Removing the Hassle of IT Management
Nestled in California’s Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County is known for its unique blend of beaches, mountains and rural, “old-time” California charm. Agriculture, tourism and California Polytechnic State University are the pillars of its economy, and the County is the state’s third largest producer of wine. Known for its rich history, the County is also home to Hearst Castle and Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which was founded in 1772.
ONE DEPARTMENT OF MANY
Running an environmental health department is resource-intensive in its own right. Coupled with the demands of hardware and software maintenance, many organizations can quickly become overwhelmed. As San Luis Obispo County Environmental Health Services discovered, sometimes you have to strategically relinquish some control to have better overall command over your business.
“It was not just lack of staff,” explains Director Curt Batson, when asked why his department transitioned its Accela Environmental Health solution from an agency-hosted environment to an Accela-hosted one in 2010. “San Luis Obispo County has centralized County IT and health agency IT, and our Division depends completely on both. But we’re one department of many, and they often have higher priorities.”
Robin Hendry was providing part-time IT support to several departments. “I was allocated about ve hours a week to Environmental Health,” says Robin, “which made for a delicate balance. You have to manage day-to- day problems, users, configuration and updates to the software, in another department would keep me from coming over to help,” she continues. “Once, a Microsoft service patch came through and basically killed the server. Fixing those things can take a while, and they are kind of scary! I could spend my whole month’s time allocation in one week.”
Even with her expertise, the division was still impacted by the demands of maintaining its system. In addition to time spent on data and configuration, says Curt, “There were also the servers, hardware and software. They’d get old and need to be updated and you’d have this unexpected expense that you had to come up with periodically.”
Such demands were often overshadowed by more pressing program priorities. “These technology needs were rarely on my radar,” says Curt. “I was trying to deal with environmental health issues. I’m the budget guy, I’m the program guy. I’m just not thinking about anticipating IT needs. And so once you hear that something’s wrong, you make the request to IT, and it has to t into the priorities of the other divisions agency-wide. It might get done in six months, or it might not.”
Also, just because an upgrade was needed didn’t mean Environmental Health could move forward. Explains Robin, “Agency IT couldn’t unilaterally say, ‘Okay, everybody is going to go to the latest version of Windows Server,’ because there was always one department running software that didn’t work on that version, and so everyone would be held back.”
THE NO-HASSLE APPROACH TO IT MANAGEMENT
Moving to a hosted environment is contingent on several variables, including agency policy, Internet reliability and bandwidth, and how much control the agency prefers or is required to maintain over its system’s maintenance. For many Accela Environmental Health customers, though, the benefits of operating in the cloud, unburdened by technical demands, make it an easy decision.
“It became clear that hosting was our best option,” says Curt. “With Accela’s cloud hosting, I am a higher priority. The only decisions I have to make is when I want to upgrade software versions, and beyond the monthly fee, I don’t have to budget for anything else.”
The transition happened very quickly and Curt is now free to focus on the work most important to him: environmental health. “It’s almost hard to compare before and after, because everything just happens now, quite seamlessly. Whereas before it was a conscious decision that had to be made, when you had to purchase the software or hardware and then get in line for priority. From my point of view, that’s great. It’s very critical to our operation, but it just doesn’t come up all the time, and I trust the service and that my data is secure.”