Technology is expensive, especially for a government the size of Hennepin County.

The County Board will pay Microsoft more than $41 million over the next three years for software, data storage and technical support. An agreement approved Nov. 2 replaces one about to expire and runs through 2026.

At a work session in late October, commissioners acknowledged the expense of providing software and other technology services. Hennepin County is the second-largest government in Minnesota after the state bureaucracy.

County Administrator David Hough agreed the contract would be routine if not for the large price tag. He noted that Microsoft tools allowed the county to quickly move to operating remotely at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We turned on a dime, if you will, and were remote the day after [the county] declared an emergency," Hough said.

In response to a question from Commissioner Jeffrey Lunde about "shelfware," Glen Gilbertson, the chief information officer for the county, said the agreement allowed modifications if software goes unused by some workers.

The agreement with Microsoft will provide technology to roughly 10,600 county workers as well as some contractors. Hennepin County has used Microsoft since 1997 and the company has been the county's primary software vendor since 2011.