Florida MSPs Relied on Out-of-State Data Centers During Hurricane Ian

A president of a Fort Myers MSP talks to Channel Futures about how it survived Hurricane Ian and how the company backed up customer data.

Claudia Adrien

October 7, 2022

5 Min Read
Hurricane Ian Damage

Alex Santana, president of managed service provider Connect SWFL, couldn’t believe his eyes when he surveyed the exterior of his company’s building after Hurricane Ian.

There was absolutely no damage to the structure.

The hurricane devastated Fort Myers. Connect SWFL is an MSP less than 10 miles north of Fort Myers Beach. Additionally, the business is in a flood zone, a short distance from the Caloosahatchee River.


Connect SWFL’s Alex Santana

“Once they were able to get the power poles up and running, it was fine,” Santana said of his business. “And you know, we were fine. We also have dual internet connectivity. So, one of our internet connections was already up and running while the other one took a little bit of time to come up.”

Santana doesn’t exactly know how other MSPs in Fort Myers or Southwest Florida fared post hurricane. But he said he does know that his company had redundancies in place in case disaster became reality.

Last week it did.

Sustained Damage from Hurricane Ian?

Despite the chaos and destruction that Hurricane Ian brought, the data that businesses need to function may be unscathed coming out of this storm. At least that was the case for Connect SWFL.

“The software we use is not in-house, so it’s actually hosted in the cloud,” Santana said. “So if anything happens and our clients need to open tickets, that’s available all the time. There are data that’s internal that’s obviously backed up locally, also backed up offsite, and available in case of a catastrophe. And that’s usually what we recommend: Always have offsite backup for our clients for those reasons.”

When it comes to data centers, Santana said that his MSP uses one in Florida and another out of state to provide a redundant system in case of a disaster. He did not mention if the Florida data center he uses sustained damage during the storm. A Fort Myers-based location is where the MSP houses its own internal documents.

There are approximately 52 data centers in Florida, according to datacenters.com. Data Center Frontier‘s Rich Miller writes that the state’s data centers are typically prepared for natural disasters.

“[They] have lots of experience with hurricanes and are taking precautions [for Hurricane Ian] to make sure their buildings are as prepared as possible, stocking up on generator fuel and positioning staff for extended shifts in case the storm creates travel challenges,” Miller wrote before Ian made landfall.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast in 2012, several New York data centers had to switch to generator power. When fuel started to run out quickly, the companies told their customers to shut down servers and move workloads.

Data Center Locations

For some companies, preparation for natural disasters is integral to their business models.

“I think we run over 100 disaster recovery drills per year for our customers. So it’s pretty extensive, and it’s a lot of time and money invested in doing that,” said Jim Kozlowski, VP of data center operations at Ensono. “So when a disaster does occur, which it almost never occurs, we know what to do through those scenarios.”


Ensono’s Jim Kozlowski

It may “never occur” for Illinois-based Ensono because of how it selects where to put its data centers. No. 2 on the 2022 Channel Futures MSP 501, the company delivers managed IT services to optimize and modernize mainframes, infrastructure and cloud for clients. It has 20 data centers strategically placed around the world outside of disaster zones.

“I’m constantly playing the kind of board game of where I want my locations, and how I want them to look,” Kozlowski said.

However, he was frank.

“I’m never going to put a data center on Fort Myers Beach,” he said, adding that companies in Florida should have a backup elsewhere.

As for Jim Lapointe, president of St. Augustine, Florida-based MSP Colden Company (No. 116 on the 2022 Channel Futures MSP 501), he said his firm relies on Datto’s out-of-state data centers.

“We’re using big players that have data center replication and things like that. So, we’re not too worried about a single site going down anywhere,” Lapointe added.

Data Post Ian

For Florida MSPs dependent on a single data center, it’s a concern when data aren’t replicated anywhere.


Colden Company’s Jim Lapointe

“It’s a problem when a major catastrophe, like something like Hurricane Ian, cuts out the internet feeds. Then you know that data is inaccessible. And that’s an issue,” Lapointe said.

Many of the MSPs in Fort Myers and the surrounding areas had customers who lost everything in the storm. Santana, though, can confirm that his MSP still has their data.

“We can’t get them up and running until they figure out what they’re going to do and so on. But for the most part, right now what we’re doing is just making sure everybody can get back to operational as quickly as possible,” he said.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Claudia Adrien or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Claudia Adrien

Claudia Adrien is a reporter for Channel Futures where she covers breaking news. Prior to Informa, she wrote about biosecurity and infectious disease for a national publication. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and resides in Tampa.

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