MSP Guides Clients Through Hurricane Harvey

For Houston-Texas based Elevated Technologies, the deadly storm offered plenty of tense moments and important lessons.

This time a week ago, Jason Rorie was hoping for the best.

The owner of Houston, Texas-based Elevated Technologies was hoping that he had done enough to protect his clients’ data from Hurricane Harvey’s devastating floods, that on-premise servers would stay dry, and that customers’ systems could be quickly brought back online when the worst was over.

And he hoped that he and his employees could avoid the brunt of the storm’s damage so they could keep the managed services provider (MSP) up and running throughout the disaster.

Fast-forward a week, and it’s clear that things turned out about as well as could have been expected.

“Most of our clients went back to work last Wednesday and through today,” Rorie said. “Everybody is back to work. Everybody’s systems are online. We didn’t take any flooded servers. There was no need to implement disaster recovery plans.

“We were very fortunate.”

It’s been a tense couple of weeks at Elevate Technologies – ever since it became clear about Aug. 23 that Harvey was going to slam into the Texas Gulf Coast, impacting the MSP’s customers.

After double-checking the integrity of customers’ offsite backups, Rorie’s team instructed clients to power off their servers before leaving for the weekend.

After the storm hit, as Houston reeled from widespread flooding, Elevate Technologies employees worked from home.

One of the company’s five workers was temporarily without power but Rorie feels lucky his team was able to stay on the job.

“We were all able to keep power and keep Internet,” he said. “We were able to support clients.”

Most of the support tickets involved help with VPNs and other issues related to users suddenly forced to remember how to work remotely.

Another support request came from an executive jet booking service that opted to weather the risk rather than power down its servers, seeking to continue operating around the clock.

In the end, the servers were fine but the company’s office phone lines – operated by another firm – were damaged in the flooding and failed.

“We had to help them get the numbers from their offices forwarded to their cell phones,” Rorie said. “They were able to work through…Other than that, they were good.”

Working remotely was also the issue at another client, an insurance company in Corpus Christi, which needed to get its staff processing claims, even as the rains still fell.

While the flooding in Houston captured most of the headlines, it’s easy to forget that the strongest winds from Hurricane Harvey were actually felt in Corpus Christi, where the storm first made landfall.

“From a wind and damage standpoint, outside of flooding, they really got hit really hard,” Rorie said.

This morning, for the first time since the storm hit, employees at Elevated Technologies tried to drive into the office to work.

“Everybody except me had to turn around because the traffic was so bad,” Rorie said.

Some of Houston’s busiest highways and roads remain underwater, snarling commutes on the remaining thoroughfares.

One member of Rorie’s team spent two hours stuck in traffic while taking his daughter to day care just 15 miles away.

After hearing similar stories from his other employees – and witnessing his own commute – Rorie told everyone to just turn around.

“Everybody is working remotely again,” he said.

Following Hurricane Ike nine years ago, Rorie said, everyone figured they had survived the once-in-a-lifetime natural disaster, and largely went back to business as usual.

After a second once-in-a-lifetime storm in less than a decade, he doesn’t plan to make the same mistake again.

“Looking into the future and knowing this will happen again, I think the takeaway is really stressing the importance of moving your workload into a data center or into the cloud,” Rorie said.

Conversations with clients have already started, rather organically, as Elevated Technologies helped bring systems back online.

He expects business continuity to remain a hot topic among his clients as they enter the fourth quarter and conduct year-end business reviews.

“If there’s an opportunity to make their individual disaster recovery plans more robust, that’s something we’re going to talk about it,” Rorie said.

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