Category Archives: BMS Tech Tips

The Problem With Cyber Security Hacks Is…Humans

When selecting a technology provider, cyber security features and protocols are at the top of agencies’ considerations. But, as we described in an earlier article “Utilities are Vulnerable to Cyber Security Breaches Too!” https://www.blackmountainsoftware.com/2016/06/17/utilities-are-vulnerable-to-cyber-security-breaches-too/. But what is not often considered is the effect users of the technology have on cyber security.

“Sometimes a clearly defined error is the only way to discover the truth,” Benjamin D. Wiker.

More government agencies and users are finding this lesson out the hard way. Despite their aggressive security features, there is one common denominator in security breaches that can’t be managed by great software: users. Read more >

Posted in Best Practices, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Office Efficiency, School Software, Small Cities, Technology, Utility Billing | Comments Off on The Problem With Cyber Security Hacks Is…Humans

Utilities Are Vulnerable to Cyber Security Breaches, Too!

Data Breach Unsecured Warning Sign ConceptIf you are one of the 56 million people who have suffered a breach to their credit records, credit card number, debit records, tax returns or other types of identity theft, then the idea of a data security breach is not very foreign to you. All sorts of data—not just retailer and tax data—is subject to cyber security hacks and breaches. Vulnerabilities to other lesser-considered systems that store delicate information (social security numbers and payment accounting information) such as utilities are becoming the new victims of data breaches.

In fact, these information breaches are happening all over the US: by a dishonest employee at a water sewer department in Southern California, from the stolen laptop of a utility worker at a North Carolina water department and by a contractor working at a Massachusetts water and sewer commission who lost a company hard drive. Read more >

Posted in Best Practices, BMS Products, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Cloud Computing, Office Efficiency, Small Cities, Technology, Utility Billing | Comments Off on Utilities Are Vulnerable to Cyber Security Breaches, Too!

Is It Time to Upgrade Your Technology?

Technology-Art
When determining technology needs and upgrades, many important questions should be considered: Is this the right time to consider a change? How will this affect the agency’s daily workload? When should we do it? Is this right for our organization?

Changing software or technology can be a big deal. Despite what some vendors might say, it’s a significant change that requires a well-thought out plan and good decision-making that will lead to a beneficial long-term solution.

Five Key Questions to Ask Before Upgrading Your Agency’s Technology

  • How Much Will It Cost and Do We Have the Funds to Support an Upgrade?
  • Read more >
    Posted in Accounting Basics, Best Practices, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Cloud Computing, Office Efficiency, School Software, Small Cities, Technology, Utility Billing | Comments Off on Is It Time to Upgrade Your Technology?

    How Schools Are Stretching Their Technology Dollars

    Budget Button

    Schools are used to doing more with less, and they never cease to amaze us. When you walk into a classroom filled with laptops, tablets and smart boards, it may seem impossible that schools are saving any money on technology at all. But, that’s where you’re wrong.

    Innovative schools, especially charter schools that are able to tap into unconventional sources for funding, are finding ways to upgrade their technology while cutting their technology budgets.

    The ability to use more technology in the classroom without dramatically increasing their technology budget is a win-win: teachers are able to tap into new sources for instruction and students are learning more with technology-driven lesson plans and instruction. Read more >

    Posted in Accounting Basics, Best Practices, BMS Tech Tips, School Software, Technology | Comments Off on How Schools Are Stretching Their Technology Dollars

    Spring Clean Your Software and Systems

    T2014-10-03O-Nahere’s nothing like a good spring cleaning to help sharpen your tools and remove the dust and clutter, but one thing we often don’t think about spring cleaning is our computer system and software.

    Early spring is the perfect time (before finalizing budgets) to seriously evaluate your software needs and tools and determine what is or isn’t working for your agency. So put down your feather duster, and instead think outside your cubicle of how you can spring clean your processes.

    Spring cleaning your software means: 

    • Assessing your software and storage needs now and for the future
    • Setting aside budget for growing software needs
    • Sharpening your software tools and evaluating if there are any new add-ons or features you would like to integrate
    • Upgrading your version of software
    • Upgrading your storage needs
    • Identifying tools that will help you do your job better
    • Investigating other options for software that better suits your agency

    First, every agency should evaluate and assess what their future needs are and if the current software is meeting those needs. Read more >

    Posted in Best Practices, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Government Accounting Standards, Office Efficiency, Small Cities, Uncategorized, Utility Billing | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Spring Clean Your Software and Systems

    IP Addresses

    Do you know yours and what it does?

    I2014-10-03O-Nat was an almost laughable moment when we—a software company—were trying to explain to an outside technology-marketing consultant why she couldn’t inquiry her IP address to install a simple security feature. It made us realize: if the people we work with don’t fully understand IP addresses, there are
    probably a lot of our clients who work on computers all day and still don’t quite understand them either!

    What is an IP address?

    The IP or Internet Protocol address is a unique numeric label assigned to your computer or smart machine, which allows it to communicate with other
    devices on the Internet; sort of a telephone number for your computer. Read more >

    Posted in Best Practices, BMS Tech Tips, Office Efficiency, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on IP Addresses

    Hardware That’s Not So Hard

    by: Barbara Thomas, Support Specialist and Guest Blogger for the BMS Utility Billing Team

    I’m a technophobe at heart. If I even have to plug into a USB connection on my computer, my hands shake. Nonetheless, so many of us are surviving, even thriving in the workplace thanks to devices like computers and printers and digital phone lines. Consider how smartphones have changed our lifestyles and eliminated the need for maps and telephone books and such, saving space and time for us.

    Thanks to technology, even more labor saving devices can be really simple to use and can enable quick and accurate data entry and free up time that can be better spent performing customer service with a smile. Read more >

    Posted in Best Practices, BMS Products, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Cloud Computing, Office Efficiency, School Software, Small Cities, Technology, Utility Billing | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hardware That’s Not So Hard

    Annual Service and Maintenance Fees—What Are You Getting and What Does Unlimited Really Mean?

    In the early days of software programing, people purchased static products for a one-time flat fee. They ended up with tools that had little to no support, and quickly became outdated, requiring users to re-purchase new versions with annoying frequency. How many of us remember the days of purchasing a pricey software program, then feeling frustrated when the newer, better version hit the shelves only months later? The second you invested in a product, you were counting down the days until it became an outdated dinosaur. Thankfully, this scenario is quickly becoming a relic of the past. As technology has evolved, the best software utilities are products that constantly evolve to correct errors, stay up-to-date, and adapt to the fast-paced growth of industry standards. Read more >

    Posted in BMS Products, BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Technology | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Annual Service and Maintenance Fees—What Are You Getting and What Does Unlimited Really Mean?

    How-To: Blog Descriptions

    Blogs are a very informative way to keep up with many topics: current news, technology, food, fitness, personal opinions, and much more. Some blogs are great just to browse during your free time. But many of us don’t have a lot of free time, so it’s much more efficient to sign up for notification alerts whenever the blog manager posts a new article. The process to sign up for blog notifications, however, varies from blog to blog; many blog managers prefer email, while others prefer RSS feed subscriptions.

    Recently, we encountered this issue within our own offices at Black Mountain Software while RSS-feeding our own blog, and it made us think: If our own staff members don’t know all the different processes for blog subscriptions, our readers probably don’t either. Read more >

    Posted in BMS Tech Tips, City Clerk Cafe, Technology, Uncategorized | Comments Off on How-To: Blog Descriptions

    All About: Billing Calendars

    calendar-27077_640 copyWhen it comes to paydays and money availability, there is no such thing as a “typical” utility customer. Some customers receive their entire month’s income all at one time. Some are paid weekly. Others may rely on regular, but random paydays throughout the month. The best a utility can do is time bills consistently so the customer can anticipate, and budget, for their billings. Customers appreciate their services being reliable, and on a reliable billing schedule.

    30-Day Billing Cycle

    In one of the Black Mountain Software mini-training sessions, we review our recommended Utility Billing Calendar for folks who bill monthly. The best-case scenario for a utility biller is a system based on an end-of-month billing cycle. Read more >

    Posted in BMS Products, BMS Tech Tips, Small Cities, Utility Billing | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on All About: Billing Calendars

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