Small town takes seat

Lafayette, Calif., a city with fewer than 25,000 residents, may be the first

of its size to outsource all of its local government's technology needs.

The city signed a three-year contract with Fremont, Calif.-based Everdream

Corp. and had a new system in place Nov. 4. "To our knowledge, we are the

first municipal client to farm out all our technology systems," said City

Manager Steven Falk.

For $7,800 a month, Everdream provides the city with 30 top-of-the-line

desktop computers and two laptops, Microsoft Corp. Office Suite 2000, a

Windows NT file server and print server, a firewall, a virtual private network

solution, a Digital Subscriber Line connection to the Internet, e-mail accounts,

nightly remote data backup, virus protection and live 24-hour, 7-day support.

"Our product is to act as an IT department," said David Lamont, Everdream's

vice president of sales and marketing. The year-old company, with financial

backing from Ricoh Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., among others, provides

services mostly to small to medium-size companies, but is also targeting

small to medium-size cities and counties.

"Most cities in the U.S. have relatively small staffs where they have 30

to 50 people working there," Lamont said, adding that outsourcing technology

is a "huge opportunity" for local governments. If they were to do it on

their own, he said it might cost them at least $200,000 annually just to

hire information technology personnel to maintain the hardware and software.

Lamont said this "new concept" of outsourcing IT is profitable because Everdream

has developed software so that most technology problems can be solved remotely

from the company's office.

For example, each computer automatically backs up data nightly, encrypts

it and sends it via the Internet to the company's servers, he said. Virus

protection also is done via the Web.

The company's support staff can even take control of a customer's computer

remotely with the user's permission. "We can see what they see, we can move

their mouse [pointer]," he said. "They don't have to know where everything

is."

Lafayette had been planning to overhaul its government's outdated computer

system, which Falk facetiously said was maintained "with rubber bands and

Scotch tape." But outfitting its 40 employees with hardware, software and

support services was too costly, he said.

Aside from the cost savings to the city, Falk said productivity among his

staff would also improve. He said he also likes Everdream's service guarantee.

The company will answer a phone call within 90 seconds, otherwise the city

will receive one month of free service.

"In reality, it's within eight seconds," Lamont said.

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