Mar 16 2017

What It Means to Deal with Outdated IT Infrastructure

From dropped calls to cyberattacks, legacy systems can seriously slow down the speed of government operations.

While it is often said that state and local governments suffer from the woes of legacy IT systems, it is easy to gloss over the impact of dealing with an underfunded and outdated infrastructure.

The problem of outdated systems appears to be relatively widespread at state and local levels. According to the National Association of State Chief Information Officer’s 2016 State CIO Survey, 90 percent of the CIOs considered at least 20 percent of their systems “due for replacement or modernization,” while nearly two-thirds of CIOs saw more than 40 percent of the systems as legacy.

Old IT Architectures Slow County Operations

While the issue is far-reaching in government, few are willing to go into specifics when it comes to the downfalls of outdated infrastructures. But, in his pitch for an investment from his county legislature, Bedford County, Va., IT Director Robert Floyd didn’t shy away from the issues and challenges the county’s IT department faces given its legacy technology.

“The bottom line is there are inefficiencies,” Floyd said in his pitch, which sought $540,000 to install a more secure and reliable system, The News and Advance reports. “There are outages that span over several days; on my second day on the job 911 dispatch went down for two days. The core infrastructure is very important and it must operate, and when it doesn’t, people can’t work.”

The IT system serves several departments, including the sheriff’s office, courthouse, public schools, and more. In the last few years, the antiquated infrastructure has left the department plagued with everything from cybersecurity issues to dropped calls, slow network performance, viruses, and software and hardware failures that leave the county unable to retrieve lost documents. The government’s existing voice and data infrastructure dates back to 2004.

“Losing data is never acceptable and there is no excuse,” Floyd said. “The bottom line is the current maintenance and quick-fix replacement costs to maintain outdated IT infrastructure is unacceptable and must be remediated.”

Moreover, Floyd noted that it was costing more to keep the legacy systems operational than to upgrade.

“We are at a point now, to keep these systems operational, it adds more power, more cooling, more space,” he said. “It costs you over time and unfortunately we can’t quantify the productivity losses.”

States Wary of Antiquated IT Systems

Minnesota is seeking a $51 million digital IT investment from the legislature that will go toward upgrading the government’s nearly 30-year-old IT infrastructure, which has left the county vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“Our technology systems keep state government running. If they go down due to cyberattacks or other issues, millions of Minnesotans’ private data — over $28 billion in annual transactions, and over 300,000 daily transactions — are at risk,” said Minnesota CIO Thomas Baden, who will oversee a $27 million investment aimed at minimizing risk exposure by migrating business systems to upgraded, modern and more secure data centers.

What Governments Can Do to Improve IT

To upgrade these systems, government CIOs are turning to a variety of methods to upgrade infrastructure, create more secure environments and streamline government operations.

Texas is turning to cloud-based solutions by offering cutting-edge public and hybrid cloud resources. The state is also consolidating various IT components, including data centers, servers, security systems and telecommunications.

Meanwhile, local governments are moving to hyperconverged infrastructures that eliminate complexities in data center integration and management. In a prime example, the town of Westerly, R.I., solved several data center headaches by deploying Scale Computing’s HC3 application, a three-node cluster, in early 2016.

With more than one-third of CIOs noting in NASCIO’s survey that “greater than 10 percent of their budget is allocated to modernization work,” local governments will likely stay focused on moving to equipment that will allow the organization to become more agile and efficient.

“Our ultimate goal is to be services-led,” Bedford’s Floyd said in his pitch for new IT equipment. “We want to add value to businesses, find problems before they happen and make sure we are focused on delivering value to business units.”


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