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Texas Hosting Company Opens Doors To Katrina Victims

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, San Antonio, Texas-based Rackspace Managed Hosting has given new meaning to the term "hosting" by taking in some 2,000 New Orleans evacuees.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, San Antonio, Texas-based Rackspace Managed Hosting has given new meaning to the term "hosting" by taking in some 2,000 New Orleans evacuees.

Graham Weston, CEO of the privately held Rackspace and a real-estate developer, had previously purchased a defunct Montgomery Wards store in San Antonio that he bought for possible use by Rackspace. But when he heard the city was scrambling to find space for evacuees heading its way nearly a week after the hurricane--which caused widespread devastation in the Gulf region--Weston called city hall and offered the building as a shelter.

That was Sept. 2. Two days later, roughly 1,000 evacuees arrived, with another 1,000 joining them in the following days. Nearly half the volunteers receiving them were Rackspace employees; in fact, of the 450 Rackspace employees located in San Antonio, close to 200 volunteered at some point, Weston says.

Beyond generosity, technology also played a role: As part of the enrollment process, evacuees were asked to fill out note cards. Rackspace brought in 20 computers, rigged a Wi-Fi network connected to the Internet using a 3G card, and set up a database to capture the information. Cards completed at other San Antonio shelters were scanned and then transcribed by volunteers. In addition, Rackspace programmers wrote a script to scan multiple online missing-persons lists on an hourly basis, helping to reunite families. A week later, the facility was operating a post office, barber shop, pharmacy, and day-care center.

"My role was so tiny--I provided a spark and some fuel, and lit a wildfire," Weston says. Two weeks into it, he had no real accounting of how much was spent or what compensation the government would provide.

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