'Not Alone': Solution Providers, Vendors Help Customers, Each Other As Harvey Soaks Houston

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Iland Technologies CTO Justin Giardina was scheduled to talk about cloud computing this week at VMworld in Las Vegas. Instead, Giardina is at a local Houston church, helping families find shelter as they escape the wrath of Harvey, a hurricane that turned into a record shattering tropical storm.

"We tried to get employees out of Houston on Friday," said Dante Orsini, senior vice president of business development and a colleague of Giardina's at Houston-based solution provider iLand. "Unfortunately, Justin and some others weren't able to make it out. Some iLand employees needed to abandon their homes."

Between Friday and Monday, the storm intensified, Houston's airports closed, and conditions worsened. Folks who left Houston on Friday, unsure of the storm's lingering potential, suddenly weren't able to return when the catastrophic flooding began. 

"The guilt of the people who are at VMworld, who can't help their family right now – that's the thing that is driving some crazy," Orsini said.

[Related: Hurricane Harvey: Solution Providers Aid Customers With Proactive Services]

iLand has been helping Houston customers with disaster recovery and backup services in preparation for and during the storm. 

"We saw folks reaching out in desperation over the weekend where our team was working around the clock to help anybody that needed to move data from their corporate environment to Dallas or some other city," said Orsini. "It's been full steam ahead for us from a business perspective. Thankfully, most people who already have recovery plans with us have the ability to initiative failovers on their own or engage our team for help."

Fellow Houston-based solution provider Centre Technologies is in constant communications with local customers, according to Patricia Gonzalez, Centre's director of sales and marketing.

"We have email center updates going out at least three times a day, letting customers know about the weather, how their data is being protected, and then next steps," said Gonzalez.

"We sent out earlier today all of the volunteer organizations that they can reach out to. We're actively telling them, 'Here's what we're seeing, here's how it's going.' And we're not just sending emails. We're sending text messages and picking up the phone and letting them know."

Gonzalez said she was also "amazed" at the outreach from vendors like Cisco and Dell, "These manufacturers have all stepped us to say, 'Hey, Centre Technologies, we know you're headquartered in Houston, we see all this flooding is happening. We're sending this your way.' They're sending links to where our employees can donate and information that our customers need to stay relevant," said Gonzalez.

"It's been amazing to see us do what we do, but to see a community of technology leaders in this industry step up and say, 'Hey Centre, what do you need?' That's inspiring," she said.  "I'm talking about Cisco, Dell – even our distributors like Ingram Micro to Tech Data – everybody is sending messages about, 'How can we help?' It's a great feeling to feel like you're not alone."

Cisco, for example, has launched a $500,000 disaster response campaign to support the American Red Cross in efforts to provide aid to Houston. The Cisco Foundation will match donations up to $10,000 per employee.

Solution providers told CRN that, remarkably, no flood damage had occurred inside any customers' data centers.

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