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Orange County

County OKs Funds to Fix Sluggish Computer System

Technology: Unhappy at a surprise request, supervisors grant $630,000 to cope with lagging response time.


Supervisors on Tuesday approved leasing an additional computer and extra data storage for more than $630,000 a year because the county's data processing department failed to anticipate that providing Internet services and upgrading two departmental systems would slow the county's central computers.

Supervisors approved the request but were unhappy the problem hadn't been foreseen.

"My goodness," said Supervisor Tom Wilson, "a 40% increase in computer use should have been known about long before it happened."

The problem was first noticed six months ago when county technicians saw a spike in the county's use of computing power. Employees started to complain about long response times for information on desktop computers.

The problem was especially embarrassing for county information managers in light of last year's $260-million data processing contract with Lockheed Martin IMSA, which was to have been adequate for the county's computing needs through 2010.

Leo E. Crawford, the county's chief information officer, said available resources are now at their limit and that average daytime demand is now greater than 90% of capacity.

The board approved Crawford's plan to lease an additional IBM processor and software from Affiliated Computer Services, which bought Lockheed Martin IMSA a year ago.

Crawford told the board that he and his staff simply became complacent. "I think we got lazy because we thought that we were perfect for so long," Crawford said.

The problem and its cost rankled supervisors, who, at the board's meeting, noted that Crawford was asking permission to extend the one-year lease for three more years without asking approval each time--a possible total expenditure of $2.5 million. Supervisor Todd Spitzer told Crawford to ask for approval each year.

Crawford later said that his staff had been preoccupied with enhancing the county's Web services.

"No one thought to say, 'OK, we should do a complete analysis.' We were in the midst of e-commerce and everyone forgot the mainframe because we've been focusing on the Web," he said.

He anticipated leasing more power for as long as two years. Two major data processing clients, the Municipal Court and Social Services Agency, are planning to leave the county's main system within two years, which is expected to free computer power, he said.

For nearly two years, the county's information technicians have been trying to streamline public access and create a paperless process for business transactions.

Online services now allow the public to pay traffic fines, view pictures of animals up for adoption, schedule an appointment with a building inspector, apply for a county job and perform other such tasks.

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