On October 26th, the Orleans Parish Clerk of Court office experienced a computer crash. The server which held the mortgage and conveyance digital records for the entire parish, and more importantly, the only index for the records, had gone offline. At the time, it caused little concern amongst the office employees who regularly maintain and update the records, or the independent abstractors that rely on the database to research properties for banks, title companies, and insurers. The system had crashed many times before, and it usually came back up within a couple of hours at most. Most of them knew little of how the computer system worked or even where the mainframe was located in the Amoco building at 1340 Poydras. People simply accessed and entered data on the computer terminals in the mortgage and conveyance office on the fourth floor and endured the occasional crashes with little concern - trusting that someone, somewhere in the building had things under control. After all, the entire real estate industry in Orleans Parish revolved on these property records, so surely the computer system was up-to-date and contingencies had been put in place to back up all the digital files. They assumed this was just another IT hiccup. But, as the work day drew to a close, the computer system still lay dormant.
By the third day, rumors had started to circulate in the office that something was seriously wrong. A large amount of data may have been lost, including a part of the index which sorted both the digital records and the paper records, and most importantly, somehow, this data may not have been backed up. The rumors were harrowing and people started to grasp the potential danger of the situation. This wasn't a typical crash. This could be heavy.....
...As this article is written, we are nearly eight weeks into the crisis with a nebulous timeline for resolution of recovering the records. Approximately 90 employees from multiple parishes have been commandeered to re-enter the lost data for both the mortgage and conveyance records. Optimistic estimates call for completion of the data entry in January or February of 2011. Other less rosy estimates put the date closer to April or May. Every day the system is down intensifies the city's financial devastation in orders of magnitude. The real estate industry is the lifeblood of New Orleans' economy and as of now, only 3% to 5% of transactions are currently being processed. The situation is critical. If the problem continues well into next year, the potential economic fallout is unfathomable.
Read..and see...part 1 over at Humid Beings.
The people on the front line of the crisis, those who have immediately felt the effects of the crash, are real estate abstractors. Abstractors are responsible for researching all records of a property before a real estate transaction can be processed in confidence.