Customers may head to get a new driver’s license or renew an old one, but they could run into some issues if the system is down.
Don Penit, registrar at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said when the system is down, however, there are many moving parts attached to the system. When the system is said to be down, a small part might not be working as opposed to the whole.
“We have outages that affect our ability to do a vehicle registration,” he said. “Other times it may only impact our ability to renew a driver’s license or issue a driver’s license.”
Saying that the “system is down” is an amorphous term, Penit said.
“Even just to say that part of the system is down could be a variety of things,” Penit said. “From a specific piece of equipment to a connection internally within our system or connectivity to an outside system.”
Dean Gatton, chief of application development at the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said workers are required by federal law to check certain information when people renew their licenses, which can affect the system.
“One (check) is ‘does a person have points against their driver’s license?’ ” Gatton said. “So even though our system might not be down, if that interface or remote service connection is down, we can’t issue a driver’s license.”
There are others checks as well, he said.
“We also check to make sure that no one has any outstanding bad payments on their record so that we know not to take a check from them again,” Gatton said.
Gatton said it makes it difficult to pinpoint a specific “down” in the system, but when there’s a system outage, workers might still be able to register a vehicle, renew a license plate or issue a state identification card.
“State IDs don’t require the same check, but it goes into the issuance of a driver’s license,” he said.
Gatton said the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles is proud of the fact that its system’s downtime is less than 1 percent, and it recognizes most people are not thrilled to go to a BMV agency, let alone to show up and have it coincidentally be during a service interruption.
“We are mindful that those have an impact on the customer,” Gatton said. “We appreciate the efforts from our colleagues and IT and working so diligently to prevent downtime as much as possible.”
Gatton said sometimes it is as simple as restarting a service to get the system up and running again.
“If a service has been interrupted, it needs a quick reboot and two minutes later we are back up,” he said.
Brent Rawlins, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said the BMV has three web servers and can run on one or two.
“We have the ability to recover pretty quickly when it is in our control to resolve,” Rawlins said.
The BMV is in the process of moving onto newer hardware soon so that the support it receives from vendors such as Microsoft and EMC is on the same version, Rawlins said.
Tom Wilson, administrator of field operations at the Ohio BMV, said since January, most outages were able to be controlled and lasted less than half an hour.
In those instances, the DMV provides customers with a letter to show to law enforcement that their driver’s license expired, Gatton said.
“We try to give them a little something to take with them that at least shows they’ve made the effort if it’s a case that they are now on an expired registration or something of that nature,” he said.