing and equipment, but the latter usually receives the funding because of the significant costs associated with the hiring process. The shortage of employees and equipment is a problem that Vancil believes creates a vicious cycle.

"A city government has a finite budget for hiring and payroll, and the cost of equipping a full roster of experienced IT professionals is nowhere close to their available funds," he says. "Those few team members they have are then faced with a massive number of issues ranging from day-to-day issues to department-wide improvements."

How an MSP is a cost-effective solution for local governments

When every dollar counts in a limited IT budget, an MSP can help local governments make the most of their money without compromising on quality of service. By avoiding the high personnel costs and hiring struggles, your departments equip a managed IT provider that can share its expertise and efficiency with your staff. Instead of worrying about the never-ending waves of everyday issues, Vancil says an MSP enables in-house IT employees to focus on more long-term, time-intensive projects.

"Instead of sending everyday problems like password or device issues to your staff, your MSP handles them for you," he explains. "You get to offload those everyday hassles to your MSP without hiring a full team, and the cost difference helps stretch the rest of your budget and personnel resources."


2. Outdated infrastructure

A typical local government issue that stems from their limited budgets is their outdated infrastructures, both physical and digital. Departments in a city or county often operate out of older buildings, making it difficult to establish a robust and reliable internet connection. With these inconsistencies, government IT personnel can struggle to access essential software, maintain their hardware, and manage everyday tasks. Vancil believes the resulting frustrations can feel like a constant uphill battle.

"Outdated or partially working technology can severely limit your ability to function by creating vulnerabilities, especially without the right support and resources," he says. "Even if you repair or upgrade certain elements, you still have to work harder to maintain a system that's falling apart."

In addition to the network issues, some departments and agencies struggle with relying on paperwork instead of digital assets. Even if every division in a county uses the cloud for document and file storage, the folders within and between each branch can quickly become disorganized. In dealing with these issues, your team likely lacks the resources to ensure each employee handles processes and files correctly.

How an MSP can help local governments update their infrastructure

If your team constantly fights with their infrastructure, an MSP can assist with optimizing your resources based on your physical and digital space and equipment. MSPs are skilled in establishing resilient networks by assessing and remedying outdated hardware and software. Your MSP can assess your environment, identify shortcomings, and right fit the spaces so each department works more efficiently. By improving your infrastructure, Vancil considers an MSP a key player in helping your team become safer and more effective.

"Your MSP will help monitor your network, protect against potential threats, help with proper data storage, and manage so much more of what usually consumes your team's time," he says. "That enables your team members to work with more efficient systems in place and help each of your end users more effectively."


3. Cyberattacks

Cities and counties can especially experience IT difficulties if a cyberattack occurs. The odds of one happening are considerably high, thanks to the cascading effects of limited budgets and outdated systems.

Between 2018 and 2023, over 400 individual ransomware attacks that targeted government organizations affected over 250 million people and cost an estimated $860.3 million in downtime. In 2021 alone, 58% of state and local governments were hit by ransomware attacks, an increase of 70% compared to the previous year. Vancil emphasizes that those who fall victim to an attack are far from safe even after the dust settles.

"After a hacker steals your data, it's published online or sold to the highest bidder," he says. "There's a high likelihood that you could get attacked again based on whatever information is already out there, and that goes for every person in your city or county whose information was compromised."

Whether it stems from a mistake with poor email security or a deliberate hack, a cyberattack can interrupt critical services and potentially endanger peoples' data and lives. The success of a local government depends on good IT health, and preventative cybersecurity measures play a critical role in creating and maintaining that. Between human error and cybersecurity shortcomings, any flaw in a system can bring catastrophic consequences.

How an MSP can help local governments with cybersecurity

Working with an MSP is an excellent way to bolster your network security and enhance preexisting cybersecurity efforts. As part of its managed IT efforts, your MSP covers your end users with the latest patches and software updates needed to fortify your organization and its fundamental security measures. A vital part of any effective cybersecurity measures from an MSP also includes proper backups and data storage practices, which Vancil says ensure your departments can be resilient and restore operations after significant data loss.

"Your MSP will regularly create and test backups as part of their efforts to work behind the scenes consistently and thoroughly," he shares. "If a cyberattack occurs, they can restore your data and network, so you may only lose a few days' worth of work instead of a few years or decades."

Vancil emphasizes that, while a partnership with an MSP is advantageous for any local government's cybersecurity, no MSP can entirely prevent bad actors. However, consistently monitoring for threats and implementing preventative measures can considerably reduce the window of opportunity for cyberattacks. In addition to running more efficiently, managed IT gives city and county departments the assurance they need to operate safely.


4. Compliance requirements

Besides maintaining basic data privacy measures, city and county governments must follow higher compliance standards for the information they handle. Due to the public nature of their operations, local departments often handle information subject to public records. Without proper storage of this information, it can be lost or lead to consequences if not supplied promptly to whoever requests it.

On a more strict level, government agencies related to law enforcement must often comply with federal and state regulations for Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS). The sensitive nature of this data holds law enforcement and other government departments to an extremely high standard when storing and handling it. Any sensitive records are often targeted in cyberattacks and can be lost if not stored in compliance. Even if another department is unrelated to emergency services, an attack on any adjacent division can result in a breach of CJIS systems and data.

How an MSP can boost compliance

With an MSP, local governments can rest assured knowing their data is managed and stored in full compliance with all relevant guidelines. Managed IT connects public safety agencies and other government departments with invaluable protection against sensitive information being mishandled or stolen. Whether it's in response to an FBI audit or a realization of poor maintenance standards, your MSP can assess your information systems and ensure they're adequately protected and managed. Vancil expresses that this reassurance applies to many fields outside of CJIS-specific databases.

"In addition to being CJIS certified, quality MSPs are well-versed in complying with HIPAA and any other relevant privacy and security requirements," he says. "From archiving older data to encrypting sensitive files, your MSP will ensure every piece of information is safeguarded in compliance with all applicable standards."

The Bit-Wizards difference for local governments

Just as selecting your local representatives should be done thoughtfully, the same goes for choosing the right MSP to best support your city or county departments. You must consider which relationship will provide the most value to each department, meet your budget requirements, and offer the most thorough solutions. With the unique challenges that local governments face, your MSP must be prepared to understand your team's needs and approach each obstacle as a shared opportunity for growth and improvement.

With extensive experience providing IT services for local government agencies, businesses, and more, the Managed IT Services (MITS) team at Bit-Wizards is a shoo-in for your city's employees and residents. In addition to checking the boxes related to cost efficiency, data security, and more, our team is powered by a full roster of CJIS-certified professionals with extensive expertise in varying fields. From managing typical IT issues to fortifying security measures, our team is ready and willing to help your employees better serve their community.

Ready to equip your city's services with magical managed IT? Contact us today.


Natalie Ewing, Content Writer
Natalie C. Ewing

Content Writer