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County offices lose phones, internet for three days

Public officials working to return messages this week

By Dan Pool, Editor

dpool@pickensprogress.com

            Beginning last Wednesday through late Friday, county offices in the administration building, courthouse and jail/sheriff’s office were without phone service and at about 50 percent internet/e-mail capacity due to an outage that began with one failing server.

            At no point was the 911 center or the ability to communicate with first responders compromised as they are on a separate system.

            Commission Chair Kris Stancil said they recognize this was “a major inconvenience” for citizens calling government offices but at no point did it create any dangerous situation.

            The county offices in those three buildings lost service Wednesday at 8 a.m.  initially thought to be due to phone line issues, but by mid-day they realized the problem stemmed from their internal network.

            The county uses IP phones which Stancil said are less expensive and generally thought more efficient, but this outage shows the problems with the later technology.

            The county technology provider, Eclipse, is conducting an assessment now to see what could have been done differently and “more importantly to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Stancil.

            There was no reason to believe any type of hacking or malware was involved.

            In very simple terms, a server that controls addresses on the network failed and then other machines began  trying to take over that crucial duty and it spiraled out of control, also affecting a firewall which further complicated everything. Stancil said simply replacing the server, which had been scheduled for replacement next year anyway, didn’t solve the problem and it took engineers going through devices in the different buildings to correct the problem.

            The county contracts with Eclipse for their technology support and Stancil felt their service and this response was satisfactory. He said this was a problem where it just kept getting bigger and as more machines were affected it took time to solve.

            Stancil said they recognize this was a major inconvenience for people trying to reach county offices, especially as tax bills are coming due, and it appeared to callers that employees weren’t answering phones or responding to messages. There was no indication to callers that the phones were down.

            All phone messages and e-mails should still be in the system; it didn’t appear any were lost.

            By the time this paper reaches readers, county employees should have had time to respond to all the backed up messages, Stancil said. If anyone has not gotten a reply from a message left they should please call again as it’s always possibly some were lost, he said.

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