Completed ITS Projects
The MONTCO datacenter was in desperate need of a rebuild; the raised floor was failing in multiple locations and caused serious hazards to personnel.
The datacenter was also refitted with a new Power Distribution Unit (PDU). This new PDU is able to support all the new equipment and distribute power throughout the datacenter more efficiently; thus saving money on power.
We also installed a new Battery Backup Unit. This unit provides battery power, power conditioning and suppression in the event of a power spike or failure.
Lastly, the datacenter was outfitted with a 300KVA diesel generator. This generator supplies continuous power to all of the County’s server based systems, firewalls, internet connections and VoIP systems. This generator ensures business can continue in the event of a power outage.
Storage Area Network (SAN)
The IT department introduced a SAN to meet the ever growing storage needs of the different County offices. Prior to this implementation much of the County’s data was stored on old, out of date, non-replicated and less efficient Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. These NAS devices had a high failure rate and very poor performance; these two points contributed to a decrease in productivity throughout all County departments.
Once the SAN was implemented and all the data was migrated from the NAS devices, we realized increased performance and speed across all County departments. IT decommissioned all the old NAS devices and began to scale down our data network to a far more manageable system. Doing so allowed us to free up 40% of our Data Network Engineers for other projects. We could also backup our data and recover it within minutes. The SAN is also the corner stone for our Server Virtualization Project.
In 2012 County IT along with the support of the Commissioners and Chief Clerk decided to migrate from the on premise Exchange Server environment to a cloud based system. There were several reasons that drove this project, an aging server fleet, out of date and out of compliance Exchange systems, capacity and many others.
An RFP was released in 2012 for a suitable system, the County decided on the Office 365 solution. After a successful migration we were able to decommission all 8 of our old on-site Exchange servers, eliminate Exchange backups, increase right to know turnaround times as they relate to email, provide a far more stable email infrastructure and reduce the amount of time it takes to administrate email for the County by 70%.
The County was also spotlighted for this achievement and helped several other Counties around the country through collaboration and evaluating.
Server Virtualization Project
The IT department successfully virtualized 70% of its server infrastructure using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization platform. This virtualization initiative allowed us to scale down and consolidate over 100 physical servers and appliances. For example, we had a totaling of eight, 6 foot server racks for all this equipment, we now have two server racks for all this equipment. As a result, we are able to “spin up” new servers on-demand and without spending dollars on new hardware. Our turnaround time for server procurement is hours, instead of days or weeks.
Our virtualization initiative along with the Hyper-V platform is estimated to have saved MONTCO approximately $700,000.00 over the last 5 years in hardware alone.
This project also introduced a level of Business Continuance and Disaster Recovery not realized by MONTCO until this solution was implemented and tested. We are now able to recover entire systems and services in hours instead of days. We are also able to provide test and development systems at no additional cost.
Core Network Upgrade
The IT department also upgraded its core infrastructure to accommodate higher speeds and bandwidth across its fully redundant fiber ring that connects the majority of County facilities. We were able to upgrade from a 1GB backbone to a 40GB backbone. We are currently running at 10GB of bandwidth and have yet to come close to using all of it.
This upgrade paved the way for future projects such as VoIP, Internet connectivity, Backups and VDI. IT was able to provision this additional backbone for less than we paid for the original 1GB service. Lastly, IT was able to negotiate and retain the original 1GB backbone in this new agreement. IT made this provision to enable Security and EOC to use this dedicated backbone for surveillance systems.
Internet Bandwidth Upgrade
IT upgraded the County’s Internet bandwidth, increasing capacity from a single 100meg connection to two 1Gig connections. This 200% increase was acquired through RFP and through datacenter sharing with the Montgomery County Intermediary Unit (MCIU). MONTCO agreed to give the MCIU datacenter space for free Internet bandwidth. This allowed the MCIU to use space in our datacenter for low rent and in return the MCIU gave us 2Gig of free internet capacity.
Our Internet bandwidth is now fully redundant and can support our ever growing Cloud, SaaS and Virtual systems strategies.
New Phone System (VoIP)
The IT department recently deployed a new VoIP system for all County facilities and departments; this new system also included Multipoint Video Conferencing for our end user base, mobile phone apps for smartphone users and a new Data Switch Infrastructure. These new systems enabled our user community to better communicate and collaborate with fellow staff members as well as their customers, we were able to help increase productivity using these new tools while simultaneously reducing costs across all telecommunications platforms.
For example, we were able to stop issuing County provided cell phones for users because of the VoIP mobile phone application. Employees are able to use the application on their personal devices safely, securely and without having to divulge their personal cell number. In a conservative estimate IT was able to reduce the amount of County cell phones by 100 or more; the total amount of dollars saved is estimated at $5,000.00 for the hardware (phones) and another $6,000.00 a year in cell services.
This new VoIP system also allowed us to change our carrier plan to a SIP service; this allowed us to reduce amount of copper lines and rely more on our internet circuits. This bill was reduced by $20,000.00 per month.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
The IT department performed a pilot program over a 2 year period for VDI using VMWare. This pilot was such a success we had no issue justifying the production costs. Here are a few of the highlights:
1. IT introduced hoteling to the County; as a result we were able to help lower cost for new space, by reducing the amount of space needed for each employee. This enabled the County to save dollars on rent.
2. We were able to introduce BYOD in a safe, secure manner. This further reduced our operational cost because some users opted to use their personal devices.
3. Productivity rose more than 300% in some areas. Our Senior Services area reached a productivity increase of 300% while using VDI for only 17 of its workers. Because of this the department was able to save dollars in staffing through attrition. Other departments have also realized a major productivity increases, but AAS is by far the greatest at this time.
4. All of the departments using VDI are now truly mobile. Our caseworkers, detectives, sheriffs and inspectors use VDI and the VoIP to conduct business on a daily bases and never miss a beat.
5. The administration of the VDI desktops is simpler and easier to use, because of this MONTCO did not have a need to hire any additional IT staff to support the system.
6. Standardization of user desktops has led to greater security and updates on all VDI systems.
New County Website (MONTCOPA.ORG)
In 2012 the IT department at MONTCO released an RFP for a new County website. We took the opportunity to overhaul, enhance and modernize the County’s site; the result was the CCAP best County website award for 2013.
New Voter Services Website
In 2014 the IT department in conjunction with the Voter Services department released an RFP to have a new Voter Services Election Night Results Website built. The new site provides real-time tally results with the help of an interactive County map. During the last primary, the website received more than one million requests.
The site can be found at https://electionresults.montcopa.org