County IT meets goals, ready to move on more

MOUNT VERNON — Offering a chronology of Knox County Information Technology Department tasks completed since he became county IT director in 2019, Kyle Webb provided a thorough report of those accomplishments to Knox County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Over the past eight months, Webb wrote, the county has progressed from a managed IT services model, with two IT employees under contract from Info-Link Technologies, to an IT department with four full-time employees. At the beginning of this month, May 1, an agreement the county has with Info-Link was initiated, with both of its on-site staff hired on with the county full-time.

Webb said when he started his job as IT director, just two InfoLink staff members were barely able to keep up with day-to-day county IT issues, let alone any ongoing projects. Now the IT department has a staff with Webb as director; Shawn Conkle, network administrator; Trevor Ditmars, system administrator; and Andrew Champlin, IT communications coordinator, who recently helped launch a county Twitter page and reactive a dormant Facebook page. Champlin is the department’s newest member.

“The varied backgrounds of our team create a very well-rounded and robust department that can respond to any situation or challenge we may face,” Webb offered.

The ability to take on significant projects was needed early in the year with two January deadlines looming, the first Jan. 14. After he started as IT director in September, his team was given about three months to organize more than 100 devices running on Windows 7 and upgrade them to Windows 10. The project included “end of life” for two Windows servers with 2008 dates.

“This end of life meant there were no more security updates for Windows 7 and Server 2008, which would leave the county network extremely vulnerable to viruses and hackers,” he said.

The upgrade involved replacing 64 of the county’s outdated computers, and upgrading 53 more to Windows 10. The upgrade happened over 90 days and involved an ongoing shortage of computer components, so Webb said he contacted Dell Technologies about securing a government account representative who provided significant cost savings over a third-party vendor. The county IT department met its Jan. 14 goals in switching over to Windows 10 for all but a few computers, he noted.

Another monumental time-sensitive project was an upcoming State of Ohio Election Security overhaul carrying a mandated Jan. 31 deadline. Required was complete replacement of all Knox County Board of Elections (BOE) computers and networking equipment to meet “incredibly high-security standards,” he said. The BOE completed its due diligence by seeking state-approved vendors to bid on the project.

“After reviewing several proposals, it was abundantly clear that if our in-house IT department handled the project, we would save the county thousands of dollars and create a much better, more secure computer network,” Webb emphasized. He added that the Jan. 31 deadline was met and saved the county “tens of thousands of dollars.”

Some of the other projects Webb said the IT department has completed since September 2019 include:

•Upgrading the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and county 911 terminal servers.

•Replacing three physical servers.

•Taking over control of and updating the Knox County website and social media.

•Taking over control of and updating the Knox County phone system.

•Implemented new Network-Attached Storage (NAS) for the county Public Defender’s Office.

•Redesigned and rebuilt sheriff’s office computer backup infrastructure

•Implemented a COVID-19 remote workforce network.

Ongoing IT department projects include handling the Computer-Aided Dispatch upgrade for the Knox County 911 system, with a July “go live” target date, Webb said. Other current projects involve bond kiosk installation in the sheriff’s office lobby; four server replacements for the 911 dispatch center; three server replacements for county offices; and one server replacement each for the sheriff’s office and county water-wastewater department. New mobile data terminals are also being installed on sheriff’s office cruisers.

Future goals include a new help desk ticketing system by August of this year; all new servers to be installed by August; rewiring all network closets by the end of the year; and full implementation of a disaster preparedness plan for critical systems with quarterly testing. There is also a goal of more social media outreach including videos and podcasts.

“In the last eight months, the Knox County IT department has handled more IT projects than most organizations experience in two years,” Webb offered. “We still have a lot more to accomplish to get our systems to peak efficiency, but I am extremely happy with our progress so far.”

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Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or [email protected] and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews




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