The impending warnings about data loss and the need for computer modernization which accompanied the commencement of the year 2000 (Y2K) caused Essex to thoroughly review its future computer infrastructure needs. A comprehensive computer needs assessment was performed in 1999 and recommendations generated by that assessment were implemented.
Over the past decade, the Town has steadily replaced computer systems which would not be compatible with today’s operating systems or networking standards. Today, all departments have equipment which is networked and which can accommodate industry standard operating systems and software (most recent hardware upgrade was in early 2011).
Networking the Town’s Computers
In fiscal year 2001 the Town approved funding for the networking of all of the computer systems in the Fire, Police, and Emergency Dispatch Departments. This network is fully operational and the original server was replaced in 2011. In fiscal year 2002, the Town approved funding for the networking of all of the computer systems in the Town Hall. This network is also fully operational and presently includes a general network server (replaced 2011), an accounting server (replaced 2010), and an Assessors’ server (replaced 2009). Severe budget constraints in fiscal years 2003-05 did not allow for network funding in the Town’s other major building, the Water Filtration Plant. However, a no-cost dedicated cable I-net link provided by Comcast has linked both existing networks together and a full local area network was funded and added to the Filtration Plant in early 2006 (server replaced 2011). The cable I-net has allowed the Town to share high-speed Internet, e-mail, file backup, and centralized virus protection capabilities among all three buildings and file sharing among the three networks.
The Town had operated a rudimentary website from 1999 to early 2008. The Town retained the services of a third party vendor to host a new website that allows each department to manage its own content. The new site offers a must more robust combination of information and resources. Also, the Town has deployed a disaster recovery server in New Hampshire and has created a near-site disaster recovery center at the Essex Elementary School.
The Town is actively working with the City of Melrose to migrate all major IT functions to the City's datacenter. In conjunction with recent moves to cloud-based software for some of the Town's functions, the goal is to eventually not have to replace expensive servers at all. The Town will instead rely on redundant Internet connections, appropriate switchgear, and thin-client computers to access data and programs that are stored and backed up exclusively off site. The Melrose option offers an economy of scale that translates to lower costs for more sophisticated technolgies offered by a professional IT department.