Ryan Petersen is Editor in Chief of StateTech.

Look for the Silver Lining

If there's one thing experienced IT leaders know, it's to expect the unexpected.

Consider the experience of Phil Lowder, IT director of Linn County, Iowa. He had been on the job only two weeks in 2008 when a flood wiped out county buildings. Two days into the flooding, some IT staffers tried to survey the damage by boat, but there was no electricity. "Everything was moist and very dark, including the staircases," he recalls. "We had a card access system, but no keys, so we couldn't get into our department. It was not a good situation."

Critical backups and some servers that were moved to higher ground were about all the IT department had left. Mobilized to action, Lowder's department and volunteers assembled a makeshift data center at another location. "Everyone stepped up. It was a great team environment," he says.

The county took the disaster as an opportunity to build a new primary data center complete with blade servers, a storage area network, virtualization and disk-based backup. Lowder's department later deployed a secondary data center and eventually will deploy a third data center for even more protection.

"There will be a constant heartbeat between the two data centers, and if something happens to the primary data center, it will automate the process to bring up the VMs on the secondary data center," he says. To learn more about how cities and counties are making continuity of operations a priority, turn to "Recovery Efforts."

Unanticipated Gifts

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection received a great gift in the form of the city's NYCWiN wireless network. The water utility had been pushing for an automated meter reading system, but building a wireless network to transmit the data would have been a massive undertaking, says Cecil McMaster, assistant commissioner and CIO.

Instead, DEP leveraged an existing asset by overlaying the automated meter reading on top of the city's wireless network. The implementation is still ongoing and slated for completion by early next year, but the city is already reaping the benefits of reduced costs, more accurate billing and improved service. To read about the rollout, see "Go with the Flow."

Other IT leaders have found that their technology expertise can be a gift to others.

"We can't look passively anymore at the events that happen every day. It's not a choice," says Atefeh Riazi, CIO for the New York City Housing Authority and executive director of CIOs Without Borders, a nonprofit organization focused on using technology to aid people around the globe. "You have to be engaged, and active, and make the time."

For example, in Rwanda there is only one doctor for every 23,379 patients, making healthcare a critical challenge for this East African country. CIOs Without Borders seeks to bring a basic interactive application to clinics in Rwanda to improve triage and serve more patients. Find out more about the inspiring work under way in "IT for the Greater Good."

Ryan Petersen, Editor in Chief


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Matthew Gilson
Dec 23 2010