Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Commissioners hear information technology update – The Pagosa Springs Sun

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At its April 2 work session, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) heard a semiannual update from Information Technology (IT) Director Gabe Cersonsky, where he discussed updates to county technology and a recent server failure.

Cersonsky opened his update by stating that his department is in the process of implementing multifactor authentication and improved firewalls for county computers as well as updating county data backup systems.

He stated that the department is conducting regular audits to identify vulnerabilities as well as replacing technology and answering tickets.

Cersonsky indicated that the IT Department manages the phones for the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), including ensuring that calls for the ACSO are prioritized during a crisis where the cellular communications are overloaded.

He explained that the department is also doing a range of work for the Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center, including assisting in the implementation of an Oracle computer-aided dispatch system and with the replacement of the phones for the center.

He stated that the department is assisting in replacing computers and updating systems for staff running county elections.

He highlighted that 2024 is a “crisis year” due to there being three elections and that staff learned last year that the software in use was outdated, necessitating replacements this year.

Cersonsky explained that the county is working on implementing Starlink as a backup Internet provider — something he indicated is more important now due to the ACSO and the dispatch center both using cloud-based Oracle systems.

He stated that a fiber cut occurred the previous Sunday, but that the county was able to switch Internet access to Starlink and continue operations for 12 hours until the cut was repaired.

Commissioner Warren Brown expressed appreciation for Cersonsky setting up Starlink for the county to prepare for situations like this one.

Cersonsky added that, due to increased reliance on cloud-based services for emergency dispatch, he would like to have Starlink on for the county year-round instead of just during the summer.

Commissioner Ronnie Maez asked how much this would cost, and Cersonsky responded that Starlink service costs the county $250 a month.

Cersonsky added that he is also working on implementing a Starlink connection for the county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to ensure that EOC staff have access to the Internet and digital communications at emergency locations.

Brown asked if this would involve additional costs for the county, which Cersonsky confirmed.

County Manager Derek Woodman explained that this cost is currently being paid out of the search and rescue line item included in the 2024 budget, although Cersonsky added that this cost could be shifted to the IT Department budget in future years.

Cersonsky went on to explain that, three weeks before the meeting, the county had a “catastrophic server failure” that could have taken down online county operations for a week.

However, he stated that the redundant system the county already had running was able to absorb the necessary functions and the primary server system was running again within five days.

“I don’t think I slept during those five days because when you’re running off your backup you get pretty worried,” he said.

Cersonsky then spoke about a range of other work the IT Department is doing, including extending wireless Internet access to the Hughes Pavilion and Colorado State University Extension buildings, conducting regular cybersecurity training and assisting departments with new programs and technical solutions.

He stated that he is taking on all third-party software licensing for the county, allowing him to manage obtaining software licenses for county departments and potentially creating cost savings since he can buy needed licenses in bulk.

Commissioner Veronica Medina asked how county departments reporting what licenses they possess to IT is going.

Cersonsky responded that it is going “great” and that this has allowed the county to eliminate some redundant licenses.

Medina asked how much money the county would save with this arrangement and Cersonsky responded “none.”

He added that the new arrangement has led the rate of county staff obtaining licenses to double, causing increased costs.

Medina commented that these departments likely need the software they are asking for.

“Exactly,” Cersonsky said. “They were just suffering and now they’re becoming more efficient because they have the appropriate software.”

Medina added that department heads would have to understand that new software acquisitions will eventually impact their budgets.

She also commended Cersonsky for his “hard work” on the software licenses.

Cersonsky explained that he and his staff are working on security cameras for the courthouse, which are requiring weekly restarts to prevent growing delays between events at the courthouse and when they appear on the security camera screens.

He commented that the security camera system was potentially less expensive and effective than what is needed and that the county may need to consider a replacement next year.

Medina noted that the county recently purchased the system and asked why it could not be returned and replaced this year.

Cersonsky explained that replacing the system was initially purchased from Amazon, which would make return difficult, and that the brand of cameras the courthouse has are “not particularly where we need to go.”

He stated that he is assisting with networking for the new county transportation building and assisted with ensuring that the Archuleta County Public Health Department had new phones and Internet connectivity when it launched at the beginning of 2024.

Cersonsky stated that his department has also taken over managing county cellphones and is also conducting an inventory of county hardware and software to ensure “proper management and licensing compliance.”

He added that he is also working on moving forward with transitioning the county to a .gov website address from its current .org address.

Cersonsky concluded that his department is also working with other county staff on updating the county website to meet new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards imposed by the state of Colorado.

“Great job, Gabe,” Medina said. “Thank you very much.”

Brown asked how much time the county has spent on meeting ADA accessibility standards to date.

Cersonsky stated that two county staff members have been working on the project for nine months with another member of his department working for an additional three weeks on the project.

“This all equates to money that we will figure up at some point in time,” Brown said.

“A lot of money,” Maez added.

Maez then asked Cersonsky who controls or owns the cloud.

Cersonsky stated that the cloud is information kept on another computer’s server and that whoever owns the server being accessed controls it.

He added that this is typically the vendor for the software being utilized.

Medina asked if the county still owns the data being stored on the cloud and if it could be moved to another location if needed.

Cersonsky confirmed that both these things are true.

“Then it becomes partly cloudy,” Maez commented.

Cersonsky concluded by confirming that the county owns data stored on the cloud and that moving it is relatively simple.

Woodman asked if he could make a comment, which Maez stated he would approve.

“I just wanted to say that the evidence of Gabe’s entire department and the efficiency that they are doing is by us not knowing what’s going on because it’s seamless,” Woodman said. “We’ve got this backup system in place. Nobody even knows that it exists.”

Maez commented that the IT Department’s work is “amazing.”

“I think that’s the greatest … complement to IT is we don’t know that we have problems,” Woodman said.

“And if you do, let us know,” Cersonsky said. “There’s a lot of people suffer through their problems when they should be contacting us.”

He added that IT staff frequently encounter damaged devices in county departments that could be repaired by IT but for which no tickets have been submitted.

josh@pagosasun.com

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