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Report: Ceres needs to spend a lot to modernize IT infrastructure

Ceres City Hall has a lot of catching up to do as far as its computer infrastructure goes - and comes with a hefty price tag.

Last year the city contracted with Data Path, a consulting firm, to assess the IT infrastructure. Their $23,520 assessment was delivered to the City Council last week, outlining what the city needs to purchase and install in order to replace outdated equipment. For example, the city's Avaya Definity phone system, which has been in service since 1999, has reached the end of its life and could fail with little notice.

To do everything recommended in the extensive report would cost $780,000 for hardware, which could be spread out over a 60-month lease costing $13,000 per month. That figure does not include labor, however.

A phased approach would be less expensive as hardware costs are spread out over time and start with network and phone system upgrades on a site-by-site basis, said Farren Williams, the city's IT manager.

The city also has the option of doing a scaled-back implementation which he said is the "least ideal option." The approach would be to obtain a new phone system with used networking equipment and a scaled-back server solution with no disaster recovery.

Williams said the city has been holding off on investing in IT infrastructure because the recession resulted in decreases in revenue. Deferred maintenance can only be put off so long before the city experiences serious problems.

"Technology has not been updated at regular intervals," he said. "Equipment is generally replaced when it fails."

The city is lacking in many areas. Besides an antiquated phone system, the city's email system does not integrate well with its network infrastructure. Data Path also recommended:

• Making improvements to network infrastructure and connectivity;

• Developing a centralized and virtual server environment, disaster and backup recovery;

• Upgrading desktop computers and explore the option of using virtual desktops;

• Upgrade the city's analog security camera system which is also outdated and not easily supported. It should be replaced by a digital system.

Most of the city's desktop computers are running Windows XP or are more than five years old. Windows XP, of course, is no longer supported by Microsoft and will become less secure over time.