Porter County Government Center

The Porter County Government Center in downtown Valparaiso

Doug Ross, The Times

VALPARAISO — Porter County Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, last week described the computers powering county government as "old, slow and archaic."

"It's just about everything you don't want," he said.

In hopes of bringing the system up to date as quickly and thoroughly as possible, Good and his two fellow commissioners agreed last week to have an audit done.

The goal of the audit is to identify where the county is and where it needs to be to keep up with the changing needs of government and the public, he said.

"We want to see how we can get better at this," Good said.

The county has traditionally purchased its own servers and kept everything in house, he said. But a potential alternative that he saw done successfully by the Hilton hotel company is to transition to "the cloud," which involves contracting with an outside company that handles all the hardware, software and upgrades for a flat fee.

"Then it becomes like a lease payment every month," Good said.

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said the concerns about the county's antiquated computer system are more significant than ever as a result of the growing demands by the public to conduct their business with county government online rather than having to travel to a building.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said she too favored the audit.

"No down side to this," she said.

The proposed audit will not only evaluate the county's main computer network, but also those that have sprouted up independently in various county departments, Good said. He called on the department heads to be forthcoming with the audit.

Don Wellsand, who heads up the county's information technologies department, said he will be appearing before the County Council with a $515,000 request to replace antiquated equipment.

Three of the county's data storage units are five to six years old, 16 of the county's 26 servers are four to six years old, the 36 switches that connect the servers and users are six to eight years old, and 456 of the county's telephones are eight years or older, he said.

"When you buy it, it's already old," he said of the rapid aging of technology.

Good said the county has a proposal from one firm interested in conducting the audit, but time is needed to look at it more closely and see if there are others interested in the job.

He hoped the commissioners would be ready to act on a proposal by their next meeting on Sept. 19.

"I think it's long overdue," he said.

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Bob is a 22-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.