The original grant proposal called for the production of CD ROMs for various departments starting with the Treasurer's Office and the County Clerk. The purpose was to compress non-permanent records to alleviate a storage crisis in the near future.
Since the County Clerk has decided to utilize a Clerk-specific hardware/software system, The Planning Department was substituted for that office.
A consulting grant from the previous year, as well as the written comments from the grant panel, made it clear that it was advisable in install a server, rather than to depend totally on CD ROM production. The Department of RAIMS thus purchased a Compaq server instead of a stand-alone computer. The Information Services Department installed the necessary cables and hardware to hook up the RAIMS server to the County Intranet.
Comments from the grant panel required some significant rethinking of the project, and some reconfiguration of the intended hardware/software system. A server, running on Microsoft Windows NT rather than Windows 95 was substituted and made accessible to Department of RAIMS employees as well as other departments.
With permission of SARA, we also substituted a XEROX Docucentre 230 for the originally specified Panasonic KV-SS25D. The Docucentre is directly hooked up to the RAIMS server. The purpose of the substitution was to increase the versatility of the system. The Docucentre with associated Docucentre and Docushare software permits seemless scanning, uploading, printing and faxing. The versatility of the system has been increased significantly by permitting potentially 25 departments to upload and share their documents, while at the same time permitting various access settings. Docushare software can automatically convert documents to HTML for web-like applications. It also produces an automatic text index permitting every conceivable Boolean search. The entire system requires minimal training and virtually no more technical skills than running a typical XEROX machine.
Although Docushare on the server can be accessed by anyone in the County, the RMO as system administrator, has up to now restricted access to read only. The reason for this is to permit the Department of RAIMS to have primary access to the server and to upload scanned documents without delays. For this year, at least, the primary thrust has to be the compression of records to avoid filling the Records and Archives Center. The RMO also needs control to assure error-free scanning since non-permanent records are destroyed once they are in electronic form.
Only the most frequently accessed records are actually kept on the server. Once access of a records series drops to two per months, the series is downloaded and burned onto a CD-ROM. One copy is sent to the originating department and one is retained by the Department of RAIMS. Should more immediate access become necessary again, the information on CD-ROM can be uploaded to the server. This usage cycle permits the most efficient utilization of the server.
Lest it be thought that the installation and configuration worked as smoothly as advertised ..it did not. The challenge with "cutting edge" technology is not so much the hardware and software as the fact that training of technicians seems to lag significantly behind. Xerox claims, that the system could be set up and configured by the end user, was absolute nonsense. Our IS Department has some of the most knowledgeable technicians. Despite hours of telephone conversations with XEROX "experts," they were unable to integrate Docushare software into the system. Of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that Xerox shipped an older version of the software. Xerox technicians, who visited the Records and Archives Center, were skilled in their very narrow fields, but had not received an overall technical training so necessary for an integrated system. It is my suspicion that each new technician undid the work of the previous one. Although we could copy, print, and scan and burn CD's, the pivotal part - Docushare - was not usable until a good five months later. XEROX had finally decided that a systems analyst was essential, and after two more days, everything was working smoothly. Without a doubt, I - and probably XEROX - went through very frustrating weeks. Now that the system is working the way I expected it to be, I would not happily exchange it for any other system.
Evidently, the Ontario County experience has persuaded XEROX that a system analyst was essential to maximize the capabilities of Docucentre. Although I am pleased with the system, I urge potential buyers to insist from the beginning that a system analyst will do all the setups.
For the versatility of the system, the cost is reasonable. The Compaq server with tape backup was $6,700.00. The Xerox Docucentre with the essential software configuration came to $19,600, plus an annual service contract of $1,645.
The first stage of the project took longer than expected, and the second stage - the installation of a second high-speed scanner station with a Panasonic High Speed Duplex scanner is in its infancy. However, by the end of the year, the high speed scanning station will help alleviate major storage problems. As with the Docucentre, the second scanning station has the dual capability of retaining files on the server or on CD-ROM. The second station cost approximately $6,000. The cost is lower because the system utilizes the same software as the Docucentre, but does not have the same versatility.
Despite obvious delays and frustrations, the project is a major step toward compressing files and toward alleviating major storage problems. To date, approximately 150,000 documents have been scanned and made available either on the server or in CD-ROM format - equivalent of 65 cubic boxes. The goal is to compress at least 300 cubic boxes of records per year to achieve a zero increase in storage boxes. The staff is now comfortable with this technological change, and the goal should be achieved in 2000.
There has to be some re-training on the departmental level. To speed up the actual process of scanning, records will need to be in better order - less staples, frequent changing of printer ribbons, a clear file description, etc. Actual preparation time at this moment still exceeds scanning time. The RMO intends to provide training in pre-scanning preparations.
3) The RAO has made several visits to the Record and Archives Center. Because of the RAC meetings and various workshops, we a in frequent contact.
4) The full Records Advisory Committee meets only once a year for planning purposes. For special projects, such as the technology projects, sub-groups of the Advisory Committee meet. For instance, the technology project was a primary concern of the IS Head, the County Attorney, The Finance Officer and the County Clerk. The RMO found that focus groups result in more valuable meetings.
5) The Ontario County Board of Supervisors has been consistently supportive of records management and the Department of RAIMS. The annual budget of the department is just short of $300,000. Special recognition must be given to the Information Services Department that sees to it that the Department of RAIMS has the newest computer equipment. For the particular technology project, IS had to wire the building and provide the necessary hardware to connect the RAIMS server to the County Intranet.
6) The Department of RAIMS has the mission of making inactive and archival records readily available to departments or to outside researchers AND (by order of the Board of Supervisors) to avoid running out of space and forcing taxpayers to fund an additional capital project. LGRMIF grants have "jump-started" any new project in the department - from adding an Assistant RMO, through microfilm compression of permanent records, to electronic record compression as exemplified by this grant. The County has consistently picked up the cost of continuing the various projects. For instance, the present project has persuaded the County to contract with Anacomp to compress permanent financial records through COM fiche (for archiving) and user-friendly CD-ROM for daily use. The grant funds, however, are crucial to the growth of records management because the permit the development of successful demonstration projects. It is far easier to persuade a governing board to fund a successful project that can be seen first hand rather than an idea.
7) Ontario County will continue to fund the staff and the service contracts for hardware/software. During the year 2000, the Board will reserve $20,000 in capital funds to repair/replace/upgrade any equipment at the Department of RAIMS.
8) Compression of non-permanent hardcopy files through electronic scanning will contribute to make records more accessible to departments. Perhaps even more important, the grant will permit the County to concentrate on records management itself rather than diverting County funds into brick and mortar projects. There is no doubt that the County would find it impossible to "sell" to the taxpayers another major capital project, considering the County faces the most expensive capital project in history by building a new jail.