When Hurricane Sandy struck the northeast U.S. in the fall of 2012, it entered the record books as the second most expensive hurricane in recorded U.S. history, causing more than $50 billion in damages by preliminary estimates.1, 2 Long Island’s Suffolk and Nassau counties suffered significant impacts from the storm. According to FEMA, storm and tidal surges in the two counties flooded, damaged or destroyed an estimated 95,500 structures, including 44 power and electrical generation facilities, 28 fire stations, 26 schools, three police stations and a major medical center.3 Long Island’s power customers were among the hardest hit by power outages. Nearly 1 million of the local utility’s 1.1 million customers were without power immediately after the storm washed ashore in New Jersey on October 29. The power was not fully restored to all Long Island customers until more than two weeks later. 4 Even before the hurricane devastated the Caribbean and headed north, Custom Computer Specialists, a Suffolk County-based technology provider, went into overdrive to ensure that its IT Assurance Customers’ networks and IT assets were prepared for the storm and impending power outages, flooding and other damages. This solutions brief will review Custom’s IT Assurance offering and describe how the company helped two of its Long Island-based IT Assurance customers weather Hurricane Sandy.
Located in Hauppauge, N.Y., Custom specializes in large-scale technology implementations, comprehensive support programs and consulting on IT technologies and solutions. Custom IT Assurance is a suite of technology services for businesses, schools, government agencies, healthcare organizations and other customers that require highly reliable and secure, 24x7x365 network performance. “The purpose of Custom IT Assurance is to keep our customers’ IT systems up and running, resolve problems quickly and provide reliable IT service and support when needed,” explained Andrew Robinson, Custom’s Director of IT Assurance. “Our solution can be tailored to meet any organization’s unique staffing, budgeting and architectural needs.” Custom IT Assurance is offered in tiered levels, from basic proactive monitoring of IT devices—including around-the-clock remote network monitoring and management of servers, routers, firewalls, desktop workstations, printers, mobile devices and everything in between—to a full scope of IT outsourced services. From a state-of-the-art network management center, Custom’s personnel—certified according to relevant industry standards—remotely manage and monitor customer IT environments to ensure that systems are always available, stable and secure. Custom’s service desk proactively notifies appropriate client users and staff when a problem occurs and works to resolve the issue. Organizations that use Custom IT Assurance save IT personnel costs without sacrificing the convenience and immediacy of an onsite IT expert. They can also eliminate network downtime and poor IT performance while increasing staff productivity. The predictable monthly cost helps customers get the maximum return on investment on IT expenses for support, management and administration. “Businesses are the most successful when they’re able to focus on their core mission, business strategies and customer problems,” said Robinson. “IT is a distraction. Our IT Assurance offering can help them solve the business problems of IT support.”
Custom’s executive leadership recognized several years ago that the potential for hurricanes, snowstorms, nor’easters, floods and other natural disasters make Long Island vulnerable to disruptions in utility services and business functions. To deliver successful business continuity services to its customers, the company required a solution to ensure its own business operational stability. To power its facility during emergency and disaster situations, Custom invested in a large enterprise-scale generator that was capable of powering its facility for 12 days. Secure in the knowledge that its own facility would have sufficient power to continue operating, Custom began to plan for its IT Assurance customers’ emergency IT needs. Before the storm, the company put its support staff and critical support systems into emergency mode as it developed plans for providing its customers with proactive and ongoing emergency support. Custom remotely validated customer systems, performing extensive hardware and software checks, such as verifying system connections and backup data, to ensure system integrity. In the event of a catastrophic failure, this accelerates recovery time, allowing new hardware to be brought up very quickly. In addition, Custom support staff developed a checklist to help customers prepare their networks, systems and other IT assets for the storm. They provided the storm preparation checklist to customers three days before the storm’s arrival and followed up two days later to ensure that all necessary precautions were taken. They also provided information on possible worst-case scenarios and how to manage them. Customers were provided with alternate service numbers as well as the personal mobile phone numbers of their support technicians. “Our biggest concern was for customers who waited until the last minute to prepare for the storm,” noted Robinson. “Some of our team members went in person to full service customers to ensure that all steps were taken and systems were properly shut down.” When Hurricane Sandy finally hit Long Island, Custom’s IT Assurance customers were prepared and protected. Here’s how two of them fared. Massapequa Heart Group is a full-service cardiac care practice located in Nassau County and affiliated with North Shore LIJ Medical Group. It offers a full range of noninvasive technology for cardiac evaluation and therapy from an expanded, state-of-the-art cardiac care facility. Since 2010, Massapequa Heart Group has relied on Custom’s IT Assurance solution to support all of its desktops and third party applications. Because power was unavailable across most of Long Island during the hurricane, the facility was unable to provide full service. However, with the help of the Custom IT Assurance, Massapequa Heart Group was able to access electronic patient records, a mission-critical part of any healthcare practice. On the day after the storm, the Custom support team met at the customer site to install a single generator and reconfigure its network. Massapequa Heart Group was back online and able to provide access to electronic patient records that same day, and in fact was fully operational before many other healthcare providers in the area. LoopLoc is a family-owned business that, like Custom, is located in Hauppauge. A global manufacturer of safety swimming pool covers, in-ground pool liners and removable toddler fencing, LoopLoc subscribes to Custom’s basic Network Assurance program, which provides a proactive notification when networks become over-utilized or unavailable. Around-the-clock service is important because a global network of dealers depends on LoopLoc and its 300 employees to conduct sales transactions and support its products. LoopLoc staff performed all the actions recommended by Custom’s storm preparation checklist. Custom’s IT Assurance support staff visited the customer site the day after the storm and found that one of the servers, a ten-year-old unit that powered the company’s financial applications and services, had experienced a hardware failure and was unable to function. That same day, Custom provided and installed a loaner server, which enabled LoopLoc to quickly get back online and perform financial transactions. Without Custom’s IT Assurance offering, LoopLoc would have faced finding parts or purchasing a replacement server, because the failed server did not have a warranty.
Long Island customers that relied on Custom’s IT Assurance offering were spared the debilitating network outages caused by the power disruptions that plagued the majority of businesses during Hurricane Sandy. Before, during and after the storm, Custom technical personnel verified and monitored their customers’ systems to ensure availability and reliability and identify potential problem areas. The company helped its customers proactively prepare their networks and IT assets for the storm. Afterwards, Custom support staff were onsite—frequently in the dark—to manage any issues that needed attention. As a result, Custom IT Assurance customers such as Massapequa Heart Group and LoopLoc were able to weather the storm without experiencing crippling network or system problems. “The Custom IT Assurance Solution provides a lot of productivity and cost benefits on an everyday basis,” concluded Robinson. “But it really shines in the event of an emergency or disaster situation such as Hurricane Sandy.”
1 “Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Sandy,” Eric S. Blake, Todd B. Kimberlain, Robert J. Berg, John P. Cangialosi and John L. Beven II, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, February 12, 2013. 2 “Hurricane Sandy ranked as second-costliest storm behind Katrina,” Curtis Morgan, The Miami Herald, February 12, 2012. 3 “Hurricane Sandy Long Island: Report Says Storm Ruined 95,534 Buildings In Nassau, Suffolk Counties,” Bill Bleyer, Huffington Post, January 8, 2013. 4 “LIPA to restore last 80,000 NY power outages from Sandy on Tues,” Scott DeSavino, Reuters, November 12, 2012.