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IT actually delivers some help

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At a time when every other city department seems to be screaming for more resources in light of soaring energy and transportation costs, the Information Technology Department actually asked for less last week. IT bucked the current trend—and debunked an unfair stigma that computer help desks aren’t always helpful—by cutting costs to the point where they asked for $8,000 less than last year.

“In the city’s budget it’s just a drop in the bucket, but once you get a lot of drops, it’s a whole cup,” says Ali Mathews, an IT Procurement Specialist with the city.

With a six-person staff servicing more than 375 citywide users, IT Director Carl Horton says they’ve managed to trim operating expenses and avoid some of the major costs impacting other departments, such as maintenance of vehicle fleets. IT will continue to purchase and replace computers for city staff—services that make up a large share of their budget—but Horton explains declining computer prices make that process increasingly affordable. In addition, rabbit-paced technological developments are helping the department reconfigure “back-end” data storage more efficiently.

“We’re now putting five servers into one physical box,” Horton says. “Two years ago that would have been five separate pieces of hardware.”

Streamlining their help-desk to interface with other departments has also reduced travel, energy costs and time. City employees with crashed computers or finicky software communicate their needs to the IT folks through an online form. Then IT responds with a phone call, visit or by “remote-controlling,” which allows them to access someone’s computer and walk through a problem without ever being in the same room.

“In the time we could drive out to the fire department to help fix an incident, we could stay here and fix several incidents,” Mathews says. In a pinch, he says the department does have a van.

“It doesn’t get filled more than six or seven times a year though.”

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