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Why Hasn’t an Idaho County Computer System Worked in Weeks?

The server failed after the county had some recent mechanical issues and power outages that affected older equipment, and also caused temperature changes in a computer room, officials say.

(TNS) — A server outage at the Boise County building in Idaho City has caused shutdowns of basic government services for around two weeks, particularly in the clerk’s office.

The server failed after the county had some recent mechanical issues and power outages that affected older equipment, and also caused temperature changes in a computer room, Ryan Stirm, one of three county commissioners, told the Idaho Statesman on Friday. He said the problems began around May 8.

“We’ve been fighting it tooth and nail the last couple weeks,” Stirm said. He said that the county was able to use a backup system on May 17 to administer the primary election, and that the court system and sheriff’s office systems are separate and have not been affected.

Stirm said some county employees have been able to get some work done from home while county offices have had to close for periods of time. Property assessment notices might be delayed this year, he said, in part because online property maps have been affected.

“We’re working on it as fast as we can; the majority of it is up now,” Stirm said.

“Outside of that, we’ve just been trying to put some money into it and get it all back up as it was before so that it doesn’t happen again.”

On Friday, the county clerk’s office was closed, according to its website, “due to issues with the system recovery of the county server.” On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, calls to the clerk went to voicemail, and a recorded message indicated that “the Boise County server is still down at this time. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”

Kenna Merrigan, an escrow manager with Empire Title in Meridian, told the Statesman on Wednesday that she has a client in Boise County who has been trying to purchase a home since May 12, but the county recorder has been unable to retrieve the necessary documents.

Merrigan said she’s been calling the recorder’s office roughly every other day.

“I’ve done this for 25-plus years and I’ve never had this happen where someone cannot record,” she said, adding that her buyer has had to delay the arrival of scheduled moving trucks.

“They just tell you every day that they are going to try and record that day,” she said.

Alex Nguyen, a resident of Garden Valley, told the Statesman that the server problem temporarily left him unable to close on a new home, which came at a cost.

After trying to close on a purchase on May 17, Nguyen said he learned from his lender and title company that the server was down. By last Friday, the title company was able to close, he said.

Before then, Nguyen said he had negotiated a mortgage-rate lock with a lender while he purchased and closed on his new home. His rate lock was good for only a short period of time, he said, and he had to pay to have it extended during the server outage. He said he also accrued charges from the seller because he wound up missing the sale deadline.

He said others might be in worse situations if they timed the sale of an old house with the purchase of a new one.

Nguyen works in information technology and told the Statesman that he is a database administrator. He said the county’s problems suggest some potentially serious issues.

“If it’s just one server and it took down the system — whether it’s the county clerk or the entire system — I think that’s really scary,” he said, noting that it suggests the system has a “single point of failure.”

This means that if “there’s just one point within their network (that) fails, the entire system crashes,” he said.

Nguyen said advanced types of surge protection, precise temperature control and security in and around the server room are key parts of having a safe and functioning system, and the length of the outage makes him concerned that many fail-safes might not be in place.

“I’ve never experienced one server going down and taking out an entire network — an entire system — for over a week,” he said. “... If (the system) is archaic, you better make darn sure that you can recover from an outage that fries a single server.”

Emails sent by the Statesman to county employees on Saturday, including to the county clerk and recorder, failed to deliver, according to automated replies.

“There was a problem delivering your message,” one notification sent on Monday said.

© 2022 The Idaho Statesman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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