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The Download - August 2014

Project Updates

Building the Cloud – Disaster Recovery

By Alex John

Building-the-Cloud

As those of us fortunate to be in the technical industry can tell you, change is always interesting. Which innovations are winners and which ideas are appealing simply because they are new? As the concept of leasing services in the cloud has been enabled tremendously by such innovations as virtualization, large internet pipes, and cheaper infrastructure, the same questions are asked today of your IT needs as they always have been: how safe is it, can I get to it, and how much does it cost?

It’s nice to know that some things don’t change!

These questions are particularly germane to the Franklin County Data Center as we strive to establish more redundant services that perform consistently and are achieved in the most economical way possible. In essence, we are building our own private Franklin County Cloud. One aspect of these initiatives on which we are currently focused is our ability to provide you with Disaster Recovery (DR) services in addition to the day-to-day support we deliver for your production applications. DR is an important concept: the idea that there are a finite set of policies and procedures in place to enable the continuation of services in the event that variables outside of our control cause a disruption to our production systems. As I sit in my office at 373 South High Street, I can see construction equipment digging in the Scioto outside of my window, and it reminds me of how often something as simple as cutting a 0.5" data line has introduced significant challenges and frustrations to my work week.

Today’s technological demands have a requirement of consistency, and even momentary blips within applications can bring some very real consequences to our constituents. Such considerations are why the Data Center is expending so much of our energy on driving this important initiative. Data centers in general are much more complex than they were 5, 10, and 20 years ago. There are so many specializations and vendors that enable Franklin County to govern in the manner that it does today, offering online access to data, increased efficiency of communications, and more. Each component that makes up a service must have a corresponding service in an opposite data center which must be fired in the proper sequence at the correct time in order to provide continuous service—just in case the "dredging in the Scioto" goes awry.

Take email for example: something as simple and basic as an electronic mail message has many subcomponents, including name location services, routing protocols, duplicated storage, computing resources, and web presentation. These services don’t exist within one server anymore, as virtualization has allowed us to compartmentalize and modularize the system for redundancy and efficiency. In addition, it has added a layer of complexity that relates all of the separate components back together. Within our DR project, we are building redundant services at WeConnect in Westerville, which is divided into five main areas: network redundancy for automatic fail-over to the DR site; data management; website redundancy; digital information security at the DR site; and email redundancy. This involves a lot of moving parts.

In the end, this initiative (in conjunction with multiple other projects) will give Franklin County the ability to move into an age where services are available as designed no matter the conditions. This is a very complicated undertaking comprised of many facets. We have had the good fortune to be able to evaluate a lot of options, technologies, and partners in this process; as a result of our thorough analysis, we have arrived at a solution that is dependable, responsive and exciting. There is no doubt in my mind that we are creating a solution that we can use to build our collective technology futures together.

Tech Corner

Effective Emergency Notifications

Business Services Manager Shirley Stephens discusses the Data Center’s newly implemented Everbridge emergency notification software. Watch the video

Project Management

Ask the PMO

Many organizations are faced with what I refer to as a "chaos driven" mentality when it comes to delivering projects. Understanding the drivers of establishing a Project/Program Management Office (PMO) and the benefits that a well-run PMO will bring to an organization is extremely valuable. The basic purpose of a PMO is to align resources, processes, and technology to ensure projects are consistently delivered while reducing risk. Sound simple enough? Truthfully, many organizations (including the Franklin County Data Center) can attest to the challenging nature of building structure around project delivery and ensuring that processes are consistently adhered to.

Ask-the-PMO

Our mission at the Data Center is simple: we strive to deliver projects of the highest possible quality on time and within budget. Project Managers have heard this before; it is certainly not a new concept. Even so, when you focus on genuinely building your organization around what Lean Six Sigma refers to as the "4 voices" (Employee, Customer, Process, and Business), you have the potential to truly transform your project delivery results. With this in mind, we have introduced best practices to lay the foundation for our ability to consistently deliver high-quality projects. The establishment of a PMO, however, is a complex, multi-faceted process. It is our hope to inspire organizations to move forward with adopting a PMO, or at least to consider whether it could enhance their agencies’ ability to deliver high-quality projects on time and within budget.

Want to learn more? This winter, the Data Center Program Management Office will begin hosting a new quarterly series entitled “Ask the PMO.” This learning series will provide agencies with the opportunity to understand more about the principles of a PMO-run organization, to ask questions of the Data Center project management team, and to receive assistance with managing their projects more efficiently. More information regarding the "Ask the PMO" sessions will be provided in the near future. The Data Center PMO is excited to share our experiences, discuss challenges we have faced, and offer guidance to our partner agencies.

IT Leadership Forum

Franklin County IT Leadership Forum Overview

IT-Leadership-Forum

The June 2014 Franklin County IT Leadership Forum offered a fresh perspective on data recovery services and workflow management with presentations from two IT professionals from the private sector. Relevant county IT updates from the Data Center were communicated as well.

Bruce Macnichol, Director of Data Recovery Services, was the keynote speaker. Data Recovery Services has a private partnership with the city of Westerville and is supporting the WeConnect Data Center. Mr. Macnichol discussed the physical characteristics of the WeConnect building, as well as how many government agencies are taking advantage of WeConnect in order to minimize costs, share services, and increase efficiency. The WeConnect Data Center also has positive implications for Disaster Recovery initiatives.

Adam Uhrig from 3SG Corporation gave the attendees an overview of the OnBase Document Management Software. Data Center Business Services Manager Shirley Stephens, meanwhile, discussed the Internet slowness issue and presented information about HEAT Tracker, a tool that allows customers to monitor their Data Center Service Desk requests.

During the final portion of the meeting, the focus was on 2015 IT budget preparation. Two groups were formed to assess the process; one was tasked to focus on all areas of the IT budget, while the other was formed to analyze projects and related planning.

The July 2014 IT Leadership Forum was hosted by Franklin County Children Services (FCCS). FCCS staff members discussed several IT initiatives that have been undertaken by their agency.

Ultimately, the IT Leadership Forum allows administrators and IT professionals from Franklin County agencies to share their experiences, discuss challenges, and find avenues for collaboration. The forum is hosted monthly with different county agencies serving as the sponsor for each meeting.