IT Vendors Reach Out To Customers, Others Impacted By Superstorm Sandy5:16 PM EST Tue. Oct. 30, 2012
The companies responsible for helping build the infrastructures and the clouds that keep customers' IT operations running are battening down the hatches and preparing for the challenges posed as Superstorm Sandy leaves havoc across the northeastern U.S. in its wake.
Vendors are preparing extra equipment and service capabilities and getting ready to provide free or discounted services to help customers keep their operations running or recover downed operations after tropical storm Sandy combined with another Winter storm and local monthly high tides to form what has become known as "Frankenstorm" or "Superstorm Sandy."
Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath could have a huge impact on customers, both in terms of immediate disaster recovery plans and on longer-term recovery of operations, said Larry Velez, CTO and founder of Sinu, a New York-based solution provider.
Sinu last Thursday started working with customers on what was then called Hurricane Sandy to help them prepare for the storm, Velez said.
"We wanted to protect clients against power turning on and off," he said. "And against 'dirty power' when the power came back on. Some customers took advantage of this and shut down equipment on Friday and Saturday. We have remote control ability to shut down their equipment if needed."
Customers in the major East Coast cities impacted by Superstorm Sandy are not worried so much about losing a building, Velez said. "It's damage to the equipment that could be caused by the power switching on and off that is the big problem," he said.
Velez is a big believer in the cloud. "Most of our customers have their email systems hosted on a cloud, so they continue to get their emails," he said.
Sinu works with EMC's Mozy cloud-based data protection service to help provide customers with remote backup and restore capabilities. "Remote backups are important for protection," he said. "Not only do customers have their backups outside their main office, they don't have to worry about local backups running out of capacity."
Vendors of storage and other infrastructure equipment have also been preparing equipment and services in advance of Superstorm Sandy to help solution providers and customers recover operations as quickly as possible.
NEXT: Vendors Roll Out Disaster Recovery Support
Intronis, a Boston-based provider of cloud backup software, has extended its email support hours of operation for partners and has ordered additional hard drives so its partners can provide physical backup support to customers facing hardships or downed networks.
The company is also proactively reaching out to partners via email, social media and the Intronis partner portal, in addition to phone calls and text messages, a company spokesperson said.
Once Superstorm Sandy passes and customers go into recovery mode, that is when solution providers' services capabilities will help them differentiate themselves, said Carol Ferrari, Intronis' vice president of marketing and community, in a statement.
"That’s really where the differences in service will be seen, felt and heard," Ferrari said. "It's times like these where the quality of your service is tested and the power of partnership and community really stand together to make a difference."
David Turrettini, worldwide continuity services director for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services, said in an emailed response to CRN that his organization has already set up and activated alternative production facilities.
"The path of the storm is quite predictable, so we are going further than helping them rapidly recover and are helping customers to invoke pre-emptively," Turrettini said. "This means activating contingency plans, bringing up their data and activating their applications on servers HP has in place to help customers when their own facilities are affected. We are also providing office recovery space in a location out of the path of the storm so that the core of the customer IT and operations teams can continue running their applications and business."
Learning lessons from Hurricane Katrina, when HP had to fly a helicopter into New Orleans to recover backup tapes in an area unreachable by land, HP has put in place new cloud and traditional disaster recovery services with automated and pre-scripted approaches to bringing servers online to resume operations in sequenced, pre-determined orders, Turrettini said.
"We are in active contact with a broad range of customers from commercial sectors to government entities and expect more to activate their contingency plans as the storm makes landfall," he said.
NEXT: Proactive Disaster Recovery Support After Superstorm Sandy
Dan Lamorena, director of storage and availability management at storage software developer Symantec, said in a statement that Symantec has proactively been working with solution providers and customers to fail over and/or migrate their systems in preparation for Superstorm Sandy.
One partner in particular worked with an unnamed large financial institution to proactively fail over and migrate workloads from their East Coast data center to one in the Midwest in advance of Superstorm Sandy.
"They migrated a number of applications and then spent a few hours testing and validating applications, to ensure that things were up and running properly, and communicating any re-directs to business partners. This thoughtful planning and testing ensured that the financial institution’s customers, partners and systems can keep operating despite the storm," Lamorena said.
StorageCraft Technology, a Draper, Utah-based provider of disaster recovery technology, is proactively offering free 3-day ISO downloads of StorageCraft ShadowProtect IT Edition for the next two weeks. The software lets users back up and restore data that may have been lost due to flooding, structural damage or power outages.
The company is also partnering with the non-profit Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC), a group of volunteer IT professionals from all disciplines that assists communities with technology continuity and recovery from disaster. A StorageCraft spokesperson said the ITDRC has volunteers ready to help communities that will be hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.
StorageCraft has also enacted its emergency response plan, which includes flexible staffing and resources, in anticipation of an increase in support cases both from existing customers and from the free software download, the spokesperson said.
InMage, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of storage technologies for disaster recovery, has beefed up service and support headcount and is offering 24/7 support to customers impacted by Superstorm Sandy. A company spokesperson said the company has also set up a special escalation process for any requests that come in from that area.
InMage is also doing preparedness checks and providing failover assistance for solution providers and customers who indicate they are in a direct line of the storm, and the company has brought in additional support personnel doing outward bound calls to offer assistance, the spokesperson said.
NEXT: Reaching Out To Customers Who May Need Help
Velocity Technology Solutions, a New York-based provider of hosted application services, has reached out to customers, and it has received "on alert" notifications from at least two. While on alert, Velocity readies equipment, determines product data requirements and provides access system validation prior to those systems becoming unavailable, the spokesperson said.
EVault, a San Francisco-based provider of cloud data protection technology, provisioned new storage capacity in response to Superstorm Sandy and sent a notice to its Cloud Disaster Recovery service customers that it has added four extra alarm teams to triage a high volume of incidents if needed.
The company also provided its disaster recovery hotline number with a note that read, "although we hope you won’t have to use [the hotline], we also want to assure you that we will be right by your side if you do."
Newark, Calif.-based Tegile Systems, a developer of primary storage deduplication technology for virtualized server and desktop environments, told customers it has deployed extra spares kits including hard drives, solid-state drives, DRAM, controllers and power supply modules to its east coast offices for quick dispatch and added personnel to assist with phone or remote support, a spokesperson said.
Atlanta-based cloud storage provider eFolder has enough virtualization capacity to virtualize every server that is currently being protected by its solution provider partners in states primarily impacted by Superstorm Sandy, said Ted Hulsey, vice president of marketing.
Partners have access to the eFolder Continuity Cloud, a service delivered to eFolder partners that allows fast recovery in the cloud in an emergency, on a 24/7/365 basis, but partners only pay for eFolder Continuity Cloud capacity when and if they need it, Hulsey said.
BUMI (Backup My Info!), a New York-based managed service provider specializing in online data backup and recovery, has replicated all end-customer backup data to data center locations outside of the area threatened by Superstorm Sandy, a company spokesperson said.
BUMI, which partners with Toronto-based Asigra to build cloud-based backup architectures, has also pre-arranged recovery site locations with other Asigra partner ecosystem providers in London and elsewhere should end-customers require a disaster recovery location from which to access data, the spokesperson said.
For vendors in the path of Superstorm Sandy, another priority has been to prepare their own facilities.
NEXT: Vendors Also Look To Their Own Disaster Recovery
The Islandia, N.Y.-based headquarters of CA Technologies is up and running and unaffected by a local power outage, and essential personnel are working and will be staying nearby in a local hotel, a company spokesperson said.
In the event of a power failure, the facility has six backup generators for data center and other operations. CA can also move operations to backup sites in Illinois and other locations if necessary. The company also has a crisis management team that meets regularly and manages and monitors activity.
Oceanport, N.J.-based storage software provider CommVault is also in the path of Sandy’s wrath. CommVault went into disaster recovery mode to evacuate its primary facility for safety purposes and is in operation using other sites, a company spokesperson said.
CommVault on Saturday also started helping customers and solution providers prepare for disaster recovery work and is working with them to execute alternate library restores or do full-system state restores at different servers, the spokesperson said.
CommVault Sunday night also sent an email blast to customers advising them on disaster recovery resources and best practices The headquarters for Sinu, the New York solution provider, was only one block away from the mandatory evacuation zone in that city, and on Monday it had no one at the office thanks to its decision to move all its operations to the cloud, Sinu's Velez said.
"We're committed to the cloud," Velez said. "None of our data is located in the office. For instance, our voice-over-IP, remote backups, ticketing, project management and email are all Web-based tools. We're making sure our company runs even if power to our office is out for days."
After the Superstorm Sandy or any major storm passes, there are a few things every solution provider and customer should do to further protect their data, said Todd Johnson, vice president of operations for Kroll Ontrack, a Minneapolis-based provider of data recovery services.
The extent of damage to digital files and information stored on hard drives will remain unknown until power is restored, but the majority of digital data can be recovered from water-damaged or power-affected drives with the right tools, Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson said Kroll Ontrack recommends that customers who are concerned about lost data from damaged equipment should not assume data is unrecoverable and should never shake, disassemble or attempt to clean any hard drive or server that has been damaged.
Customers should also not try to dry water-damaged media by opening it or exposing it to heat, operate visibly damaged devices, freeze-dry media or use common software utility programs on broken or water-damaged devices, Johnson said.
From now through Thanksgiving, Kroll Ontrack is offering free data recovery evaluations and discounted data recovery services for all desktops, laptops and USB devices affected by Superstorm Sandy, he said.
PUBLISHED OCT. 30, 2012