Putting Out FiresBy Sharon Linsenbach | Posted 2007-10-24 Email Print
For three VARs in Southern California, the fire line is in the server room as they try to save data and keep businesses running while customers close shop and flee.With flames lapping at the eaves and 500,000 people sprinting for safety in Southern California this week, it might make sense to literally pull the plug on the server, toss the rack in the trunk and drive out to the desert to avert the loss of equipment and data.
That's just what one business did, said George Vahle, a partner and head of marketing at The I.T. Pros, a San Diego-based managed services provider. A full 80 percent of IT Pros customers have been affected by the wildfires in one way or another, many just by being displaced, Vahle said.
Other customers just removed tape backups to off-site locations, or shut down and moved pieces of equipment. One customer, fearful that smoke in the area would set off the sprinkler system in his building in the hard-hit neighborhood of Rancho Santa Fe, removed his most vital IT equipment, Vahle said.
The peak of the crisis thus far occurred the night of Monday, Oct. 22, into Tuesday morning, Vahle said. From its network operating center, the I.T. Pros skeleton office crew monitoring its customers' IT systems could see customers dropping offline one by one.
"Many customers went offline due to power outages," Vahle said. "Customers were then operating on battery backups, but then the batteries got depleted."
The company's biggest task right now is getting those systems, interrupted in one way or another, back up and running.
I.T. Pros started seeing higher call volume from users on Tuesday, as people turned away from watching coverage of the fires on television and tried to return to work. Many found they couldn't log into their e-mail or their VPNs.
"There are still parts of the county that don't have power," Vahle said. "We are interfacing with those customers and by the end of the day tomorrow most customers will be back."
San Diego emergency services had asked residents and businesses in the area to stay off the roads and cell phones to leave those free for those responding to the crisis.
"On Monday there was nobody on the road," Vahle said. "The people who came in to the office are the ones who live close by." That left most companies, including I.T. Pros, running with just essential staff members. Still, many of the company's engineers were able to log into the system from home and provide remote support to customers.
"The thing that is hard to understand for people who aren't here is the scope of the disaster," Vahle said. "Hundreds of homes were burned, the county of San Diego came to a screeching halt, over 600,000 people were evacuated."
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