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City moves on after data loss

Weeks later, the city is now up to date and ready to get back to normal
by: Jeff Spiegel City Manager Bill Elliot is just glad the data restoration process is over with.

When City Manager Bill Elliot got the call that the IT department couldn't find the city's last data backup, he knew things were bad. Now six weeks later, Elliot has fully realized just how bad they were.

The problem started when the city decided to upgrade its financial software from version 6 to version 7, and unfortunately when the switch was made, the process of backing up the data stopped.

Elliot describes the mistake as an honest one made by the city's longtime service provider, Reliance Connects, but the blame can't sit all in one place.

'This was an area they weren't equipped to handle,' he said, 'they do IT stuff, Internet, phone and all of that because that's what they are geared to do.'

Now running out of options, the city did the only thing it could - make do with what it had. So after two weeks of working with a data restoration company in California to attempt to find more recent data unsuccessfully, the city rolled up its sleeves and got to work.

'We were instantly transported into last October, and everything was gone,' Elliot recalls. 'So we dove in and started taking paper printouts and reentering the data.'

Now, just weeks after losing almost a year's worth of financial data, Elliot is proud to say that the city is now up to date.

In regard to city payroll, an interesting approach was taken to ensure that everyone got paid on time. The payroll department went back and looked at what a 'typical' paycheck looked like for every employee, and used that amount for paychecks due in the middle of the month. Once up to date with all of the data, the city made adjustments on the following paychecks. If the first paycheck didn't account for extra hours worked, that amount was added to the next check. If the first paycheck included too much money, the second paycheck had that amount removed from it.

The second big problem the city faced was getting accurate utility bills out in time. However, the city opted not to charge anyone late fees because these bills were in fact late in arriving. The good news is that the bills set to come out at the beginning of October will arrive accurately and on time.

Looking back, it was a long, tough process for everyone at City Hall, but it is one they all seemed to have learned from. At the moment, Elliot is in the process of tracking down a new company to back up the city's data, and once that decision is made, all data will be backed up daily.

In the meantime, the city is backing up its data within the office on thumb drives that are stored off site while all financial records are being backed up by a third-party company.

The best news for the city might be that its insurance likely will cover all or most of the added cost of this process has provided.

'We're keeping track of all our expenses, such as the temporary help we hired, the company hired to restore data and any overtime worked as a result of this, and we're going to submit a claim to the insurance company so that we can get a big chunk of this back,' Elliot said.

As for whether the city plans to go after the people who left them in this position, Elliot has taken the honorable position of forgiveness.

'If we're made whole, then I'm fine,' he said. 'Yes, it was a lot of work and a lot of grief, and we all lost sleep over it, but this is a local company who we're still going to do business with, and it doesn't do any good to go out and trash somebody. Mistakes get made, so as far as I'm concerned, I'll let the insurance company deal with it.'