New server runs 10 county departments

Published 11:22 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

The new IBM AS/400 server at the Chilton County Courthouse hardly ever sleeps. Even after everyone has gone home, it continues to work throughout the night.

The $70,000-plus machine replaces an older model that served 10 county departments. Easily doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the new server boasts a hard drive space of 250 gigabytes but takes up only half the storage space.

“We pretty much at a minimum doubled all our capacities,” said County Information Systems director Matt Taylor.

But what does that mean to department heads and workers at the courthouse? It means a lot less time is required to complete certain tasks.

For example, when the tax assessor calculates property tax at the end of the fiscal year, this task will take between 10 and 15 minutes compared to 45 minutes with the old server. Needless to say, that saves a lot of valuable time because the program has to run several times to eliminate all the errors.

“If we have to run the program six or seven times in a day, we will save roughly two hours,” Taylor said.

Overall, the server connects about 80 computers used by the county commission, probate judge, tax collector, tax assessor, mapping, sheriff’s department, board of registrars, E-911, tag department and information systems. It stores about three decades worth of information, including 300,000 scanned images from the probate office.

“There’s data on this server that was entered into the original computer we had in the ‘80s,” Taylor said. “When we put a computer in of this size, we don’t have to worry about leaving out any data we might need.”

The new System i5 (the older model was a Type 9406) also features a “hot-swappable” hard drive that can be changed out without having to shut the system down, should the hard drive ever crash.

“We’ve never had that problem, but if we do, we’ll have that technology there,” Taylor explained.

The county got six years’ use out of the old server and expects the same out of the new one. Because it was purchased through a five-year payment plan, the county will not have any payments the sixth year.

“We really push it and stretch it to try to get that one year with no payments,” Taylor said.