South Dakota County Still Struggles with Google Email

Officials in Brown County, S.D., continue to address a year-long communications issue that causes delivery of emails from Gmail accounts to be delayed or not arrive at all.

by / April 17, 2018

A South Dakota county that is home to the state’s third largest city has made considerable progress but continues to face an unidentified communications issue that is delaying or preventing delivery of emails sent via the email service of one of the world’s largest technology companies.

Brown County in eastern-central South Dakota, home to county seat Aberdeen, has experienced late arrivals and non-deliveries of emails sent from Google or Gmail addresses, for what Chief Information Officer Paul Sivertsen said has been “a little over a year.”

The delay or non-delivery is not “subject to one user, one Gmail or one Brown County email,” Sivertsen told Government Technology via email.

It “randomly affects all our departments,” he added — but doesn’t necessarily affect all such email to any one account. However, it continues to apply to not only the actual emails, but the typical follow-up “delayed sent” messages as well, which tell a recipient that an email has been delayed. Emails, the CIO said, may arrive 12 to 36 hours later.

“This issue is very random, which makes troubleshooting and correction very complicated,” Sivertsen said, noting that it appears unrelated to a similar issue the county experienced in July, when employees were unable to send or receive emails because the agency’s server was full.

The county utilizes an Exchange server and is not a Google customer, the CIO said, indicating the agency has had difficulty reaching the technology company. A representative of Google declined to comment to GT.

Brown County continues a comprehensive troubleshooting process that includes sending a variety of test messages to and from Google accounts; from Outlook accounts tied to Gmail; and through the Gmail Web interface. These include a variety of attachments including PDFs, spreadsheets, Word documents and photographs. Some arrive instantly, Sivertsen said, but others appear hours or days later, or not at all.

The county has also explored Google’s Frequently Asked Questions section, and potential corrective actions suggested in forums; and worked with the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications to explore records and redirects. Officials have also reviewed the configuration of the county’s Exchange server, firewalls and spam filters, retaining assistance from two outside Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert technicians.

Sivertsen said the issue has not yet resulted in any confirmed service interruptions. But earlier this month, The Associated Press reported it did affect emails from livestock exhibitors, entertainment buyers, fair board members and others to county fair managers, and nearly interrupted veterans’ services to at least one veteran.

Brown County veterans service officials did not respond to a request for comment. County Commissioner Duane Sutton referred a reporter to Sivertsen, who said the agency is “searching” for qualified providers who can provide quotes and proposals to permanently resolve the issue.

The CIO said the agency has introduced file upload capabilities in the Veterans Service Office and Human Resources areas of its website to enable veterans and job applicants to directly send files to county servers, which are secure, without needing to utilize Google.

“Obviously, any issue with electronic communication is very frustrating and very inconvenient for anyone affected by the issue. We are continuing to research the issue and continuing to reach out to qualified vendors in search of a resolution. We continue to work with anyone affected by this issue and find alternative solutions to ensure all county business is conducted as efficiently as possible,” Sivertsen said.

Editor's Note: After this article was published, Brown County CIO Paul Sivertsen was contacted by a Google representative offering to help him work through the email issue. 

Theo Douglas Staff Writer

Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.

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