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Section A: General News


Editorial: County not prepared to create IT department




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Guest Editorial
June 26, 2013 | 1,339 views | 1 comment

By Brenna Presnall

The June 20 special meeting of commissioners court was disappointing. My goal in attending was to share my professional advice in regards to creating an IT department.

I wanted to hear their plans on how they were to approach the implementation of their new IT department, and provide suggestions. A free consultation if you will. This is my county, my community, and I want to see it succeed, not fail.

However, it seemed I was written off before I had a chance to speak. I was dismissed almost immediately. I am not a politician; I speak directly, and to the point. I attempt to be polite although I do not agree.

My motive was not to attack the commissioners court, but to address issues where they lack the knowledge to proceed. I don’t expect them to be IT experts, but I expect them to research what it takes to create and maintain an IT department. They did not.

They made a rash decision to budget for one IT department employee at the rate of $65,000 a year with county benefits. They did not discuss requirements for the employee or the department. They did not discuss IT infrastructure costs, how oversight would be implemented, nor did they discuss maintaining the integrity of the systems.

In order to maintain a successful IT department, the county needs to establish requirements.

•What is your end goal for installing fiber between all the county buildings? Is it your goal to have all buildings on one internal network? How? And how do you plan to migrate the current environment? Will one building house a server farm that will manage all the other buildings printers, desktops, and mail services? Do you have the space, power, a/c, to accommodate? Do you currently have the equipment for each building for the fiber you plan to install?

They will need a termination point in each building, and if you currently do not use fiber in your facilities, you will have to purchase that equipment. Will one person be able to do this job alone? How much will it cost to run the fiber? Will the fiber runs have secondary lines for redundancy? How many roads will have to be torn up to run the lines under the ground? Fiber is a flimsy glass material, and will have to be protected; will you ensure that conduit is run from each building as well? Are the costs not rising?

•Once the IT infrastructure is finished and the county buildings rehabbed, what are the functions of the new single-person IT department? Will he maintain firewalls, routers, switches, mail servers, web servers, database servers, desktops, and printers, to include vulnerability patching, for each and every IT system the county owns? Will he provide asset management? Will he maintain lifecycle management, disaster recovery, and high performance of the IT systems alone? Will he have a cell phone issued, a personal desk, network tools, and hardware tools for servers and PCs, software tools to monitor the servers and systems to ensure they are online? And software to help him manage all system patching? Will the county pay for extended warranties for hardware or replace existing? Will the county pay for Microsoft premier support, Dell hardware, HP, Apple support, or whatever flavor they own if a system fails, and the single IT department employee cannot fix the systems in a timely manner, and needs assistance elsewhere? Will he provide diagrams for the network, and maintain them? Will he build all of this alone? Will he ensure all legal software rights are maintained, ensure the county systems are free from pirated software to avoid being sued?

•What are your IT security requirements? Who will audit your systems? Will your single-employee IT department require a background investigation? How much will that cost? Do you currently have baseline images of systems for security purposes? Will he have to create those? Will he have the necessary tools to do so? Is your Internet connection secure? Will personal identifiable information be safeguarded? Will your employee’s information be required to be safeguarded? How do you plan to implement that to include checks and balances with one IT department employee?

•Where is your fallback plan? What if your one IT department member quits, but sabotages your IT systems before he leaves? How much will that cost to hire someone to repair them immediately? What if he steals personally identifiable information or other proprietary information from the county? How will you know?

Can we afford the lawsuits that will follow? What happens if your one IT department employee goes on vacation, and can’t be reached if services are down? Will you hire an outside source while he is gone?

None of these questions were addressed, and these are only a handful of the many items that need to be addressed before moving forward with an IT department. I suggested requesting proposals from multiple IT consulting companies, and was told by the county auditor simply that they are unhappy with the service from their current contractors.

I’m not suggesting hiring contractors to do the job. I am suggesting hiring consultants to plan your IT department. Listen to the advice they have to offer, and go with what best fits our needs.

At this time the county is not prepared to handle creating an IT department on their own. Simply put, you waste more money when you don’t have a full understanding of what your needs entail.

Yes, judge, you answered my question. You are not aware at all of the costs to maintain your own IT department. I ask that all constituents request the county to send out a request for proposals from multiple IT consulting firms, so we as taxpayers and voters have the best and most cost-effective solution for what the county is requesting.

Presnall is an IT professional and resident of Wilson County.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
The Marcelina Muse  
Dry Tank, TX  
June 27, 2013 1:10pm
 
Brenda you don't happen to know anything about budgets and roads do you. See, if you do you could replace the entire court.

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