When the equipment won’t work…

What do you do when the equipment your agency provides, will not support your goals for social outreach or the people ultimately in charge of the equipment do not want to run the software?

The short and long answer is… I have no idea.

BUT… I do know what I did. A bit risky. But in my case it worked. Or at least at this point it works. Subject to change at any given moment.

Disclaimer: I am using commercially available products. While I personally HIGHLY recommend these products, please do not interpret this as an endorsement of these products by my agency or my government body.

One of the most difficult things to do in my agency is to convince the leadership that something is available commercially and better than what we can provide.

It has nothing to do with their lack of technical knowledge or resistance to change. It’s an honest effort to fully utilize resources that we have available “in house”. Nothing wrong with that.

That being said, trying to explain to the uninitiated about SQL servers, running PHP 4.? vs 5.? and the associated connections is a bit tough. You get the glazed eye look after about 5 minutes, and usually what follows is, “put something together and bring it to us” and they move on to the next item of business.

What I did was bypass that step altogether.

This next part is NOT recommended unless you have a great relationship with the management of your agency. And I mean GREAT.

I went online to a hosting solution and registered two domain names that matched my agency’s current .org name. I registered a .us and .net domain. I then contracted with the provider for a hosting account. The scary part? I paid for it out of my pocket, planning to get reimbursed at a later date. IF they liked what they saw.

Then I went to work. I registered an identifiable moniker on several social networks like Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed.

Then I installed WordPress on the domain and created an account at WordPress.com.

Now the fun started. I wanted a professional site, that didn’t look like a blog but had all the functionality of a blog. I toyed with the idea of installing Joomla and Drupal. I have used those platforms on many different sites and love them as Content Management Sites. The problem with them is the learning curve. Getting non-technical members of my agency to the level needed to maintain the site once I am transferred or retired would have been too much. Positions within my agency are very fluid and can change at a moment’s notice.

I chose WordPress because of the ease of adding an article and being able to limit the damage a “contributor” can do from the limited back end. So WordPress was my answer.

In the next article I will cover themes, how I chose the one I am using and why.

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3 thoughts on “When the equipment won’t work…

  1. Andy Willis

    Another idea for helping your department get the equipment they need is to form alliances with hardware providers. Once you have the quotes for equipment from the providers as well as all of the other costs associated with standing up the “system” raise the money from businesses in your commnunity. Start with WalMart – they love Police and are typically the first to pitch in when it comes to an effort to bolster LE! Once they pitch in others will follow!

    Make sure that you have the blessings of your department before you go out trying to raise money for them!

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  3. Scott White Post author

    Public/Private partnerships are a good thing in many circumstances. In this particular circumstance however, it has proven to be less expensive and less labor intensive to go with a commercial provider.

    Total cash outlay to take the site to a public company is $60 a year.

    I don’t have to stand up a server, maintain the server or worry about maintenance. It’s all handled by the provider.

    One hard disk crash would nullify any savings that might be realized years down the road by doing it ourselves.

    I am sure that if I would have talked to the marketing department at our provider I could have received a substantial discount off the $60 dollars but why bother?

    If someone can show me how we can build, stand up and maintain a web server for less than that I would do it in a heart beat.

    Economically, this just makes more sense.

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