Hurricane Harvey has wreaked devastation to the greater Houston area and inspired the whole country to rush to help in any way they can.
As the floodwaters begin to recede, residents, rescue workers and first responders are just beginning to recognize the full impact of the storm. What is clear is that Houston and other areas on the Gulf Coast are in desperate need of help as the search for survivors continues and the nearly inconceivable cost of the damage continues to climb as rapidly as the floodwaters have for the last several days.
As a lifelong resident of Dallas, Texas, which has a sometimes tempestuous yet always close relationship with Houston, I know many people who were caught in the storm. Some are waiting in shock in shelters to be told where to go now that they no longer have homes. Some are trapped in their houses or apartment buildings, thankful the high ground on which they chose to ride out the hurricane kept them just out of reach of the floodwater licking at their feet.
And then there are those I haven't heard from at all.
Tech industry rushes to help
As many of us wait to hear word of our loved ones, the philanthropic and relief efforts from the tech community give a degree of comfort, connection and gratitude.
Several big names in tech have committed to monetary donations to help victims, most with an employee match, including Microsoft, Amazon, Cisco and industry association CompTIA, which today launched an industry-wide fundraising effort, encouraging corporate and individual members, partners and the wider tech community to give.
Google upped the ante significantly (as it tends to do) with its donation promise, pledging to match the first $1M in donations to Network for Good; cover all processing fees so 100 percent of donations goes to relief efforts; and sent $750,000 to disaster response organizations via Google.org, its non-profit initiative.
But a few vendors have gone beyond raising funds, stepping up to the plate to help service providers prepare for Harvey's landfall and offer services to help ongoing relief efforts.
In addition to committing $75,000 plus a 2:1 employee match to support various relief organizations, SolarWinds is dedicating a minimum of 1,000 employee volunteer hours over the next six months to organizations that continue recovery and rehabilitation efforts, such as the Red Cross.
"The impact on our neighbors here in Texas has been and continues to be devastating," said CEO Kevin B. Thompson of Austin-based SolarWinds in a statement. "This is a time when we as company -- and all of us as individuals -- need to step up and help as much as we can."
Datto has offered free virtual or imaged versions of its backup and recovery solutions and has sent a disaster relief team to its partners in the Gulf to provide business continuity devices free-of-charge. The VAR Guy has spoken to MSPs in the Houston area who aren't even Datto partners, but who have heard of the extra mile the company is going and who were touched by the Datto team's quick response.
Dell Technologies, which is headquartered in Central Texas, is taking the devastation to the Texas Gulf Coast personally, a company spokesperson told The VAR Guy. In addition to a $500,000 donation to the Red Cross and Team Rubicon, Dell has established a 24/7 rapid response center, prioritizing support for emergency services and FEMA over and above anything else as part of its efforts to connect with its approximately 600 employees in the Houston area.
Over the last three days, SAP has raised more than $200,000 for relief efforts, says a company spokesperson. And while the company's focus right now is still very much on supporting search-and-rescue operations, they have no intention of stopping there.
"In due time, we absolutely intend to have people on the ground to help, clean-up, and provide additional support to impacted residents… many of them are our employees, customers and partners. We’re in this together."
The list of vendors rushing to help is long, with more joining the effort every day. Together, these tech giants will raise millions for the victims of Harvey.
MSPs: the unsung tech heroes
But the dedicated efforts of MSPs and other service providers in the days leading up to the storm surge have gone largely unrecognized in the mainstream press. Again and again, the Penton Channel team has heard stories of partners working long, fevered hours to back up their customers' data prior to Harvey's landfall in case of a server failure. The lack of access roads leading to data centers remain flooded, restricting delivery of fuel to maintain power and preventing customer access, so Houston's IT infrastructure isn't out of the woods yet.
Nancy Sabino, who together with her husband Angel runs Houston-based MSP SabinoCompTech, told The VAR Guy that so far, only two clients have suffered major damage to their buildings; because Sabino had prepared for flooding by elevating their servers, they were able to maintain business continuity. Still, she says her team can't yet relax.
"I have some clients that are up against the Brazos river, which is supposed to crest tomorrow, so they’re not in the clear just yet. We’re taking extra precautions for them as we speak."
Where Sabino and other MSPs can't contribute on a traditional service level, they're looking for other ways to help their clients.
"At this point, we’re reaching out to our clients and their employees making sure they are safe and then asking them what they need," Sabino said. "If they need shelter for their servers we’re getting that done. If they need ways to work remotely, we’re getting that done. If they need to find shelter or supplies for their families, we’re getting that done. If they’re at a point where they can start working, we’re helping them get there because they need to make money so that they can pay their employees and help others. Everyone is in a little bit of a different situation than others so we’re really trying to be as dynamic as possible to get everyone through this."
Sabino's sister, also a Houston resident, was one of those hardest hit by Harvey. With the water levels in her house rising to more than five feet, her home and most possessions were destroyed by the storm. She and her children left their home with only the clothes on their backs and what they had manage to stuff into a backpack before the floodwaters forced them to evacuate. Sabino feels lucky that her family was able to escape with their lives, but is humbled by the devastation. She and her husband, Angel, are focusing on the human factor first, and the technology second.
"It’s moments like these when our clients say things like, 'We don’t know what we would do without y'all…' that makes what we do worth every uphill battle...We do provide the value that we promise."
To make a donation to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, you can visit the CompTIA donation page to send monetary aid through Heart to Heart International. Make sure to enter CompTIA when prompted for a company donation match to ensure your donation is matched two-for-one.