Learning - and Profiting - From 'Superstorm Sandy'

Learning - and Profiting - From 'Superstorm Sandy'

By Rory J. Thompson, Web Editor  |  January 03, 2014

What would happen if you lost all your company’s critical data? Don’t wait for a record-breaking hurricane to find out.

It was just a year ago that a huge portion of the Eastern U.S. got slammed by what has since been dubbed “Superstorm Sandy,” a hurricane of such epic proportions that weathercasters and businesses alike will be talking about it for generations to come.

Yet while many experienced tragedy and loss from the devastation, others savvy enough to plan for it actually got a chance to prove their worth and came out of it battered and bruised, but even stronger for having survived it. One such company is “Backup My Info!” better known as “BUMI” (pronounced “BOOM-ee”).

Led by CEO Jennifer Walzer, the 10-year-old company does just what its name implies: backs up data for companies that need to have ready access to their critical information should a crisis strike. BUMI was indeed put to the test in late October 2012.

“We had built this whole solution, BCR (BUMI Cloud Recovery), specifically for our clients to use in a disaster,” Walzer said. “We tell them, ‘We can back up your servers and you can then recover those servers in one of our data centers so you can continue working, no matter what happens.’” So when Superstorm Sandy hit, BUMI was ready to deliver.

But the story started way before the storm was even a blip on anyone’s radar. Each day, BUMI engineers monitor their clients’ backup logs to make sure critical data is being backed up properly and in a timely fashion. This allows BUMI to proactively manage client backup and restore processes, if and when they are needed.

“We don’t just rely on automatic monitoring,” Walzer said. “We promise our clients ‘white glove treatment,’ and that’s what we deliver.”

Walzer emphasizes that what BCR delivers is not meant to be a solution to replace real-time replication.

“Some companies cannot be down more than five minutes,” she said. “This is more for organizations that are OK with being down for some time. It all depends on the speed you want; the faster you need to get your business back up and running, the more it costs.”

Serendipitous Meeting

As Sandy started gathering size and strength, Walzer was away from her New York office, in Boston at an Entrepreneurs Conference. A colleague of hers is a tech guy who owns a company that does weather forecasting for commercial shipping companies.

“He leaned over to me and said, ‘This is going to be way worse than anyone suspects,’” Walzer recalled. “That’s when I sprung into action.”

Walzer called her New York team and told them to begin implementing the disaster recovery procedures they had practiced so many times before.  BUMI’s corporate office housed their file server and e-mail server, and was right in the storm’s path. With the storm coming, they knew they would have to provide the high level of customer service their customers were used to with no interruption in communication.

“We’ve always recommended that our clients do disaster recovery drills twice a year. We want them to run through a full drill to show them how long it takes to recover data, and also to familiarize them with the process and see any quirks that might arise,” Walzer said.

But this was no drill. BUMI proactively notified customers of the impending storm and encouraged them to run preemptive backups of their data so that if the worse should come to pass, they’d be covered.

And covered they were.

“It was just like we drilled,” Walzer recalled. “On Saturday night we began proactively restoring our corporate servers to our Toronto-based data center using the BCR solution. Our Technology Manager, Dan Jacobson, sent out a notice to the entire staff: ‘OK, we’re up and running in Toronto, so everyone follows the DR procedures.’ By Sunday morning we were set. Even though our physical office suffered extensive damage, our data (and our clients’ data) was safely protected in our data centers in Canada. Our BCR solution allowed us to run our business remotely for nearly three months.”

The storm hit Sunday night into Monday. Afterwards, Walzer lost eight days of power at her home in New Jersey. “My e-mail and instant messaging still worked for a while. Then the lights flickered, and the power went out,” she said.

Things weren’t much better at the company’s NY headquarters in lower Manhattan.

“I got a notice from building management,” Walzer said. “There was 35 feet of seawater in the building, including the basement, sub-basement, and parts of the main lobby. We eventually started getting updates from management. In the first week of November they said, ‘You can go into the building by appointment to get your stuff and see your office.’ The building overall smelled of rot and mildew, but our space on the sixth floor was fine.”

There was similar good news for BUMI’s clients. Because of the team’s proactive movements, every client’s data was safe and recoverable. And even though the BUMI team was displaced and working all over the tri-state region, the company never lost a day of work.

“Right after the storm, we had a supplier FedEx everyone VoIP (Voice over IP) phones,” Walzer said. “We incurred the full cost in buying that equipment, because we found out too late we had no flood insurance on the building. At six floors up, who’d think we’d need it?”

Help Just In Time

Forstar Resources, Ltd. is a consulting and staffing company that specializes in the IT industry. Its clients include major Wall Street financial firms and a host of Fortune 500 companies. President Jamie Blitz says his company had been a client of BUMI for nearly six years before the storm hit.

“I had met BUMI’s Jennifer Walzer at some networking events and told her I was tired of collecting so many backup tapes,” Blitz recalled. “Being a true networker, she explained how seamless and effortless their services were. It was exactly what I was looking for; to know we had all our data secure no matter what would occur.”

So Forstar signed on with BUMI, but didn’t realize how invaluable the service would be until the storm hit.

“We actually lost power in our office for over a week, and were not even allowed into our space, effectively shutting us down for that entire period,” Blitz said. But the investment with BUMI paid off.

“They were great,” he said. “Their team had reached out to me prior to the storm to make sure we had the latest backups and to test them. Once power was lost they reached out to me to see if we needed any assistance, or if we wanted to restore any data onto temporary servers until we got power back and were able to get back into our office. Once there, they followed up again to make sure we were still in good shape.”

Still, it wasn’t all easy sailing for BUMI. While taking care of clients, they faced their own storm challenges.

“Being physically away from each other for so long is really tough,” Walzer said. “You need to focus on your team. One thing we did intentionally was to meet every Wednesday night in a different part of New York City, as we realized how lonely everyone was working from home. It reinforced one of our six core values.” [See sidebar]

And while such an experience might have adversely affected another company, the opposite was true for BUMI.

“Everyone involved was a rock star,” Walzer recalled. “I missed not seeing their faces every day. We realized that camaraderie and teamwork really counts for a lot. They made the best of it, and we all got so much closer from this experience as a group.  We weren’t able to get back into our office until mid-January and even now we still don’t have permanent power in our building.”

In retrospect, Walzer realizes how “lucky” she and her team are because of the storm.

“Because we were prepared, everyone was able to keep working,” she said. “We forged new relationships with colleagues in the same industry, and identified places where we can help each other in the future. I wouldn’t wish another storm like this on anyone, but it’s nice to know we survived…and can do so again if need be.”

SIDEBAR: BUMI’s Six Core Values

BUMI’s mission is simple: It protects corporate data continuity in a personalized way. The company’s six core values are at the heart of the company and describe how it supports its clients:

ALL ABOUT THE TEAM

From its hiring practices, to internal procedures, to taking care of clients –BUMI ensures all team members have the support they need. By taking care of its team, the company believes it can more efficiently take care of clients.

BE DILIGENT

BUMI is diligent about the details because it’s not just about backing up client data, it’s about being sure clients can recover quickly and successfully from data loss.

BRING IT ON (News - Alert)!

The BUMI team members thrive on new challenges and projects. The company is always embarking upon new projects, researching new technologies, and learning new ways to better themselves and improving upon the services they offer.

CELEBRATE

Whether it’s a new client, a finished project, an anniversary, a birthday, or even a productive week, BUMI takes the time to celebrate and recognize its accomplishments and milestones.

ENJOY YOURSELF!

At BUMI, the team enjoys themselves while working hard at the same time. Team members maintain a proper work-life balance so they can maintain the highest level of performance and service offered to clients.

OBSESSIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE

BUMI doesn’t just provide good customer service. Its team is obsessed with making a client’s BUMI experience wonderful. The relationship doesn’t end with the sale.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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