County replaces computer network
Dec 05, 2012 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
For years now, county workers coped with an Internet connection slower than most cellphones -- a headache for the jailer trying to upload someone's booking information into the computer system or the courthouse clerk trying to transmit a document to the sheriff.
Tomorrow that should change, when the county shifts its network connection away from spotty old wires to microwave dishes.
The change -- the first major installment of what will be a total five-year and approximately $8 million IT overhaul for the county -- will increase Internet speeds by about 20 times, and it will connect all county sites, from the senior centers to the Ector County Coliseum.
"It gives us the backbone to do a lot of things we need to technology-wise," said County Commissioner Dale Childers. In the short-term, it should relieve frustration and increase efficiency in county offices.
"Obviously a network that stays up, that's fast, will be fantastic for employees immediately," he said. Childers is a major backer of the plan, which was outlined in an August 2011 report that declared the county was "at high risk of technology failure."
That risk emanated from a slew of problems, including wiring that dates to the 1980s, a shorthanded IT staff, limited bandwidth and server space (which means spotty and slow data storage), according to the plan, written to by the contractor Sciens Consultanting of Dallas, which is also directing the overhaul.
These and other problems increase cost, inefficiency and frustration, Childers said, and the overhaul aims to address them.
Planned developments include adding servers for digital storage space, building a new county website, updating operating systems and implementing a new case-management system at the courthouse. And, in a final phase, plans include automating the county's financial systems for better accounting and adding imaging software to transfer and interpret documents more easily. (Read the full, most recent version of the plan at oaoa.com).
The overhaul also means training for current employees and hiring new IT staffers.
"If you think about it, we are really building an entire IT system from the bottom up. From zero up." said Ernie Pages, a partner at Sciens overseeing the overhaul. ". . . First and foremost you have to have the network."
Ector County IT Strategic Plan
Contact Corey Paul on Twitter @OAcrime on Facebook at OA Corey Paul or call 432-333-7768.
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