IT expert: New computer system unnecessary

By Sara Bruestle | Jul 25, 2012

Mukilteo won’t need to order a new computer system to replace the one that crashed in April because it is still under warranty, according to an IT consultant.

The system’s manufacturer, Dell, has offered to replace all of the failed hard drives for free, as well as any others that may fail while under warranty. The replacement is worth about $25,000.

The city hired the company KDH Consulting Inc. of Lake Forest Park on June 18 to help get the city’s computer system back in operation and to recommend a replacement. Except, the company found out Monday, the city wouldn’t need to buy one after all.

“This is a great product,” said IT consultant Kris Harness. “It’s currently what they’re selling today.”

“Why should we spend another $24,000 plus when we already have the product that will do the job right here?”

Finance Director Scott James has yet to calculate a new estimate for the replacement system, but he said it would be “substantially less” than the $171,500 originally thought. The estimate will include a new warranty, he said.

James, who oversees the IT department, said the city is also looking into upgrades and additional backups, including off-site backup. The current system does not have off-site backup.

“We are happy that we did bring in the KDH company to do the in-depth look at our system and get a more in-depth knowledge of the system that we have,” James said.

The consultant has also been working to upgrade or replace the working parts of the city’s system and to secure the network. The city has paid $5,000 for its consulting services.

“KDH helped us get to know what our system really has and see if there were some things we could do differently to make it more efficient,” James said.

“They are now getting it back on line and functioning like it really should be.”

Numerous hard drives and backups failed on April 4, resulting in the loss of about 1.5 terabytes of data.

Eventually, most of the data was recovered, including its financial system, criminal evidence photos, audio recordings and grant information, at a cost of about $36,000.

Harness said the crash was likely due to a lack of monitoring – not a cooling system failure in the server room, as IT staff previously reported.

“There was nothing to indicate that heat was an issue,” he said.

However, he said a system had been set up to give email notifications to staff if drives started to fail – and there were many of them – but those notifications weren’t monitored.

The email notifications were going to the inbox of a former employee, Harness said. That inbox was not checked, and so the failures went unnoticed for months, he said.

“There were catastrophic failures, and there were multiple areas where it could have been prevented, and should have been prevented,” Harness said.

Mayor Joe Marine recently fired the city’s IT manager, Dave Varga, following the system crash. Marine said Varga was terminated because “there were too many failures on his watch to keep him.”

“We’ve come to find out that it wasn’t a system failure as much as it was his failure to not monitor it,” Marine said. “If he had, we could have replaced the first drive and not had a problem at all.”

James said that from now on, with the replacement system, he, other IT staff, and the city administrator would get the notifications.

He said the city has hired a desktop support technician, but that it is looking into contracting out other IT services.

“We’re not racing to get something in place,” James said. “We’re taking our time, doing our research. We’re looking for a long-term fix, not a quick fix.”

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