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A Case Study: The City of Pleasanton Looks Beyond Email and FTP

Posted by Hormazd Romer
Connecting City of Pleasanton employees to their content

Pleasanton is a city of 78,000 people in the Tri-Valley area of the San Francisco Bay Area. The City is also home to about 4,000 businesses, including offices for companies such as Clorox, Oracle, Safeway, and Workday. It’s a full service city, meaning that it has its own police department, fire department, and library. The City employs 500 people year round, plus another 200 workers for seasonal work. A single IT organization serves all City departments.

As the City’s IT Director, Allen Hammond pointed out in a recent Accellion webinar, Tips and Tricks from the City of Pleasanton, email poses problems for city governments, which are legally required to keep tight control over the distribution and storage of important files.

For many years, the City relied on email for file sharing. But Hammond encountered many problems with email attachments, including:

  • Big files. Employees need to send big files to vendors, citizens and neighboring city governments. For example, the SWAT team needs to send maps and tactical plans to their colleagues in the City of Livermore.
  • Different file size limitations imposed by different email providers. Senders cannot be certain that recipients receive their files. Some email services accept files larger than 10 MB. Some don’t.
  • Frustration that tempts employees to adopt “shadow IT” (unauthorized IT services). File size limitations can tempt users into using public cloud services such as YouSendIT and Dropbox, a compliance no-no for government agencies.
  • Loss of control once confidential files are sent to outsiders. The City’s IT organization had no way to monitor or control the distribution of files emailed to external users.
  • Lack of support for record keeping. Pleasanton and other city governments are required to keep complete records of public communications, but that can be difficult when employees are using different services to send files.

For a while, Hammond and his team relied on FTP for transferring large files. They quickly discovered that FTP had its own set of problems:

  • High overhead. IT engineers had to spend time creating, supporting, and deleting FTP accounts as projects started and finished.
  • Lack of security. Anonymous FTP—which dumps files into a shared hierarchy of folders—wasn’t secure. But because it was so easy to use, employees preferred it instead of more secure accounts.
  • Headaches with version control. IT engineers were spending valuable time keeping track of the latest FTP clients and browser plugins and troubleshooting problems caused by incompatible software.
  • Reputation as old, cumbersome technology. Many young tech workers expect IT services to be Web-based and easy to use. They considered FTP hopelessly old-fashioned.

To address the shortcomings of both email and FTP, Hammond and his team began looking for a file-sharing solution that was easier to use than FTP and more secure and manageable than email.

Document Sharing, Collaboration, and a Mobile Workforce

In addition to addressing the logistics, compliance, and security problems of email and FTP, Hammond wanted a collaboration solution that would:

  • Make collaboration easier than sending files back and forth in long email threads. Email should be used for notifications about project updates, not for project updates themselves.
  • Support SharePoint, even for people who don’t have SharePoint accounts. The City needs to make files available to non-SharePoint users (such as City residents) without duplicating content or losing control over sensitive content.
  • Give field workers, such as public works inspectors, access to large files without overwhelming the limited storage capacity on their mobile devices. Field workers were issued 16 GB iPhones therefore files such as forms and site plans need to be easily accessed but not require downloading.

kiteworks: On-Premises Security and Control

After evaluating various solutions, Hammond and his team selected kiteworks by Accellion.

The kiteworks content collaboration platform provides secure content storage and file sharing for users anytime, anywhere, and on any kind of device. “One of the great things about kiteworks is its connectivity,” says Hammond. The platform integrates internal content repositories such as SharePoint without duplicating content or requiring external users to have accounts.

At the same time, it enforces rigorous access control policies and logs all user activity so that it complies with stringent record-keeping requirements. “We need to maintain the chain of custody on shared documents, and kiteworks totally addresses this,” says Hammond.

One critical advantage of kiteworks over public cloud solutions like Dropbox and Box is that it runs on a private cloud. The City of Pleasanton runs kiteworks in its own data center, keeping full control over the location and storage of the City’s data. In addition, kiteworks gives Pleasanton control of the encryption keys used for encrypting content. Many public cloud storage providers keep these keys themselves, and therefore have access to their customers’ data.

The kiteworks platform meets all of the City of Pleasanton’s requirements:

  • Supports file sharing and collaboration that is fast, easy, and secure.
  • Accesses files stored in Microsoft SharePoint—anytime, anywhere.
  • Enables employees to restrict certain files as “view only,” ensuring they won’t be copied or shared.
  • Complies with the City’s legal Chain of Custody and Public Records Act requirements.
  • Gives mobile workers secure anytime access to confidential documents and large files to improve operations.

To Learn More

To learn more about kiteworks and how it helps the City of Pleasanton share files and collaborate securely, download the case study.