Kent County Levy Court talks options for data storage

By Leann Schenke
Posted 10/8/21

DOVER — As the county updates its information technology infrastructure, a pitch to move some aspects of it to an outside company was met with debate during a Tuesday Kent County Levy Court committee meeting.

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Kent County Levy Court talks options for data storage

Posted

DOVER — As the county updates its information technology infrastructure, a pitch to move some aspects of it to an outside company was met with debate during a Tuesday Kent County Levy Court committee meeting.

No decision was made, as that will come during an upcoming business meeting.

According to Kim Crouch, Levy Court’s director of IT, the county has the option of using Tyler Technologies’ Enterprise Resource Planning software — to either store county data off-site or use the company’s equipment on-site.

Tyler Technologies is a Texas-based company that also is handling the county’s property reassessments. According to its website, Tyler Technologies offers IT support for local governments and school systems.

The website states its more than 8,000 clients range in size from the governments of Los Angeles County (with a population of 10 million) to Loving County, Texas (with a population of 169).

Ms. Crouch said the first option — where Tyler Technologies stores the county’s data off-site — carries an annual fee of $309,809.

One benefit of that option would be that Tyler Technologies would assume all risks of data security. The company would be responsible for getting hardware up and running, which Ms. Crouch estimated would take one to three days.

The data would be stored in a remote location (like a data center), but Tyler Technologies would provide support 24/7. There would be minimal IT support required from the Kent County.

The second option would be for the county to make a one-time purchase of a license and software from Tyler Technologies for $125,000. The county would then assume all risks of data security.

This choice also would require a dedicated IT team from the county. Ms. Crouch noted that Tyler Technologies does offer support for $45,853 per year; however, that is typically given to small governments that do not have IT professionals on staff.

Currently, New Castle County government uses the first option. But the city of Dover and Sussex County have brought Tyler Technologies’ data-storage hardware on-site.

Donna Barns, a county business analyst who uses the systems that were under discussion, said during the meeting that Tyler Technologies’ storing of county data off-site would “change everything about how I would look at my future here.”

She said that if the county made this change, Freedom of Information Act requests for information stored in the county’s data, for example, would need to go through Tyler Technologies rather than county staff.

“Your staff here that you currently have invested in would not be the ones to gather that data, to do the analysis on that data, to get it back to whomever is asking for it,” Ms. Barns said. “That would be off-site. That would be the people who work for Tyler.”

She said that none of her staff is “unwilling” to learn how to use Tyler Technologies software if the county goes with the on-site option.

However, she added that if the county chooses the other alternative, she and her staff of two would likely be involved with the process of implementing the technology but that there may be no need for them after that.

“We need to know that you’re invested in us,” she said.

Commissioner Allan Angel said the county has “great staff” but noted that finding people who are willing to work for the county has been an issue in the past.

Ms. Barns said the funding the county would spend each year on Tyler Technologies could be better served by hiring people to work in-house.

Commissioner Angel said he spoke with representatives from New Castle County who were able to increase their IT staff after moving data off-site. He said his top reason for wanting Tyler Technologies to store the county data is the increased security the company offers.

He said Tyler Technologies has a much larger staff who would be able to fix any IT problem, whereas now, the county has to rely on its small staff.

“If we go down, we’re covered (with Tyler),” Commissioner Angel said.

The commissioner added that moving data off-site “has nothing to do” with getting rid of staff. He said it’s about security and freeing up employees’ time.

County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange sided with Commissioner Angel. He also asked the commissioner not to make a decision based on the $300,000 price tag.

“It’s a predictable annual cost that we can budget for,” he said.

Mr. Petit de Mange said the county struggles to offer competitive salaries for those in the IT industry. However, he said the biggest benefit is the cybersecurity Tyler Technologies’ off-site data storage offers.

“It only takes one major … ransom attack to see how vulnerable you are,” he added.

Like Ms. Barns, Ms. Crouch also said talk of outsourcing can cause concern among current employees.

“When you’ve been in the business for a number of years, that’s how (employees) think,” she said. “They’re going to start looking.”