City of Grand Forks to spend $67K to replace computer servers

City council has voted to spend $67,000 to replace the city’s computer servers.
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the City of Grand Forks’ servers and data storage will need to be repaired or replaced over the next couple of years.
The current equipment (Sun Tape Library and IBM Data Storage Array) are approaching its five-year life expectancy, with the storage components and networking servers approaching nine years of service.
At the moment, the city is using Symantec Backup Exec, which stores backup data from file servers but does not connect to the city’s virtual servers. The city’s uninterrupted power supply (UPS), normally used to keep the equipment running, is also out of service.
To maintain services at city hall for 2013 and 2014, the city will invest around $67,000 to upgrade the equipment.
City Chief Administrative Officer Doug Allin pointed out the computer equipment located at city hall would soon be eliminated.
“The equipment will all be kept and shared through the school district. Our data storage is very much tied to the fibre optics program,” explained Allin. “It is a requirement under the school district that we’re partnering and sharing resources for our data backup and our service needs. Everything will tie in together.”
The city and School District 51 (SD51) have a joint partnership for the fibre network that has been constructed and developed over the past two years, that allows them to share computer knowledge, including emails and backup servers, as well as document storage facilities.
“Basically we have all the equipment downstairs in city hall,” Allin said. “This would move all of it to one central location at the school district. The city will then share the same equipment with the school board because it will run with the same equipment.”
SD51 Superintendent of Schools Michael Strukoff noted all larger organizations have the responsibility to back up its data.
“In the past, the City of Grand Forks had a small unit they were using and SD51 had one as well,” he explained. “We were backing up all of our data from our schools and the board office daily. However, two things were happening: these things get old over time and they wear out so you have to replace them. The amount of data they were storing was also growing.”
Rather than the city and school district purchase two additional storage units, Strukoff pointed out they took advantage of the situation and worked together to purchase one larger unit.
“What we’ve tried to do is purchase one that will have additional capacity for expansion, including the possibility of offering services to the community,” he said. “This places us on the next level where we can meet our own needs cost effectively and then possibly provide the service to others over time.”
Strukoff noted the process of involving other businesses, which is the next phase of the project, is slow work.
“Part of that is that we don’t have huge resources to work with but we are working on it,” he said. “The other part that has made this a little more challenging is the transitions. The city has a new individual (Allin) who is being brought up to speed and at the same time I’m going to be leaving and another person (Kevin Argue) will take my spot.”
The hope is to also connect the service to the schools and city operations at the Village of Midway and the City of Greenwood.
“As the organizations go through transitions with the senior people, we have to rework this and bring everyone up to speed,” he added. “These things take time and we are slowly working to get everything all lined up.”
The fibre optics network program began in December 2010 when city staff and SD51 staff collaborated to connect the school district and city facilities with high-speed fibre optic network capability. The network was finally completed this year, with the district and city co-operating on managing and creating the network.

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