SD&G IT has security issues; department needs ‘significant investments’, says consultant

A laptop connects to Wi-Fi at the United Counties building on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. A study by a consultant has found a host of problems with the county's information technology operations. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – The computer doctor is in and the patient – the United Counties of SD&G – is not doing well.

A review of the United Counties Information Technology (IT) system has found a litany of problems, from aging computers and tired servers to a lack of processes and a lack of staff to oversee the IT department.

Ben Perry of Perry Group Consulting provided a summary of his report to county council Tuesday morning.

The study cost nearly $43,000.

Red flags include problems with IT policies and procedures, disaster recovery and data protection. The report noted that information and backup systems were “inadequate” and data over a year old was sitting on servers – data that could have been archived – taking up space.

More than half of the county’s computer servers are past or have reached the end of their life and “must be replaced.”

Then there’s security. “A recent security audit identified a range of concerns that must be urgently mitigated.”

The consultant also found a lack of governance, insufficient IT resources and a range of “inflexible technology infrastructure.” In other words, other hardware that’s reached the end of its life.

As for what the consumer sees, Perry found staff relied too heavily on outside help to maintain the county website and that it lacked services, such as paying for library fines or booking jail tours.

When it comes to connectivity with the lower-tier municipalities, the consultant found a patchwork setup and no formal agreement on IT services.

Perry is recommending the county hire an IT team – a director and two positions to help with service delivery.

As for how much it would cost, a projection in the report estimates it would cost $787,500 next year and around $1.25 million in 2019 for operating and capital expenses.

The report lays out a long term plan through 2022.

Senior staff from some of the lower-tier municipalities sat in on the county council meeting Tuesday morning.

“The whole purpose of IT, from my prospective, is to reduce workload but more importantly is the security aspect…it’s something we should look at seriously. Council should be prepared to provide the resources through financing through a budget proposal,” Warden Jim Bancroft told CNW following the meeting.

Bancroft said the intent is to also improve customer service by upgrading IT.

“If we provide a more acceptable service and we can show them we are protecting their information…I honestly believe the public will accept it,” Bancroft said.

“In today’s environment, if you look at your own household. How many times your children or, in my case my grandchildren, upgrading their IT levels of understanding and education. It’s no different here,” he said.

The study has been be referred to staff for an upcoming report to council, which will include staff job descriptions and possible salary options to start on implementing the recommendations.