IT Archive

History of IT 

The history of information technology within Dauphin County closely parallels private sector and other public sector organizations. The first computer room/data center was located in the Courthouse, sandwiched between two courtrooms with no environmental controls, such as air conditioning to protect the technology, and limited room for growth. The County's first true data center was built in 1984 in the Veterans Building across the street from the Courthouse.
As commercially packaged software for local government was not ready to meet user needs, additional departmental applications were developed by in-house programming staff to serve various business functions in multiple areas. Applications of significance include those developed for Tax Assessment and the County Prison. The applications revolutionized the methods of these departments and provided integrated data services resulting in cross-functional improvements across the county. Furthermore, a data communications network was developed to transport data entry and on-line processing to end-users, providing information more quickly and improving workflows.
In 1988 the County acquired its first commercially-available Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution that provided complete integration of all financial services of County government. Of course, today, there are many solutions available for local government across the full spectrum of operations making custom development of software unnecessary.
By the mid-1980s, an industry makeover was beginning to take hold as micro-computing was becoming widely accepted. Office automation software that modernized routine business tasks could now also improve operations as well as departmental specific software. Dauphin County had decentralized islands of users that had formed and begun to experiment with this technology. Although it is a foreign concept today, it was difficult to imagine or gain support for a network of personal computers where all information workers would be equipped with technology at their desktops.
In 1993, Dauphin County installed its first local-area-network (LAN) for 25 users. This network consisted of 10BaseT Ethernet with fiber optic connections throughout the entire downtown Harrisburg campus. Maximum growth was estimated to be 100 users. By 1994, this number had already been exceeded and Dauphin County saw the benefits of an integrated network that delivered enterprise technology solutions such as electronic mail and office productivity software to the desktop.
The network reached over 750 users and touched every building in the County by the year 2000. At that time, additional funding for equipment and personnel was provided and a new data center was created in the County Administration Building. It provided a state-of-the-art infrastructure that would support over 1100 County users and new client-server applications that were now available to County departments. New financial software, tax software, and Court-related software were installed to boost productivity. Also, Internet processing became an important method of delivering services to citizens.
In 2003, Dauphin County began to focus on the deployment of advanced enterprise solutions including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and document management. Dauphin County had long been considered a "black-hole" for GIS data with disparate systems operating in Tax Assessment, Emergency Management, and Tri-County Planning. The IT Department began a process to develop standards amongst these departments and provide a mechanism to share data. By 2005, a county-wide tax parcel layer had been developed that could be integrated with all departments, and data sharing began. Now, Dauphin County is a leader in new GIS infrastructure techniques and web-based services for this valuable data. Also, the introduction of an enterprise-wide document management solution enabled new possibilities for electronic storage and retrieval, as well as improved workflows.
Today, IT is an integral part of every facet of County government. Due to the universal need for IT in all county departments, IT is working across departmental boundaries and helping to create cross-functional solutions that improve operations and bring better services to the citizens of Dauphin County.
Dauphin County Virtualization Project
In [Insert Date], Dauphin County converted the data center from physical machines to virtual machines, using VMware software. This change allowed us to
Optimize existing resources: Virtualization allows for multiple operating systems and applications to run simultaneously on the same piece of hardware, increasing server utilization by up to 80%.
Reduce data center costs: Virtualization will significantly reduce the amount of IT hardware in our datacenter because each physical server will be able to host several virtual machines. Fewer servers means less money spent on hardware and maintenance costs.
Increase availability of hardware and applications: Virtualization makes it possible for us to perform server maintenance without taking applications offline, which allows for less planned downtime.
Reduce energy costs: Physical servers require energy to run and regulate their temperatures. Every server that is virtualized saves 7,000 kWh of electricity and four tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server
Dauphin County has implemented a new employee based Intranet using Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS). This intranet allows us to broadcast announcements, important HR releases, and departmental forms. This technology has resulted in more efficient communication, collaboration and reduced paper handling throughout the county.
Web 2.0 Social Networking
Dauphin County ventured into the Web 2.0 experience and now uses social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to promote new media and upcoming events to an expanding audience.

IT Accomplishments Archive
The following is a summary of some of the most interesting past IT projects.
Recorder of Deeds

In 2004, Recorder of Deeds James Zugay began a comprehensive search for a computerization software system that would be easy to use and allow for efficient recording and detailed searching. He selected the Oncore recording system by Aptitude Solutions, and it was implemented in 2006.
The system allowed for a shift from hand-clocked, hand-stamped and photocopied documents stored physically at the county to scanned and digitized documents stored on computers, accessible on the Internet. As a result, recording and researching documents at the Recorder of Deeds is easier and more convenient for professional searchers and Dauphin County citizens alike. In addition, over 4.2 million historical images have been scanned to provide an index and library of documents that date back to 1979.
This project was funded by the County Records Improvement Fund (ACT 8), which was established to support development and improvement of records management activities. This fund is created by user fees charged for usage of the Office of the Recorder of Deeds; no property-tax funds were used.
Register of Wills
In 2005 the Register of Wills began a comprehensive search to identify and implement a computerized system for the Register of Wills office. After reviewing numerous state vendors, LANDEX was selected due to its proven history of successful use throughout Pennsylvania. It was implemented in 2006.
The "Register of Wills Image and Information System" is a fully integrated windows-based, client/server system that meets the needs and requirements of the Register of Wills as well as the Clerk of the Orphans Court. The application consists of numerous modules including Document Recording, Docket Management, Accounting, and various Indexing Functions as well as Public Access and Retrieval of Documents. All documents are now electronically scanned, digitized and stored, meeting state electronic reporting requirements.
Other system enhancements were explored, including back-scanning of the numerous documents that were processed prior to implementation of the system and electronic public access to the information.
This system was funded by the County Records Improvement Fund (ACT 8), thus no General Fund dollars were used.
Public Defender
The 2006 budget declared priority for operational, technological improvements within the Public Defender’s Department. The result was implementation of a complete case management system, “Legal Edge,” and an automated personnel scheduling program developed with Med-Media, a local software company.
"Legal Edge" software, available to all legal and clerical staff, administers all client information and activity. The information is available on-line, eliminating extensive searching with paper files. Furthermore, this software is integrated into a comprehensive imaging module that incorporates file documents into basic case information.  
The scheduling program provides immediate information about an attorney's current responsibility and future caseloads, making scheduling easier and more efficient for clerical staff more efficiency in scheduling.
Web Site Redevelopment
After a year of research and planning with input from the local business community, citizens and County staff, the new County web site was introduced in early 2007. The site was designed with the help of andCulture, who built a new framework that improved navigation and reorganized the extensive County information. andCulture also delivered an enterprise content management system to distribute web maintenance and update activities across multiple editors, giving non-technical staff the ability to build specific content for public display. These eGovernment solutions improved service delivery to constituents.
Some key improvements are as follows:

  • Updated pictures of the County showcase the beauty of our region and illustrate why it is a great place to live and work.
  • Clear information and easier navigation create an improved, comprehensive view of all aspects of county government.
  • Emphasis on current news and events efficiently communicate important information to the citizens of Dauphin County.
  • Implementation of backend technology allows the county to continually provide new features. 
Adult Probation: Mobility Project
The County workforce is becoming more mobile, calling for updated technology to support this mobility. So, IT started an ambitious and innovative program with the Adult Probation Department, in collaboration with Hewlett-Packard, to provide tablet computers (in place of desktop computers) to Probation officers. The computers provided traditional case information and replaced manual paper logbooks used to capture case notes. This information is now recorded and stored electronically, protecting the data from loss or corruption, reducing the amount of time officers spend in the office, and granted supervisors immediate access to case notes.
IT Infrastructure Upgrade
Server Infrastructure
In late 2005, the Dauphin County IT department upgraded their entire data center, choosing Hewlett-Packard Corporation as the lead equipment supplier. The HP BladeSystem is an integrated, consolidated infrastructure that can include computer nodes such as servers or desktops, storage, networking, and power, all virtualized and automated through a common management framework. This eliminated the need for additional County purchases of legacy mainframe based technology resulted in cost reduction in data center technology and a more flexible infrastructure that allows the County to keep pace with the ever-changing technical environment of the industry.
The value of an HP BladeSystem:

  • Lower acquisition costs: HP BladeSystems with a Fibre Channel connection are more than 22 percent less expensive than comparable rack-mounted infrastructures.
  • Operational cost savings: Setup time decreases from 12 hours to 30 minutes per server, and implement changes, updates, and reconfigurations decrease from 4 hours to 30 minutes.
  • Reductions in cable complexity: Cabling is reduced by 87 percent, saving $100 to $350 per 10/100 network port. Need for KVM switches and cables eliminated through Advanced Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management capability, saving up to an additional $25,000 for each rack.
  • Data center space savings: The amount of space required in the data center is reduced by more than 50 percent, supporting as many as 96 blades in the same space as 42 1U rack-mounted servers. Greater density frees rack space for technologies such as SANs, which can reduce needed storage capacity by as much as 50 percent and extend space savings.
  •  More efficient power usage: Saves over $6,000 per rack of 32 servers through reduced power consumption and lower power distribution costs.
  • Improved power and cooling efficiency: HP BladeSystems were designed specifically to meet future power demands, such as an increasing number of servers and increasing consumption in the data center due to the higher performance speed of next-generation processors.

    New technologies like 68-watt AMD Opteron processors, Intel Xeon processors, and HP power management tools that can monitor and dynamically adjust the power consumption can significantly reduce the power required and heat generated. Unlike standard rack-mounted servers or other blade server designs, which have dual power supplies in each server or blade enclosure, HP BladeSystems incorporate a centralized power subsystem at the bottom of the rack. This provides better monitoring and reliability. In addition, this design reduces the cooling requirements compared to rack mounted servers, where individual server power supplies demand more cooling capacity from top to bottom of the rack. Instead, the bottom-based power subsystem (along with the reduction of cables throughout the rack) enables better airflow through the rack, and contains the heat of the power supplies at the bottom of the rack, where cooler air generally resides in a data center. The consolidated power subsystem of BladeSystems reduces power distribution costs by eliminating the need for PDUs in the enclosure and by reducing the need for multiple power feeds in each enclosure, which alone can save up to an additional $3,000 per rack.
  • Improved availability at lower cost: The integrated infrastructure eliminates downtime that occurs due to various causes, such as cable, server, storage, and switch failures; human configuration errors; and software, power, and cooling problems. Time to repair these problems can also be significantly reduced, cutting both planned and unplanned downtime.
SAN Infrastructure
To compliment the HP BladeSystem, Dauphin County chose an HP EVA8000 Storage Area Network (SAN) system to address expanding data storage needs.
Features and benefits:
  • Reduced costs and complexity: The EVA8000 combined with HP StorageWorks Command View software offers simplicity, security and automation of any SAN and lowers total-cost-of-ownership (TCO). The EVA provides online LUN growth, easy dynamic capacity expansion, instantaneous data replication and optimized performance.
  • Adapts in real time: New controllers with 2Gb and 4Gb connectivity double the cache mirroring ports (from early generations) for improved I/O performance. Outstanding virtualization ensures all the disks in the array are used more efficiently without stranded capacity, keeping them busier and eliminating bottlenecks that lower performance.
  • Online expansion and tiered storage: The EVA8000 provides the capability to quickly add physical disks online, increasing capacity without restrictions typically associated with capacity expansion. It also mixes High Performance and FATA drives on the same enclosure for maximum efficiency/cost savings.
  • Investment protection: State-of-the-art virtualization improves performance, disk usage, and allows for easy dynamic expansion. New disks are added to groups and the controller automatically distributes data and removes potential hot spots.
  • High capacity: EVA8000supports up to 84TB in a single cabinet and up to 120TB with an expansion cabinet of versatile storage capacity using any combination of high performance Fibre Channel and/or low cost (500GB) FATA drives while supporting all Vraid types.
Security: Video Surveillance
Information Technology staff collaborated with the County Prison to implement a new, state-of-the-art video surveillance system to improve physical security and monitoring capabilities at the Prison and Schaffner Youth Detention Center. The technology captures video images from a large number of cameras and stores them in a single data repository with room for up to 30 days of video recording. Footage relevant to documented incidents can be retrieved from any authorized computer and archived. The system also has the capability to be expanded throughout the County to improve security operations.

Document Management  
Dauphin County adopted cost-effective imaging technology for document management. For example, using an enterprise document management system, OnBase, IT has been able to develop solutions such as a legacy-based application system for the Children & Youth Department. Client data is linked to scanned documents to provide an online file folder for office workers. The County also implemented an automated civil court system with an integrated imaging module. These imaging technology initiatives reduce office space and storage costs, improve security of documents and access to documents, which increases workflow and service delivery.