County discusses options for continuance of IT services
During Monday’s budget review meeting, the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors discussed different ways to staff their county IT services as they look at the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The board looked at three scenarios for delivery of the services to address the current and future growth of technology.
The three options included hiring two county employees with Datastar continuing to provide program management oversight and long term strategic direction as it has the past two plus years. A second option was a hybrid solution of keeping Datastar personnel currently in place and adding one county employee. A third option was to contract another employee with Datastar.
The county appears to have decided to take the second option (hybrid approach) for a number of reasons including continuity of the acquired knowledge base gathered for the county during the overhaul of its IT services, the ability to get expertise when needed from Datastar’s own staff and other resources due to its relationships in the IT community of service providers, and to provide a smooth transition to the new annex building currently under construction scheduled to be completed in early Spring 2020.
The county has utilized Datastar services and personnel to rebuild their IT infrastructure and systems beginning with Datastar helping the county select a new phone system through an RFP process back in 2017. This was the first step in conjunction with addressing network performance and reliability issues.
District 2 Supervisor Malcolm Perry stated that the board had to make the investment because “the county had neglected IT for many years and we’ve been playing catch up.”
The county has improved their network with two major initiatives that were proposed by Datastar. The first was to find more economical circuits while improving the performance for the county’s internet access. This was accomplished by putting a more robust network in place that offered more exit points for the county employees to access the internet when needed to conduct county business instead of routing through the internal network to a single point of access as it was in the past.
Once the county implemented the changes to the network, the second initiative was to eliminate costly DSL circuits that were previously deployed throughout the county. As this was ongoing, the county began to utilize the backbone network and the new internet connections to it’s the fullest. This effort created a substantial monthly cost savings to be realized this past year and in the future.
Datastar has also utilized their V-Tech suite of tools to ensure computer assets are updated with the latest patches for anti-virus and Malware protection, monitor the county computing environment for performance issues and connectivity problems, and make proactive changes automatically as needed by V-Tech, and provide remote control of computers for repair and diagnosing problems when needed, anti-virus, and reporting on the overall health of the county’s systems.
The board, at the recommendation of Datastar, also purchased a modern backup system. The county realized the value of this hardware and software solution just months ago when an aging disk storage system failed. The new system, in place for approximately one year, was able to restore the county’s data and save the county numerous hours of labor and elapsed time that would have been required to recreate the data.
The county took an initiative to replace older personal computers and laptops with new systems running current operating systems, and thus eliminating operating systems that are no longer supported by vendors.
“We had to get up to date and we had to get our employees better tools. We couldn’t expect our employees to service county residents without making the investment to give them the proper tools and support,” Board President and District 5 Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith stated last week.
The county and the city of Picayune, with assistance from Datastar providing project management, has been performing due diligence and system evaluations for a new county wide 911 Dispatch system to include CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) with call taking, records management system, jail management system, evidence management system, mobile unit computing for patrol cars, and automatic vehicle location services (real-time tracking of the location of law enforcement vehicles using GPS services). The vendor will likely be chosen in the coming weeks which will allow the county and city governments to plan for the cost in their budgets for the next few years.
County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin stated, “Everything we do in the county relies on technology. Without our computer systems working properly, we would struggle to run the county.”