Tech Data, Tampa Bay VARs Brace for Charley

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Tech Data and other Tampa Bay-area companies are bracing for what could be the area's first direct hit by a hurricane in 80 years. Hurricane Charley is slated to reach Tampa Bay later today with winds exceeding 110 miles per hour.

"We've had a lot of brushes with storms, but not direct hits. It can be easy or disastrous. You never know what will happen," said Elio Levy, senior vice president of marketing at Tech Data.

Clearwater, Fla.-based Tech Data closed its headquarters Thursday at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and plans to reopen Monday morning, weather permitting.

"Most employees live in low areas, or have family in low areas," Levy said.

A recorded message informed callers to the Clearwater headquarters that solution providers can still place orders via Tech Data's Web site, and that the company's other distribution centers are open.

Some Central Florida solution providers remained open Friday morning, and staff was unsure when they would close.

"It's fine outside right now. We have stuff to do. We'd like to get stuff out for the customers," said Pat Walsh, president of Computer Station of Orlando, Longwood, Fla.

Walsh was not surprised that Tech Data chose to close for the day.

"I have clients there buttoning up yesterday at 3 p.m. and not planning to come in [today]," he said. "That's what's going on. All the schools are closed. They're closing the parks here. They don't close the parks just because. I think it's only the second time they've done that."

ConnectWise, a Tampa, Fla.-based solution provider, was staffed by a skeleton crew on Friday morning. Robin Brewer, senior systems engineer at the company, said Thursday the company was busy helping customers prepare their systems in the event of a power outage or other situation.

Other solution providers appeared to have closed for the day. Phones were unanswered at Acuity Solutions, a Tampa, Fla., solution provider, or GCA, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based solution provider, on Friday.

Ingram Micro plans to extend its hours to accompany any extra volume that results because of the storm, said a company spokeswoman.

Hours are extended to 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for sales and 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time for licensing and technical support, according to a company spokeswoman. FEMA orders will be given priority and the distributor will be open this weekend, the spokeswoman said.

UPS and FedEx shipments are being delayed or in some cases stopped because of the evacuation of some areas of Florida, according to spokeswomen at both companies. Customers are advised to track packages online to determine their location and updated delivery times, according to the companies.

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