Difficulties Impede Restoration Efforts

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2005-09-08 Print this article Print

Restoration efforts were impeded by the difficulties that technicians and fuel suppliers faced in reaching damaged facilities because of the flooding, massive destruction and lawlessness. The companys trucks delivering fuel for generators in central offices were accompanied last week by armed guards, according to a BellSouth spokesman.
"Hanging on by a thread" is how one eyewitness, Michael Barnett, described New Orleans telecommunications and IT condition to eWEEK late last week.
Crisis manager Barnett at DirectNIC, a free hosting service and domain registration division of New Orleans-based Intercosmos Media Group Inc., and four of Barnetts colleagues managed to keep the operation in business without interruption. Located on the 10th and 11th floors of a high-rise building—coincidentally, near BellSouths main office—in the central business district, DirectNIC remained operational in large part because of its employees ingenuity in securing fuel for the companys own diesel-powered generators. Most local businesses were cut off from the Internet when they lost power. The generators "power the data center, and from there we can run power cords to anyplace," Barnett told eWEEK via instant messaging. The company still did not have phone service as of Thursday. "We have a balcony on [the 11th floor] that we can get to, but we sleep in the data center." Barnett, who has a military background, prepared for the storm with a stockpile of food and water, a gun and a supply of diesel fuel expected to last 10 days. But powering the generators soon became a paramount concern, and the company first called on an employees uncle with "some kind of huge boat" to donate his reserve, according to Barnett, who chronicled on his Weblog the small companys experience. Click here to read more about a former Army soldier who is posting a blog from within New Orleans. Despite the unlikely success in retaining power via its own generators, DirectNIC nearly went down anyway because it relies on service providers for connectivity to the Internet. By Sept. 1, when the city was submerged by floods, all but one of its providers lost their OC3 connections. "TelCove [Inc., in Canonsburg, Pa.] was the one that stayed up," Barnett said. Donny Simonton, DirectNIC senior vice president, told eWEEK via e-mail that the other two providers, BellSouth and Broadwing Communications Inc., lost OC3 connectivity because of power issues. Barnetts blog provides a personal, eyewitness account of the citys deterioration, the flooding, the looting, the gunfire and the police presence. On Sept. 4, he wrote: "Some guy wearing khaki fatigues and black vests which say Police on them have their faces covered in black ski masks and are touting M4-A1s with front hand grips—like theyre some kind of Delta Force operators waiting to hit the tire house. Theyre guarding the four corners around the Bell South building for crying out loud. And what, they need secret identities? Come on." Even as general pandemonium and despair grew worse in the city, things started to look up for DirectNIC. By Sept. 5, all four of its OC3 connections were available as power started coming on in a few buildings in the business district, according to Barnett. By the end of last week, the exhausted DirectNIC team was turning its attention toward helping customers get back on their feet. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.


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