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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Web Server Switchover Would Supposedly Save City Tons of Money. Naturally, We're Not Doing It.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge The city spends how much maintaining its Web content system?
  • The city spends how much maintaining its Web content system?
Guess how much money the city of San Francisco spends, each year, to maintain its current Web content system. Just maintenance -- whatever costs are associated with data entry are extra. Remember, this is San Francisco, so think of a ridiculously high number. Then double it.

Here's the answer: $600,000 -- even more than the city spends erecting quaint restrooms in the Panhandle. If you think this is a ridiculous total, you're not alone. The city's Department of Technology came up with a solution that would move all of the city's various Web sites to private servers operated by the company Visions. There would be a one-time cost of $529,000 -- but, immediately, the yearly maintenance costs would be reduced to zero. The only money the city would still be on the hook for are the $2,500 yearly fees for each city Web site. That'd be a total of $224,000 -- immediate yearly savings of $376,000.

Naturally, this isn't going to happen. "We had a pilot program [to switch over] our content management system, but we did not get approval in the new budget year, unfortunately," says Ron Vincent, the media director for the Department of Technology.

This is yet another casualty of the city's exploding deficit; in the 2007-08 budget; Vincent notes that his department was given "an initiative to redo the entire city Web site, to redo a new content management system." Time -- and, inevitably, money -- was sunk into this. Public Information Officers were polled as to what they would need and services were sought that would allow greater use of streaming video and other multimedia tools. And then -- boom -- back to the apparently penny-wise, pound-foolish status quo.

Well, not quite. At least five city sites are already hosted by Visions, or will be in a week's time -- The Treasure Island Authority, Board of Supervisors, Mayor's Office, Film Commission and S.F. Government TV (which had been on a different server than other city sites, Granicus, which specializes in government streaming media). Up to eight more city Web sites may be transferred to Visions in the coming months. And, who knows -- if it really does save money and effort, perhaps people in government will notice. That's how it works in the real world, anyhow.

Finally, in other city Web site-related news, the Department of Technology completely remade the Ethics Commission's site as a typead page, just to see if it's feasible. Apparently it is -- you can even get an RSS feed, which is nice. On the other hand, while this move was requested by Ethics' leadership, it was executed with absolutely no fanfare whatsoever -- not a peep to the site's frequent users and even staffers were purportedly kept in the dark.

How did we find out? Links from our online articles to Ethics' documents stopped working. And that kinda sucks for us -- but at least it doesn't cost the city any more money.  

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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