March 22, 2008

Disappearing emails

While the White House has been making headlines lately for losing email, this morning's Ithaca Journal takes a look at the problems of email and government closer to home. I'm happy to see that our Supervisor and Town Clerk are now using email accounts specific to their positions at the Town, but there's a long way to go:

Providing all school board members with district e-mails will give constituents in some communities an additional option to directly contact their elected board members. In Dryden Central School District and Newfield Central School District, constituents will not be given the e-mails of their board members because the members use their private e-mails, clerks for both districts said. Providing board members with public e-mails would allow the e-mail addresses for board members to be provided to the community....

In the Towns of Dryden and Caroline, elected officials do not have publicly maintained and backed e-mail accounts, but their town boards have had discussions about how they can back up and maintain their e-mail correspondence....

"I think it would be a good idea," said David Makar, deputy supervisor for the Town of Dryden and the owner of a Web site design company. Makar also does computer consulting.

"It hasn't come up yet so we haven't had to deal with it," he said. "But as e-mail becomes not just a way to send out announcements or schedule meetings, but also a way to communicate with residents, I think it's important to be able to keep track of that."

Makar estimates that a small town could achieve off-site e-mail maintenance for 15 e-mail addresses for roughly $300 annually, plus a service fee for each time records needed to be retrieved. To achieve on-site publicly maintained records, a town could spend about $3,200 upfront for equipment and training and then about $1,300 annually for maintenance.

Whether or not it is worth it for a town to make the transition to public e-mails system depends on its size, Makar said. For some towns and villages, e-mail management is not a concern because their officials do not use e-mail to communicate about municipal business.

This reminds me, of course, that I need to set up backup for my own email. There's also an editorial on the need for improvement.

Posted by simon at March 22, 2008 11:50 AM in , ,
Note on photos


Wesley Sanders said:

I wonder why it would cost $300. Gmail for your domain offers unlimited user accounts with 2.7 GB of storage for free. It offers administrative panels and other features where it wouldn't be hard to retrieve records. It can be set up with an existing domain, so it doesn't have to be an address. It's off-site and backed up by Google's dependability.

KAZ said:

Since the state mandates that everyone must hold (and index, which isn't even mentioned in this article) emails, Paul suggests that the state centralize that and offer every public entity email addresses on their state system. Instantly funded mandate, plus significantly cheaper than having each municipality do its own thing.

Mary Ann said:

I just checked the "Town" file on my home computer. I have more than 7,000 emails and 600 downloaded attachments stored there from the two years before I had a address. Very few involve legal, fiscal or administrative information that's not archived elsewhere.

The simplest method I've found to be sure email is backed up on the town server is to include the town clerk in the distribution list of anything I know should be saved.