Have you heard about this…?

If you’re paying close attention, you’ve realized it has only been one week since you received the last Utility Information Pipeline. I’m making an exception this week so that I can let you know about an upcoming seminar that I’m excited to be a part of. Other than listing my upcoming speaking engagements in the sidebar to the right, I haven’t previously publicized any of them individually.

The Topics in Financial Management of Water and Wastewater Utilities course on February 29, 2012 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina is different. This course is presented by the Environmental Finance Center at the UNC School of Government and the Local Government Training Program in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. This is a one day course focusing on the financial management of water and wastewater utilities targeted at managers, finance directors and board members.

Several staff members from the Environmental Finance Center will present various sessions on designing and setting rates and the relationship between rates and customer usage. The EFC’s Rates Dashboard will also be highlighted in one of the sessions. I’m proud to have been invited to present my Improving Revenue Collections for Utilities presentation as part of the course.

If you are located in western North Carolina (or if you can get there) I strongly encourage you to consider attending the Topics in Financial Management of Water and Wastewater Utilities course. The experience will be worth much more than the $35 registration fee!

Reminder about the Utility Fee Survey

If you haven’t yet completed the Utility Fee Survey, I encourage you to please consider doing so. If you missed the e-mail, you can read about the Utility Fee Survey here and take the survey by clicking here.

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© 2012 Gary Sanders

Enterprise e-mail – now available to organizations of any size

This issue is primarily targeted at utilities that do not use organization-wide e-mail addresses and calendar, but even if your utility does use an enterprise e-mail system, don’t stop reading just yet – you might learn how you can save money!

I have noticed that a number of our customers, and even some of the Rural Water Associations that I work with, do not use organization-wide e-mail addresses. Instead they use personal e-mail addresses from one of the popular free e-mail services or they use their internet provider’s e-mail service. For example, rather than using an e-mail address of myname@utilityname.org, these customers use myname@freeemail.com or utilityname@internetprovider.com.

Is there a problem with this practice?

Not really, but it does present a face to the public that your utility is small and not very progressive – the same message that not having a website conveys. You do have a website, don’t you…? (If not, take a look at my very first issue here.) Would you like your customers to view your utility as being more in touch with the times? Of course – who wouldn’t?

So let’s take a look at why this is… Most likely, it’s because the utility does not want to make the investment to support an enterprise e-mail system. Traditionally, this has meant purchasing and implementing the most widely used server-based e-mail software. And, if you have remote users, this requires installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so those users can access the e-mail server. Resistance to implementing an in-house e-mail server could be due to any of the following reasons:

  • Cost of purchasing the software
  • Inadequate server infrastructure
  • Lack of technical support

Upon closer scrutiny, aren’t all of these reasons cost-based? If you have to upgrade a server to support enterprise e-mail, there is a cost associated with that. Hiring outside technical expertise costs money as well.

Is there another option?

Of course there is! Google Apps from Google provides the following applications for just $50 per user per year:

  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs
  • Google Groups
  • Google Sites

So if your utility has 10 employees who need e-mail and calendar access, the cost is $500 per year plus the registration fee for your domain name. Google Apps is web-based, so you can access your e-mail, calendar and documents from anywhere.

In addition, if your organization is required by public records laws to maintain an archive of all e-mails, Google Apps with Postini meets that requirement.

At Logics, we switched from an internal server based e-mail system to using Google Apps at the end of August last year. You may have noticed that we changed from using e-mail addresses with logics-software.com domain name to logicssolutions.com. The reason for this was our transition to using Google Apps. The migration to Google Apps was seamless and, I must admit, very easy (I don’t necessarily adapt to change any better than anyone else, even though helping folks change is my business). I can now access my e-mail and calendar any time I have internet access without having to connect to our office VPN. Plus, I love the easy integration with my Android phone!

If you have questions about Google Apps or would like assistance making the case to convince your board to implement an enterprise e-mail system, give me a call at 919-232-2320 or e-mail me at gsanders@logicssolutions.com.

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© 2011 Gary Sanders