Janesville46.3°

District network is still suffering

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
October 29, 2008
— The Janesville School District was ill prepared to fight off a computer virus that "ravaged" its computer systems over the past five weeks, a consultant told the Janesville School Board on Tuesday.

Wendy Chretien of Elert & Associates, a consulting company the district hired to critique its operations and efforts to restore the system, was asked to report on the virus attack.


Chretien said:


-- Backup systems were not functioning properly. She recommended a new server backup system to prevent future problems.


-- District computer maintenance staff is "very lean." Staff should have been actively monitoring and maintaining the servers, and that wasn't done.


-- "There is a fair amount of fairly old equipment out there that is just a problem waiting to happen," Chretien said.


-- Anti-virus software did not do its job. If the anti-virus was at 100 percent, that should have blocked the virus, Chretien said.


-- The different computer servers are configured in different ways.


-- The district has no disaster-recovery program.


-- Some systems are not documented, so the only knowledge of them resides "in people's heads."


Chretien did not lay blame for any of these problems. She also did not mention any of the costs of bringing the system up to date.


Chretien said the virus probably came in through an employee's computer, but just who and where has not been discovered.


What is known is that the virus did its damage in about 90 minutes when it attacked Sept. 19.


The result included massive problems for many teachers, students and other staff members, who couldn't access stored information, couldn't update student's grades and couldn't use software applications.


"It just shot through the district," Chretien said.


Most applications were damaged, she said.


Chretien said the virus could have harmed the student information system, financial information and other vital, confidential information, but "the quick actions on the part of one staff member" saved that information.


Brandon Keirns, the district's information technology manager, said after the meeting that all the IT staff members did their parts, but the one who saved that vital information Chretien mentioned was Barrett Jacobsen, a computer technician who was hired this year.


Bunton said he has no doubt the computer system would come out of this episode much stronger.


Chretien said few problems remain to be addressed, and she guessed the system now is about 90 percent repaired. She estimated another month before it's at 100 percent.


Board member Peter Severson gently suggested the district did not communicate well with staff about the problems in the initial weeks, causing frustrations. He said he hoped that the current communicationsówhich include regular districtwide memosówill become a model when dealing with future problems.


Board president DuWayne Severson said he wanted to see a written plan for upgrading the system.



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