Almost 1,000 child support checks delayed after data loss

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield County Family Court computer system crashed last week, wiping out all data for February, March and early April. The computer’s data had not been backed up since Jan. 31, 2018, according to the County’s Information Technology (IT) Director Marvin Allen. More than $400,000 of Fairfield County child support payments to hundreds of families are being delayed as a result.

That delay could extend for as many as eight weeks since two-and-a-half months of data for 800 – 1,200 cases must now be re-entered into the system manually, Deputy Administrator Davis Anderson told The Voice.

During Monday night’s County Council meeting, Administrator Jason Taylor asked Allen to explain, “what happened, what we’re doing to fix it and what we’re doing to keep that from happening again.”

“First, the Family Court staff is not to blame for the crash,” Allen said. “The blame is on several entities, including me.”

Allen explained in technical terms a complex sequence of events in which he said the County’s IT staff had been manually backing up the server as it waited six months for a cost estimate for regular backup service from QS1, the company that has managed the Family Court server for 25 years. Allen said the last manual backup was performed by the County staff on Jan. 31, 2018.

Since Jan. 31, Allen said he had placed his trust in faulty information from the Department of Social Services (DSS) that the Family Court’s data was being copied directly to the DSS server. Allen said he stopped backing up the server manually because he understood ‘copied’ to mean the data was being backed up by DSS.

“Apparently, that was not the case,” Allen told Council. “Although we depend on vendors, it’s still, ultimately, me who’s responsible for the county’s data, regardless. And I take full responsibility,” Allen said, apologizing to all the people the crash affected.

Allen assured Council that, from here out, his department will do a daily manual backup of the QS1 server.

“That’s all we can do with this server,” Allen said.

Taylor said the County took immediate steps after the crash to find a solution to restore the lost data.

“After the crash, we quickly contacted a company in Charlotte and took the server to them to see if they could recover the data or at least some of it,” Taylor said. “They said they could not recover from what we have on the server. We talked to DSS to find out what data could be recovered from them. We found out that wouldn’t work because the way their system inputs data is different than ours. So we’re having to re-enter all the data back to Jan. 31, more than two months. It’s a lot of data so it’s going to take some time,” Tailor said.

“We don’t know just yet when we will be able to resume mailing child support checks,” Fairfield County Clerk of Court Judy Bonds told The Voice.  “The Family Court staff is manually re-entering all the data back into the system, but they have to enter the oldest data first to make everything balance. It’s very time consuming.”

“We’re going to get the problem resolved as soon as possible,” Taylor said. “But it’s going to take some time.”