Plan should avoid shutdowns

Published 5:35 pm Friday, September 14, 2012

Beaufort County leaders recently approved the purchase of new equipment they hope will help the county avoid future computer failures at the Register of Deeds office.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners earlier this week voted unanimously to spend $42,973 to buy a new computer server along with a mobile back-up system that would allow personnel in the Register of Deeds office to continue to record documents even if the system failed.
“You’ve got to prepare for the worst,” said Commissioner Hood Richardson, in discussing the need for a back-up system. “I don’t think we can shut the world down.”
The purchase was one of two recommendations made by the county’s Information Technology Committee.
The second option, at a cost of $53,200, would call for the office’s software supplier to maintain the data recorded by office personnel at another location, alleviating all local responsibility for managing data, backing up records and maintaining some hardware.
The most recent issue occurred when the county Register of Deeds server failed on the morning of July 27 and was not able to be brought back up, leaving the office unable to record documents.
This was the first time in 16 years that the computer system in the Register of Deeds office had failed preventing the office from recording documents, according to Register of Deeds Jennifer Whitehurst.
The previous computer failure lasted only two hours.
The primary responsibilities of the Register of Deeds office are, generally, to record, maintain and make available to the general public real-estate documents, Uniform Commercial Code and other documents on file in the office.
Register of Deeds staff also issues marriage licenses, administers notary oaths and maintains records of armed-forces discharges.
Other duties include assisting walk-in customers, responding to telephone inquiries and ensuring easy retrieval or viewing of legible documents and maps.
Because the process of recording deeds and other documents has been automated, any computer hardware failure that causes the computer software to be unable to run shuts the business of the office down completely, the commissioners were told.
County leaders had raised concerns that when the computer system fails, there is no current way to record a deed that allows the exact date and time to be recorded. If a deed is unable to be recorded at an exact moment, a delay of a matter of hours or days could change the validity of the recording.
“My concern is that the Register of Deeds never stops recording documents so that property rights can be protected,” Richardson said.
Whitehurst told the commissioners that the new system would allow office staff to hand-record documents even in the event of a computer failure and register them later showing the time they were originally recorded.
The commissioners agreed to continue to study options for providing computer services to the Register of Deeds office and to prepare to make additional recommendations in coming months.