Property Tax Records Kept Safe, Thanks to i365
December 15, 2009 Alex Woodie
From his office 20 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Denton County Tax Assessor/Collector Steve Mossman has pondered potential disasters. “We could have a tornado, a hurricane, or an airplane that lands prematurely,” he says. “A 747 would make a real mess to try and recover records.” Thanks to the use of i365‘s online backup and recovery service, the county’s property tax records would survive a calamity, even if the iSeries server on which they’re stored does not.
By population, Denton County is the eighth largest county in Texas, and one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, having grown from about 430,000 at the start of the decade to about 630,000 today. Along the way, the property tax rolls have more than doubled, from 200,000 tracked parcels in 2000 to more than 427,000 today. Like many Texas counties, Denton County utilizes i OS-based property tax software from NET Data.
Over the last few years, Denton County has made a push for disaster preparedness. Mossman, who has been in office for seven years, considered the worst-case scenarios for his building on the plains of Texas, and what he’d need to do to prepare. “A flood is not likely, and a fire isn’t going to do a lot of damage to a concrete building,” he says. “The ultimate disaster is something like a 747 parking here. If that happened, everything is lost.”
Since the i5/OS tax solution was introduced 25 years ago, the county has had a two-pronged DR plan. First, tape backups are stored in a vault in the basement of the building, or in a separate vault in a building across the street. Second, if the iSeries server is lost, NET Data has the proven capability to get a new box ready to go in less than 24 hours.
Losing the iSeries server that manages the property tax records would not be good, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Denton County, which could afford a replacement (if not a secondary box. “Somebody would have a heart attack if I talked about buying one of those. It costs too much money,” he says).
But losing the data stored on tapes stored in basement vault, or in the vault across the street–that would be catastrophic for Mossman. “As the elected tax assessor/collector for the county, I am personally responsible for the data, and for all the money collected,” he says. “In the event of a major disaster, with all records being lost, we wouldn’t know who has paid and who hasn’t paid, and for what years.”
Faced with this potential predicament, Mossman–who at age 70 claims to not be computer literate (“if you want to talk about computers, talk to my sons”)–did what any competent, IT-savvy business manager would do: He got on the Internet and started searching for disaster recovery solutions for his iSeries application.
Mossman quickly formulated requirements for his new DR strategy. First, he needed a backup copy of his data to be stored at least 100 miles from his office, so that no single event could take out his production data as well as his backup. He preferred an online solution that would run automatically, because he feared that physically moving the data–by moving tapes or CDs by courier, for example–would be a weak link in the DR chain. Lastly he needed a long-term archive that could meet his regulatory mandate to store property tax records for at least 20 years.
The first search yielded the names of five online DR offerings for the iSeries. However, some of the vendors could only guarantee his data would be stored for 30 or 180 days, not the 20 years or more he needed. Also affecting his decision was the fact that some vendors were not as responsive to his requests as others.
“I sent an e-mail to i365, and within five minutes had a return call, and we were going,” Mossman says. “It came down to i365 as the company that provided what I perceived we needed, and had the customer service ability to make it happen, in a step-by-step friendly sort of way.”
This summer, Denton County’s property tax department went live with i365, the Seagate subsidiary that used to be called EVault. The initial bulk load involved 35 GB of property tax records, and today, i365 holds about 50 GB of Denton County’s data in its protected data vault.
Every morning, at about 3 a.m., an i365 agent loaded on the department’s iSeries server replicates any changes in the property tax records over the Internet to the i365 vault. The department still keeps tape backups onsite, in the event that an outage that costs it from one to five day’s worth of data. But for anything longer than a business week, the data would be fetched from i365.
Mossman, who has three years left in his final term, feels confident that he is leaving the county’s tax records safer than he found them. “It concerns me that it was not protected before, but sometimes you have to grow to realize there’s a need,” he says. “The i365 archive is critical to us, and the peace of mind is wonderful.”