The BITS office is home to the city’s main data center, housing servers that host a variety of vital city services, such as websites, email, domain controllers, and our electronic content managment server, among others. To provide consistent, rapid access to all of these services from locations around the city, BITS has overseen the implementation of a citywide network of fiber optic cabling, linking our office to all other city departments.
BITS has also overseen the transition of the city’s legacy telephone system to a new system of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephony. By implementing a VoIP system, BITS was able to make more efficient use of our network, by placing our telephone system on the same network infrastrucure as our other assets. We were also able to reduce the number of telephone lines used by the city by 140, without any reduction in service to our citizens.
VoIP telephones provide significant advantages over traditional telephones, making features standard that are often a significant additional cost when using traditional telephone lines. These features, from the common such as voicemail, call forwarding, and call parking, to the more innovative, such as conference calls and videoconferencing, are easily and efficiently implemented on our VoIP network.
A joint project between the City of Beckley, the Beckley Sanitary Board, the Raleigh County Commission, the Raleigh County Assessor’s Office and the Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center, MetroGIS seeks to provide each of these agencies the ability to combine their once-fragmented databases of geographically-referenced information in order to reduce costs and increase interoperability. Our goal is the full implementation of a joint, countywide, comprehensive GIS/Mapping system that will enhance economic development, infrastructure management, and Homeland Security.
This system enhances the services provided by various City and County departments, such as police, fire, and other emergency services agencies, by enabling them to more effectively analyze data, deploy resources, determine needs, and identify important trends for which they must prepare. Numerous other agencies also benefit from the integrated system, including public works, parks and recreation, code enforcement, housing, and economic development agencies.
Electronic Content Managment
BITS has implemented a citywide electronic content managment system through the use of a Laserfiche content managment server and document imaging scanners. Departments across the city use this system to scan and keep digital records of important paper documents, from purchase orders to contracts. Additionally, BITS has equipped the City Council with laptop computers for their use during Common Council meetings, seeing those meetings become nearly paperless.
One of our most recent initiatives is a desire to transition from physical hardware to virtual servers and machines in both our data center and end-user applications (such as training machines). Currently, once a server reaches its end-of-life point, and is no longer covered by warranty, it costs the city from $10,000 – $15,000 to replace. Virtual servers are not only more cost effective, but they are more efficient as well. Server virtualization allows BITS to run an entire suite of servers from a single, upgradeable machine. These virtual machines think and behave exactly like “real” computers – in fact, neither the end-user nor even the virtual machine itself can tell that it’s not a “real” machine.
While virtual servers share the same physical space, they in fact remain isolated from each other. Thus, should one virtual machine suffer a crash or failure, all other machines hosted on that physical server remain operational and unaffected. This isolation is an important reason why the availability and security of applications running in a virtual environment is superior to applications running in a traditional, non-virtualized system.
BITS has been discussing and researching server virtualization for more than two years. We have implemented desktop virtualization on PCs running in our department to better understand the process, including its advantages and disadvantages. We have experience with Microsoft virtualization through their XP Mode and Virtual PC in Windows 7, and their Hyper-V server version for use on Windows Server. We have experience with VMWare’s virtualization through the implementation that currently operates on the Cisco Call Manager device utilized by the IP Telephony initiative. Server and Desktop virtualization has become the industry standard for efficiency and cost savings, and we strongly believe that it is the solution to reducing the long-term costs associated with operating, maintaining and updating our large server environment.