White House CIO Endures After Tough Start

Brook Colangelo had been on the job just six days when the email servers went down for 21 hours.

In Brook Colangelo's first 40 days as CIO of the Executive Office of the President, the White House email system was down 23% of the time while he and his staff put in 80-hour weeks, "if not more."

Colangelo began the job on Jan. 20, 2009 -- the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as president. His opening tasks were to "deliver the first presidential BlackBerry" and distribute handhelds to all top administration officials. "It was just a mind-blowing experience," he said at Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference in Phoenix this month.

But reality quickly set in as Colangelo found White House IT assets "in pretty bad shape."

Over 82% of the equipment had reached the end of its useful life. Many desktop computers still had floppy disk drives.

Colangelo also noted that he oversaw just one data center. "We had no redundancy," he said.

The problem became apparent after six days, when, on Jan. 26, "our email servers went down for 21 hours," said Colangelo. "In my professional career, there has not been a worse day since or ever."

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