In lower Manhattan last week, a noisy buzzing sound emanated from the office buildings deep in New York Citys financial district. That sound, the combined hum of hundreds of diesel power generators towed into the city to get businesses back online, signaled that people were going back to work.
Multex.com, a global financial services and information provider, was one of the first businesses to get a generator into the city after the destruction of the World Trade Center took the company completely off the grid. "We were OK until 7 World Trade Center collapsed," recalled Christopher Feeney, chief operating officer of Multex. "That took power and most of the communications circuits out."
Multex has three offices in lower Manhattan, all located very near the site of the Twin Towers: 75 Park Place, which contained the primary data center; 61 Broadway, which housed offices; and 100 William St., home to what used to be the companys secondary data center, but now has become its primary one.
While the company lost business associates, customers and partners in the disaster, no one employed by Multex was hurt in the attacks.
By the afternoon of Sept. 11, Feeney had kick-started the companys disaster recovery plan. Feeney first set up a command center at his home in central New Jersey, and then relocated to Multexs office in Long Island, N.Y. Next Feeney established teams and team leaders to begin the process of bringing Multexs systems back online.
"We set up a team of 20 people that quickly became our core team," Feeney said. By the morning of Sept. 12, Multex was able to reach the data center at 75 Park Place. But with the building damaged and access restricted, company officials decided that 100 William St. needed to become the primary data center. Feeney ordered new Dell Computer servers and they arrived quickly.
To get to that part of Manhattan, Feeney had to acquire badges from the citys emergency management office - not a trivial task - and even with those badges, some employees were turned away.
Multex had only one backup generator and it was at the site that was offline. Malcolm Draper, vice president of international operations, acquired a diesel-powered backup generator, had it shipped in by boat and ended up sleeping on the flatbed truck that drove it to the companys offices.
While technicians were trying to get the data center up and running at 100 William St., city safety officials kept evacuating the building because they feared One Liberty Plaza, a building between the World Trade Center and Multexs headquarters, was going to fall over. "I slept one night on the flatbed truck right on the street because they wouldnt let us back in the office," Draper said.
Multex was finally able to power up its data center using the generator Saturday, Sept. 15, and tested the site all day Sunday.
"We opened when the markets opened, and we had the same level of access as the New York Stock Exchange had," Feeney said. "We spent a lot of time [planning for] disaster recovery, and I have to say, it paid off."
While the world was changing around them, Feeney and Draper were happy to have the challenge at hand that kept them away from the television reports of carnage, and the news of lost friends.
"It was actually nice to be able to focus on this instead of letting your mind absorb what was going on out there," Feeney said.