Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Host with the Most: Park and Recreation Departments Tap into the Benefits of Hosted Technology

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Host with the Most: Park and Recreation Departments Tap into the Benefits of Hosted Technology

Article excerpt

Many park and recreation departments want to automate their processes but lack of funds or infrastructure expenses prevent it. Client-server systems require organizations to purchase and install software on individual workstations and servers, which can be costly depending on the size of the organization. Departments also need information technology (IT) staff to maintain the servers, and many organizations cannot afford to add staff so they are forced to contract out or try to do it themselves. So if organizations want to eliminate manual processes to book facilities, register people for courses, or process payments, how do they add technology without having to ask their town council for a large expenditure?

Let Someone Else Host It

A hosted solution is an inexpensive option because it does not require the park and recreation department to host its own data--it's done by the vendor off-site. Staff members use a Web browser like Internet Explorer to access their database via a high-speed Internet connection. This allows new, cost-effective access to functionality such as automated program registration, facility booking, memberships management and report creation.

Before Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department in Georgia switched to a hosted solution, it used a client-server system that the staff had to maintain or seek help outside the department. "We had to reload all of our updates, and not being an IT person or systems analyst, I always felt a little bit uncomfortable with that process," admits Don Oliver, program division administrator. "We had to rely on our in-house knowledge or the IT department at the county courthouse. We've got a good relationship with them, but there have been times previously when we've been down a day or two because they're back-logged."

However, the hosted solution for park and recreation departments might not fit all organizational needs. Some organizations have specific technology mandates or prefer to keep all their data onsite, while others already have the IT infrastructure in place for a client-server solution.

One Size Fits All

Sunrise Recreation and Park District in California is proof that it's not just small agencies opting for a hosted solution. There are 42 parks within the district, plus three community centers, two aquatic complexes and a par-3 golf course. The district serves more than 160,000 residents in three communities in Sacramento County, and has used a hosted solution for three years to manage online registration and facility reservation. "We don't have a problem with our data being hosted somewhere else," says Lisa Rudloff, Sunrise's recreation and community services superintendent.

She said the district couldn't automate its operations if the only option was a client-server solution, because it could not afford the software and would not have the IT staff to maintain it. According to Rudloff, it's more convenient to have a solution that takes care of itself.

"I really like it when there's a software update and our vendor takes care of it. It's transparent to us and we don't have to go around to every single computer, put a disc in and do an update," Rudloff adds. "We didn't have to spend a lot of capital money to have a server host everything, plus ... with a hosted system you don't need an IT person to run it."

Cost-effective Solution

Park and recreation departments still using manual processes share the same pain: time-consuming cash reconciliation, poor reporting abilities, slow-payment processing, long registration line-ups, staff overtime costs, inability to offer online registration and more.

For many organizations, the obstacle to adding technology has always been cost. A hosted solution removes that barrier. Hosted solutions are about 85 percent less in cost than client-server solutions. Many hosted solutions range in price from $5,000 (for smaller communities) to $150,000 (for larger communities). …

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