INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ISSUES
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ISSUES
There are several significant
issues that impact the county as it utilizes information technology to
support its business functions.
PC Replacements, Software
Upgrades and Network Upgrades
Staffing – Security,
networks, and technical services
Replacements, Software Upgrades and Network Upgrades
The county does not have a plan in
place for the replacement of older personal computers with new systems.
The county does not have a plan in place for regular updates to personal
computer software. The county does not have a plan in place for funding
upgrades to the shared network infrastructure. The lack of regular PC
replacement leaves a PC landscape littered with many makes, models, and
vintages. The lack of regular software upgrades leaves of working
landscape of incompatible software. The impact is two-fold: departments
and county staff work with computers that can’t keep up and technical
staff time is wasted as it manages this disparate landscape.
Although we do not have a plan in
place, we do have a process or practice which has become the defacto
approach for upgrading PCs, software and the network. This practice is
primarily large projects. The Sheriff just replaced most of the PCs in
their department as part of the Computer Aided Dispatch and Records
Management System. The Library just replaced 65 PCs as part of their new
system project. Both departments upgraded the software on the remaining
PCs and purchased some network equipment. However, there is ‘core’
network equipment that will be impacted by these new systems that did
not get upgraded.
Many counties in California,
including rural counties, are adopting Refresh programs and network
infrastructure funds. The goal of the Refresh programs is to maintain
personal computers in the county with the same, latest version of
software in all the offices. The rewards reaped from the Refresh
programs are better productivity from county staff and technical support
staff. The network infrastructure funds are used for both major and
minor upgrades to the backbone infrastructure that is used by everyone.
The change to a Refresh program
will take several years to fully implement. Sutter County has a program
in place that (1) keeps PCs on the desktop that can run the latest
software and (2) puts the latest software on the PCs. It accomplishes
the Refresh program by charging a per PC rate to departments that allows
for the purchase of a block of new computers each year and the
participation in a software license agreement with Microsoft who
provides the latest software for all PCs.
With approval and support by the
Board of Supervisors, such a plan can get underway. First, the goals for
the PC and software refresh cycles would be established. A per PC
surcharge schedule would be developed and separate funds established to
help account for the charges and subsequent purchases. For the network
infrastructure, a one-to-three year plan would first be documented and
the costs determined. A per PC surcharge schedule would then be
developed with a separate fund for appropriate accounting.
– Security, networks, and technical services
The integrity of the county’s
information systems is the concern of everyone, but it is the day-to-day
responsibility of Information Technology. Many corporations, state
agencies, and counties are focusing more attention on security policies
and practices. The strategic importance of an operational information
infrastructure is now clear to everyone. With the advent of Homeland
security at the Federal level, state and local agencies are now
establishing Information Security officers or other positions with a
similar title. This position focuses on establishing appropriate
information security policies and assisting in their implementation.
The county’s network is the
backbone of our information infrastructure. The county’s network has
grown using the networking expertise of both the I.T. Manager and the
Technical Services Supervisor while technical services staff are used to
implement solutions. Most organizations with a network as large as the
county have dedicated network specialists that design, implement, and
maintain the networks. The county needs to recognize the importance of
the network and staff accordingly.
The technical service staff is
responsible installing and supporting the office PCs and printers,
network devices and network-wide services, and the technical support of
the servers. As the number of PCs grows, as the number of network nodes
and locations increases, and as the complexity of new network services
evolves, the technical services staff are simply overburdened. For the
past five years, we have consistently hired extra-help and consultants
to assist with the technical services workload. This past year and this
coming year, we will need to use staff time from the systems
administrators and application and programming support staff to assist
with the workload.
All three of the work areas
described, security officer, network specialist, and technical support
staff, require staffing or more staffing. They range from older needs
that are growing each year, to needs that have been filled by tapping
other resources, to needs that are emerging and need to be recognized.
There are enhanced budget requests that address some band-aid
approaches, but the full funding of several new positions is clearly