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May 12. 2013 3:57PM

Salem's town hall, school district rely on Neoscope IT security


MARTIN 

SALEM — Finding potential virus sources before they wreak havoc on an entire system is an important goal for the staff at Neoscope Technology Solutions, a Portsmouth firm specializing in tailored information technology solutions.

While Neoscope, a company of 16 full-time technicians, serves a variety of clients around the country, they're perhaps best known locally for their relationship with the town of Salem.

Town officials initially reached out to Neoscope shortly after the hire of Town Manager Keith Hickey in spring 2011, which was followed by an assessment of Salem's town network, company founder Timothy Martin said.

"We presented them with a variety of options," Martin said during a phone interview. "In the end, we were able to help the town not only with financial savings, but by being more proactive."

Right now Salem is the only municipality that contracts with Neoscope, but Martin said he's met with officials in other towns in hopes of making similar arrangements.

In September 2011, Hickey made a controversial decision to terminate the town's four IT positions, hiring the Granite State technology company to handle needs previously fulfilled by staffers.

"It started as a way to see if there were more cost-effective ways to meet the town's technical needs," Hickey said.

Neoscope began working for the town full-time at the start of 2012.

According to Hickey, the decision allowed Salem to keep the town tax rate level while funding a multimillion-dollar road repairs program.

Despite vocal citizen opposition, public scrutiny and ethics complaints filed by former town employees, Hickey said the decision to use an outsourced contractor for the town's IT needs has proven successful and has saved Salem an average of $200,000 annually.

"(Neoscope) saved us a very significant amount of money as opposed to paying four full-time employees," Hickey said. "They've also provided us with a much higher level of technical capabilities."

Martin said his staff monitors the town's network on a 24/7 basis to ensure none of the systems are compromised.

The town of Salem is currently in the process of improving its IT infrastructure, and Martin noted those plans include a new server room for town hall as well as system consolidations that will help save on energy costs.

Hickey said the current year's budget has funds set aside for the new server room and work on the project will commence later this year, after the town hall installs a replacement generator.

Last month, Salem's school district turned to Neoscope for help when faced with a debilitating virus that shut down the district's Internet service for several days after infecting 85 different servers.

"All of those servers had to be investigated and cleared," Superintendent Michael Delahanty said.

Within hours of getting a phone call from school administrators, Neoscope representatives rushed to contain the virus and critical servers, email, website and student applications were fully restored within 72 hours.

Martin said the virus had originated within an email link, and had proven challenging due to the number of potential entry points.

In late April, the Salem School District signed a preventative contract with the company to prevent further virus disasters.

"Much like the town, our main approach is being proactive," Martin said.

Though the company had previously contracted with another school district in Ohio, Salem's is the first Granite State district to enter into a contract, according to Martin.

"I think they chose us for our willingness and our ability to help them out immediately," he said. "We'd had experience battling the same virus strain at a nearby manufacturing company just two weeks earlier."

aguilmet@newstote.com


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