City: Plattsburgh, NY

Population: 19,780

Product: CivicEngage

Keys to Project

Website Security & Hosting, Accessibility

Plattsburgh, NY Partners with CivicPlus to Address Website Security

The City of Plattsburgh is known as the Lake City, and for good reason. It sits nestled against Lake Champlain, the pristine fresh water lake that separates Northern New York, from Northern Vermont. It’s the thirteenth largest lake in the United States (by area) and offers one of the biggest and most beautiful fresh water beaches on the east coast. Aside from Lake Champlain, the City of Plattsburgh is conveniently located on the outer edge of the Adirondack Mountains. It’s also a short drive to the entrance to the Adirondack Park, an area large enough to fit six of the nation’s national parks within its borders, including Glacier, Yosemite, the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon.

The City of Plattsburgh’s convenient proximity to such outstanding natural resources has made the Northernmost New York State city home to over 19,000 residents, as well as a popular vacation spot for many of its nearby Canadian neighbors.

For the administrators of the City of Plattsburgh, maintaining a highly informative, functional, and secure civic website is a key component of its communication and engagement strategy. When it came time to migrate from a self-hosted, outdated website platform, to a functional, secure, vendor-hosted solution, the City’s research and evaluation process led them to CivicPlus®, the integrated technology platform for local government.

“Our previous website was self-hosted,” said Brayton. “We updated and maintained the hosting platform ourselves. It was a custom platform that had been created for us by a third-party contractor. The website utilized prewritten plugins that we weren’t aware of, and didn’t maintain, so a few times they were compromised. They were automated incursions, fortunately nothing serious. We had kept in touch with the previous contractor for support, but the website lacked structured security.”

— Bryan Brayton, City of Plattsburgh IT Director

Plattsburgh, NY Partners with CivicPlus to Address Website Security

The Need for Enhanced Security and Functionality

According to Bryan Brayton, City of Plattsburgh IT Director, the City’s previous civic website lacked sophisticated security protections, an easy to update content management system (CMS), and was not compliant with the latest requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“Our previous website was self-hosted,” said Brayton. “We updated and maintained the hosting platform ourselves. It was a custom platform that had been created for us by a third-party contractor. The website utilized prewritten plugins that we weren’t aware of, and didn’t maintain, so a few times they were compromised. They were automated incursions, fortunately nothing serious. We had kept in touch with the previous contractor for support, but the website lacked structured security.”

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The Search for a Solution Provider

With a desire to shift to a more secure hosting solution, and a need to upgrade to a more functional, easy-to-update CMS, the City began researching potential partners.

“One of our biggest concerns was security,” said Brayton. “We didn’t want to host our website locally any longer. That was an attack vector and a footprint we didn’t need. Beyond that, our biggest concern was the site itself. The framework we had at the time was out of date, and the content was out of date. We wanted a distributed update model because, at the time, we only had one person updating the website, and the CMS was not flexible. We also knew we needed to modernize our website and bring it into ADA compliance.”

The City of Plattsburgh completed a thorough vetting process to find a solution partner that could help it to meet its goals.

“Ultimately, we chose to work with CivicPlus,” said Brayton. “I was very pleased with CivicPlus during the sales experience. With these types of processes, you often get high pressure sales, and meet reps who don’t understand how to work with local governments. Our CivicPlus sales rep was the exact opposite. She couldn’t have been better. She was patient with us, and we took our time because we didn’t want to get it wrong. She understood what we wanted and knew how to accommodate it. She went to bat for us.”

A Consultative Implementation Process

During the implementation process, the City spend three days working with a CivicPlus training consultant, on-site, to ensure it was fully able to maximize all the features of its new CivicEngage® platform.

“The implementation process went very well,” said Brayton. “The consultant that came out to meet with our departments was excellent. She spent three days meeting with our departments and conducting needs assessments. She understood what we wanted to accomplish. She was top notch.”

A Functional, Compliant Solution Hosted on a Secure Platform

Today, the City of Plattsburgh offers residents and visitors a functional, modern digital experience that was built to meet, and maintain, the latest ADA compliance standards. The City is also benefitting from the distributed update model it wanted and needed.

“The distributed content management system has worked out very, very well,” said Brayton. “Today, more people are updating content on our website than ever before. It’s not stale, and it’s taken the burden off the one person who was responsible for all the updates. The best thing is that I can give exact permissions a person needs to edit and/or update just the content they are responsible for.”

As part of the City’s goal to redesign its civic website into something functional and modern, its CivicEngage website is mobile responsive, offering convenient access and usability for the 40 percent of its users visiting the website from a mobile device. The website administrators are also able to more quickly and easily integrate web content with social media, as they utilize the CMS’s built-in functionality to send updates to integrated social media channels.

“The platform offers tons of functionality,” said Brayton. “We’re not even using it all yet, but we’ll get there.”

Regarding the security of the City’s website, Brayton no longer has the same concerns regarding the vulnerability of the system and exposure of critical data.

“I’m more confident now, especially because I know CivicPlus puts significant resources into maintaining the security of its systems,” said Brayton. “And I know that an attack vector can’t happen here on my local network. That footprint has been removed.”

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