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Joe Ambrosole, president of NetConnect, a Staten Island, N.Y.-based solution provider, said his employees have had to help at least one customer rescue equipment from a flooded building, while numerous customers had prolonged power outages too. At least some of these customers still had completely on-premise solutions, despite NetConnect efforts over the last several years to move at least some functions to a hosted environment.
A major hindrance, especially in the New York area, is that a customer feels it is safe from flooding if it's on the 18th floor of a high-rise building. The problem, Ambrosole said, is if that no one can even get to the first floor, they can't get to the 18th floor. NetConnect staff helped move one of its bigger clients' servers to its own data center. Ambrosole only half-kiddingly told the client it's not giving the servers back.
"I actually have my data room full of other people's equipment right now. I said if it's important for these guys, you can't put it back on site. Spend the money to have it hosted 24x7. We offered before the storm [to host equipment] and nobody took us up on it," Ambrosole said. "We have clients hosted with us and they never lost a beat. They had the ability to work if they found power somewhere."
Many customers still need to learn lessons the hard way, Ambrosole said. But this experience is opening up discussions with customers about cloud computing, he added.
"Until this happened, everybody was comfortable. They said 'I'm on the 16th floor of an office building. It doesn't matter,'" Ambrosole said.
Exigent's Haurey has had similar conversations
"When people are not in pain, it's not top of mind. My best friend is a dentist and tells me all the time people will go every two years to get their teeth cleaned but when they have a toothache they'll do anything to get out of the pain. When everything works, [business continuity] gets pushed to the backburner," Haurey said. "Our mantra is not 'if,' but 'when.'"
Three members of Exigent's staff went into a client's site near South Street Seaport in Manhattan last weekend to extricate a big client's IT infrastructure out—and down eight flights of stairs—from an area that had been damaged by flooding. Because the area was still not secure, the VAR's team, along with a group of the client's staff, had to get in and out quickly.
"I called them Seal Team Six," Haurey said. "It was quite chaotic. There were environmental remediation crews, lots of police."
Paul Bender, a technical account manager at Exigent, was on one of the VAR's team to go into Manhattan and haul equipment down eight stories. He said the client is now ready to talk about the cloud.
"We said, look we've got you in a data center now. Let's avoid this ever happening," Bender said.
Exigent has had its own IT in the cloud for some time and said it will look to lead by example going forward.
"We're trying to be as proactive as possible, especially when a storm is coming. In general, praise the cloud and be an evangelist of the cloud to clients," Bender said.
Joseph F. Kovar contributed to this story.