Ten Years of IT at SATV: Onward still

This past spring, we had our annual rite, the Annual Meeting.  This is a board function required by law where we explain our finances, and our past year, and our future plans.  Kevin Walker has a few kind words for me in this video.

The mistake with the cable was forgotten very quickly.  Ten years ago, I wrote a strategic plan for SATV in which I explained that IT would be a very important part of our success in serving the community of Salem.  It was received politely, but it would only be taken seriously by our new, and current executive director, Sal Russo.  When he was hired in 2002, he and I would work to realize many elements of my plan.

Then, we were in the final years of our contract with Comcast and we had limited funds;  we also had to tally up our assets and figure out what needed to be improved.

It was a long list and SATV was a tired place in many ways.  A caretaker director and an unaware board had made life very discouraging;  in 2002 you could be forgiven for thinking our best years were behind us.  Our first executive director had unknowingly contributed to this decline when he was first hired;  in a very technological business like ours, he had no knowledge of technology, not even superficially.

While our first director, Bob Miot, was second to none in making the contacts SATV needed to thrive in its early life, the technology was neglected to our detriment.  Members like myself who had expertise were not really encouraged to be involved in that area.

Very soon after Sal came on board, I got the money to run new phone wiring for DSL.   Six months after that I dusted off my plans for our new network and in early 2004, we had our new Category 6 gigabit network, which has been nearly unchanged to this day.  (In 2006, we renovated our studio space so we performed another round of network improvements.)

More gradually, in recent years, our server technology has been updated;  we had SBS 2000 on our first Dell , followed by SBS 2003 and now, as of a year ago, SBS 2008.  We installed a video server in 2008 and our network is busy with Mac editing workstations and a public WiFi network.

We have modern Dell PC’s running Windows 7, and a new VoIP PBX that replaced a very elderly Panasonic key system.  We are as progressive as our budget will allow us to be.

Gone are the days when I didn’t know something was down until I came in or staff would call.  We have an environmental monitor, our SuperGoose, and numerous notification systems that go out to my cell phone.

We now have a modern IT-centric system that sits in the background and does its work for us, helping our government connect with its community, our community connect with their government and our citizens connecting with each other, over video and now online.

Now, as it was 10 years ago, we are nearing the end of another contract cycle with Comcast.  The monies we get from them will be lesser and our budget tighter.

Now, as then, I have been asked to write another strategic plan for SATV.  Using what we have learned over the years and what I have learned over 10 years, I am once again responsible for helping SATV navigate the next few years in IT.

We’ve seen many changes, too many to list. Ten years ago, I was on a tour of WHDH-TV, Channel 7.  We were shown two large robotic tape machines.

They were each used to cue and play commercials, one acting to backup the other.

It is safe to say those tape machines are gone now.

Five years ago, the first video servers came into use at high-end broadcast facilities.  We’ll not get these for a while, we thought.

Nearly two years ago we got our first video server and it has forced a change in how we deal with video, so much of a change that I have had to dedicate a section of our plan to recommend policies on how long a member’s video needs to be in our servers, for example.

It has changed backup procedures;  five years ago we were on DDS, then DLT tape.  Then external hard drives just as you would find at Best Buy.  How do we backup a terabyte of video?

Can we afford to?  Afford not to?

What more will we see over a few short years?

Whatever happens, I have been given a mandate and an endorsement to continue, perhaps for another ten years.

More errors, more mistakes, but also more triumphs, and successes.

And, one hopes, the continuation of SATV’s mission.

All one can ask for.

UPDATE: Phil Elder has some kind words.

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