City Hall Hit Hard by Computer Outage

November 18, 2015

By Joe Rizzo - Contributing Writer

There is a feeling that as we continue to gather information it will always be safe and secure, and as long as we do regular backups, we will never lose any valuable information. Another wise option is to have an uninterrupted power supply (UPS).

Whether you are trying to protect your small home office, personal devices, or huge datacenters, there is no substitute for well-placed UPSs. There is a good feeling knowing that you have time to safely close all of your open applications and shut down your system. If that is not enough, then you can also charge your smartphones and tablets one last time.

A power outage is easily dealt with if you have a UPS, but what happens when one of those all too familiar computer glitches hits? Unfortunately the citizens of Lawrence, Indiana, found out the hard way when what was supposed to be a simple software update created a huge computer outage.

The first problem is that dozens of city services were severally impacted by the outage. The second problem was the fact that the software update failed to restore the server's original settings. It seems that as much as 10 weeks of citywide data was sent somewhere into cyber space. The information is floating around out there, but is inaccessible.

While a scenario like this is not unheard of there is another interesting fact to consider. What makes this a concern is that the glitch came just two days after first-term Mayor Dean Jessup lost an election. This is being viewed as either strange, or just an incredible lucky stroke of timing.

Lawrence Councilman Carl Barnett said, "That's kind of strange to see and coincidental that this happens after the election, when we're trying to review some of the records of our accounting department."

Incredible timing or was it a well-placed strategy? A main area of concern is not when the data will be recovered, but if it can be recovered at all. The town of Lawrence is looking at some major headaches in dealing with how and if its citizen will be able to pay their bills and have them recorded properly.

Until the problem is resolved another concern is whether or not the city can correctly access utility and water usage for billing. The city said that it is possible that when and if the data is recovered and reconstituted it could have errors which Lawrence will have to deal with on a citizen-by-citizen basis.

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