Middleburg Heights mulls computer system overhaul for city offices

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — City Council members have received an overview of a proposal to overhaul the city’s outdated computer systems.

Currently, there are 196 city email addresses, more than 118 city-owned computers in operation and five separate domains, Middleburg Heights Finance Director Jason Stewart said at the Nov. 2 Finance Committee meeting.

“The mayor and I have spent the better part of the last six months discussing how best to centralize and modernize our IT environments,” Stewart told the committee. “It is clear to us we need to move in a unified direction.”

Nick Artman of Addo Solutions provided the city a technical report indicating that several systems issues exist. They include inadequate hardware, network design and architecture failures, software licensing inconsistencies, and usage policy shortfalls.

A multi-phased solution has been recommended.

The first phase would upgrade the physical infrastructure to improve security, system performance and capacity for future growth. Cost estimates range from $45,000 to $85,000, depending on the variables selected. Phase 1 also would consolidate the five domains into one.

“Security is the main concern,” Stewart emphasized. “We’re seeing a proliferation of ransomware attacks. The mayor would like to move forward sooner rather than later.”

Phase 1 would be funded through an appropriation this year, with Phase 2 accounted for in the 2021 budget. Out-of-compliance city PCs would be updated in Phase 2, with Stewart estimating that 20 computers would be replaced annually.

Finance Committee Chairman and Council President David Bortolotto emphasized the importance of preserving data already stored on the system. Stewart assured him that no data would be lost in the transition.

Bortolotto also mentioned restrictions on authorization and access, noting that the level of risk can be greater in a political environment, such as with City Council, than in a corporate environment.

“We have to be cautious and careful and mindful that we’re doing this the right way,” Bortolotto said.

Council plans to have the system consultant attend the next Finance Committee meeting.

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