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With local government coffers shrinking and unfunded mandates from above to buy technology that local agencies may not even want, solutions providers had better deliver something that makes a difference both to government workers and to the citizens they serve, if they want to earn the loyalty garnered by InfiniTec Inc., an IBM Business Partner.

Headquartered in Hays, Kan., InfiniTec is the leading government solutions provider for more than 60 counties and 40 cities, many of which don’t have IT departments or help desks—only a small government staff that needs its IT investment to work and keep working.

Sonny Sagar, director of marketing at InfiniTec, credits partner IBM‘s technology, service and support for helping four Kansas counties—Bourbon, Geary, Jackson and Nemaha—to do more with less.

“Reliability and availability on the iSeries platform make it good for government,” Sagar said. “Governments are strapped for cash. The iServer doesn’t need an IT team.

“Once it’s configured and installed, the iSeries can be locked in a closet and left alone, and it will keep chugging away. I’ve been deploying them since their inception around 1988.”

Nemaha, Bourbon, Geary and Jackson counties each have deployed a solution consisting of IBM ThinkCentre PCs with ThinkVantage Technologies, and eServer iSeries and xSeries systems, bolstered by IBM service and support.

The iSeries is the back-end server platform, and xSeries is a separate server with a different OS you can plug into the same box as the iServer.

“I can run Linux, Windows, AIX all under the same cover,” Sagar said. “If I have the need to run a Windows server to run a GIS [Geographic Information System] application, I can plug an integrated xSeries server into the same iSeries box. Same maintenance, same box, same tape drive, same resources.”

ThinkCentre PCs are front-ends with free ThinkVantage tools such as Rescue and Recovery, a one-button, hidden operating system to save users from themselves. There’s also a downloadable System Migration Assistant that works as a GUI over USB to let individuals choose what to take off the old system, or in silent mode to migrate a large number of systems; and Access IBM, which is Web-based support.

Click here to read about IBM’s i5 550, a Power5-based, four-way system targeted at midsize businesses.

A declining tax base and slashed state funding forced Bourbon County to find innovative ways to provide newly mandated state and federal programs. So, InfiniTec deployed its software modules specifically designed to run on the IBM eServer iSeries system.

InfiniTec also integrated Real Vision Imaging software into the iSeries system, helping the county staff meet public demand for records without having to increase taxes.

“Thanks to our investments in technology and the performance and stability of IBM systems, we’ve been able to keep our costs well under budget,” said Joanne Long, county clerk for Bourbon County. “With the IBM technology and InfiniTec’s assistance, we are more efficient in serving our public.”

There was a budget shortfall of more than $160,000 in rural Nemaha County, yet, “The state has requirements for upgrades, and the state doesn’t help the counties to pay for them,” County Clerk Leann Jones said.

But Jones said the more advanced the technology, the more you can do, and “We’re very happy with the program and the support we get from InfiniTec.” InfiniTec’s custom solution helped realize fewer help-desk calls and service charges, plus more services for citizens.

Long-term planning on a short budget.

Jackson County, with just 13,000 residents, wanted to do long-term planning with a short budget. “We’re all under heavy scrutiny to make improvements to the county government without increasing costs,” said Tom Brown, Jackson County appraiser.

With the IBM solution, Jackson County soon will be able to place all of the property records securely on the eServer iSeries server platform. Utilizing the ThinkCentre PCs and the Real Vision Imaging software, the staff will save on “counter time,” allowing faster and easier on-demand retrieval of records requested by county constituents.

“Less counter time” is already a reality in Geary County, which serves 26,000 citizens. Geary used to do everything manually. Now, “Someone scans a voter registration card in,” said County Clerk Rebecca Bossemeyer.

“When a ballot envelope comes in, you sit at your desk and log that it was received and check that the signatures match. You used to have to go to the file cabinet and pull a card.”

“Another big time saver is the imaging of our vouchers,” Bossemeyer said. “People say, ‘I didn’t receive payment, or I don’t understand what this is for’—now they’re imaged; a lot is handled while sitting at your desk.”

“We’re always looking to be more efficient. What InfiniTec did is adapt its programs-its election manager program, its voucher program-to allow us to access the images,” she said. “[We like] the fact that they come to us and bring us new products and talk to us about how we can use them.”

“We don’t have an IT department. We contract with their company to do those kinds of things,” she said. “Our plan is that the county clerk will be secretary to the county commissioner. I have to go and read through the minutes from 25 years ago. Until just eight years ago, the minutes were typed on books bigger than a ledger from the 1800s to the 1990s. We want to get them imaged and indexed. Our long-term goal is that we will be able to search on topics.”

Sagar said the initial investment in all of this magic hinges on the cost of the processor. “You could probably get an Intel processor for half the price—but the iSeries operating system i-05 comes with communications, comes with a database,” he said.

“If I were to buy an Intel server and add services, it would all add up. The biggest gray area is, ‘What does it take to keep an Intel server up and running?’ That’s a night and day difference,” Sagar said.

“I don’t have to sell this box,” he said. “It sells itself. These customers have been using them for quite a while. Speaking as an iSeries bigot, I’m shocked that people don’t take a closer look at this box.”

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