Solution Providers Help Customers Brace For Massive Blizzard Hitting Northeast

As the first flurries begin to fall from a massive blizzard hitting in the Northeast, solution providers are busy prepping their clients to be able to stay up and running during the storm.

The blizzard, called winter storm Juno, threatens millions of residents and is expected to dump up to three feet of snow across seven states.

However, solution providers said they have been actively preparing themselves and their customers and they won't let a few feet of snow freeze their business. The key, they agreed, is getting ahead of the game and not leaving any emergency preparations to the last minute.

[Related: 10 Ways To Make Sure Your IT Is Blizzard-Ready Before The Storm]

Sponsored post

"It's not a reactive type of emergency. We try to stay ahead of it -- it's built into the business. Being from New England, we're used to dealing with this," Mike Hadley, CEO of Boston-based iCorps Technologies, said.

Hadley said iCorps has built disaster recovery and backup solutions for the majority of its customers. He said he periodically reaches out to customers throughout the year to make sure they are up to speed.

"We’re very proactive with our clients when it comes to that," Hadley said. "The unfortunate thing is ... it can happen any time. Disasters just come up and you just have to be able to deal with them," he continued.

Irene Goltsman, COO of Staten Island, N.Y.-based Digital Edge, and Carl Mazzanti, CEO of Hoboken, N.J.-based eMazzanti Technologies, both agreed that the storm was nothing compared to Hurricane Sandy, where they both were able to keep systems up and running for customers. The key to weather disasters, they both said, was preparation.

"We practice for the big game every day," Mazzanti said, comparing it to a sports game. "We don't wait for the big warning of a multiday problem to do something about it. By then, it's too late."

For Cathie Briggette, vice president of marketing and sales at Boston-based NSK, that means verifying all of the backup systems and running system tests to make sure everything is functioning. She said NSK would be testing the cloud backups at 4 p.m. Monday, the day before the peak of the storm, to make sure everything is working correctly.

Marc Mansfield, president of Boston-based Celera Networks, said that for blizzard emergencies, it's important to be "proactive" with customers when it comes to backup, disaster recovery and business continuity. Beyond that, Mansfield said the most important consideration in weather emergencies is making sure all clients are able to work remotely.

"I think the key thing is just to make sure that everybody is able to access things remotely, to make sure any technology that they use to access their systems remotely, whether it's in their office or in a cloud-based system, is tested and working today, as opposed to waiting until tomorrow," Mansfield said.

Mansfield said 80 percent to 90 percent of his customers use cloud services and hosted email already, which makes working remotely an easy transition as long as the power stays on.

All of the solution providers CRN spoke with said they were actively reaching out to their customers to warn them about the weather, suggesting remotely working and giving them technical tips to protect them. Most importantly, they said they were letting customers know they would be open for support and keeping them up and running.

Most solution providers said around 90 percent of their customers would be working from home during the storm, which means a focus on keeping remote systems up and running and having phone lines open for support issues.

NEXT: Solution Providers Get Their Own Businesses Ready

As for themselves, solution providers had mixed policies on working from home and coming into the office.

Some said they planned to cancel all on-site appointments and have all employees working remotely. Celera Networks' Mansfield said all of his employees would be working remotely, and he had given them extra charging packs and urged them to keep their cellphones charged.

"We're basically able to conduct business as usual, no matter where anybody is," Mansfield said. "Obviously, we've had these situations before."

Briggette said NSK will keep its help desk support running "for emergencies only," with help desk staff fielding the calls from home.

Digital Edge's Goltsman said essential employees, around 80 percent of the total employee base, would be coming into the office despite the storm, with the rest working from home. She said the office would be bringing in free lunch for those who come in to support Digital Edge's customers.

Hadley said iCorps has a mixed strategy, with most employees in its Boston and New York City offices working from home. Using IP phones routing to other offices and generators at some employees' homes, Hadley said iCorps will be able to be "fully up and running and functioning," even if power is lost.

For emergency on-site support calls, Hadley said he is putting up two employees in New York City in hotels and coordinating employees who live in Boston to be able to access clients in an emergency.

The bottom line, solution providers agreed, is that it will be business as usual for themselves and their clients.

"Every time we have a snowstorm, we get better and better at it. You learn from it -- at this point we're very solid at supporting our clients and having them be productive during some sort of inclement weather, issues and disasters," Hadley said.