City considers public vs private sector I.T. solutions

The Mayor, Common Council and Controller heard proposals from Montgomery County and Liberteks of Albany, NY to provide continuing information technology services for the city at a Committee of the Whole meeting last Wednesday

According to Dan Colon, Director of Montgomery County’s Data Processing Department, the county has been providing technical support for the city’s computers and servers on a month to month basis at a rate of $96/hour.

“What I’ve noticed over the past couple of years is that we’ve been having kind of a hard time keeping up with things,” said Colon, “you really need to have more of an advocate for the city who is here.”

Colon referred to recent problems with viruses on city PC’s which may have sent out spam emails that resulted in the city’s mail server being listed on several email “blacklists.” When a server is listed on a blacklist, it may prevent legitimate emails from being delivered to servers that use blacklists to filter out potential spam. It was noted that delivery problems to email addresses at state offices may have been a result of being on those blacklists. Colon said it took several weeks to remove the city’s server from the various blacklists.

“I personally think your best bet would be to hire your own full-time I.T. person, that way you have someone in the building, you have someone here who understands your [KVS accounting system], your network and all the different pieces. It’s hard to do that when you’re just called when there’s a problem,” said Colon.

Colon went on to say that hiring a full-time I.T. person would also be the most expensive option. Therefore he offered an alternative plan to have a county employee at City Hall 3 days a week. He said the cost for this option would be $40,000 per year and would include work to increase network security and upgrading the city’s workstations and two servers. The cost for hardware upgrades would come from the county’s I.T. budget.

Controller Matthew Agresta brought up a recent three-week delay in deploying needed computers at the city which was caused by the county redirecting their staff to other problems. He asked Colon how he would guarantee that the county employee would not be pulled away from City Hall for other types of work. Colon assured that his department would adhere to the contract terms.

Three representatives of Liberteks, including company founder Larry Zimbler pitched their services next. The key points made were that they had a large staff with a diverse skill set, they would use an organized ticketing system to document and resolve problems, and would implement a monitoring system to help spot potential hardware problems before they happened. They also proposed replacing the outdated server the city uses to provide internet connectivity and security with a dedicated firewall/router appliance.

According to Agresta, Liberteks’ proposal includes a flat $14,400 per year fee for server and network support, off site backup service and annual software license fees. Additional tech support would be provided for $85 per hour. However, the cost to purchase and install new workstations, servers and other network hardware would have a one-time price of $62,450.

Commenting after the meeting, Agresta said he felt upgrading the city’s I.T. infrastructure was an important priority that needed to be worked on as soon as possible. He said he was concerned that although the county would take the cost of hardware upgrades out of their own budget, that they would do the work over a period of time as compared to Liberteks who would do the work all at once. He also expressed concern as to whether having a county employee at City Hall three days a week was enough to adequately address all the issues associated with the proposed upgrades.


County Proposal

$40,000 flat fee per year
Includes: county employee at city hall for 3 days a week, tech support, various other services
Hardware upgrade and installation, software upgrades/license renewals to workstations and servers

Liberteks Proposal

$24,018 (estimated) per year*
Includes: Software upgrades/license renewals, tech support, various other services
$62,450 one time price for hardware upgrades and installation

* Figure based on the cost of I.T. services from the county for the last quarter (January through March) which was $2648 at $96/hour according to the Controller’s office and Libertek’s proposed rate of $85/hour.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.