If you think you spend a lot on subscriptions to computer apps and software each year, just be glad you aren’t a county government with about 2,500 employees.

 Because it would cost you a lot more. 

This week, Guilford County’s computing platform will get an expensive, but hopefully productive, technology bump. The county is planning to spend over $3 million in the next three years for access to Microsoft software, servers and more – and the county will also spend additional money for the “Lawson” computing system that the county has been using for years but that many employees dislike with a passion.

The Guilford County Information Technology Department has put in a request to the Board of Commissioners to approve a three-year renewal of the county’s Microsoft Enterprise Agreement through the vendor SHI International Corp. 

The annual cost is $1,048,490 and change each year for three years, starting October 1.  The total cost comes to $3,145,472.   

The cost includes Office 365 subscriptions, other subscriber licenses, server access and other services from the well-known Redmond Washington Company.

The vendor, SHI, sells technology solutions to businesses and governments.  The company’s promotional literature states that SHI is “the largest Minority & Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) in the United States with 2020 revenues over $11 billion.”

While it used to be, years ago, that most individual users and local governments bought software packages outright,  Microsoft and other computer companies have been moving more and more to a subscription pricing model for access to their software.  While that means annual payments for buyers, it also means that the software is always up to date and that security patches are current. 

Everyone who follows the news knows how important it is to keep hackers out of city and county government computing systems, and, last year, former County Manager Marty Lawing told the Board of Commissioners that Guilford County is under constant attack from hackers.  Lawing told the board, “You probably wouldn’t believe some of the things we would show you as far as people trying to get into our system.  It’s a constant 24/7 situation; we are under attack constantly.”

The county also, this week, is expected to enter into a new subscription agreement to use Lawson Software Inc. and related services.   The Lawson software has caused aggravation and headaches for many county employees over the years but apparently the county isn’t ready or able to give it up yet.

The one-year subscription for Lawson and related services will cost county taxpayers just under $500,000 for the next 12 months, starting this month.