It’s late afternoon on Sunday, May 22, 2011 in Joplin, Missouri. The world’s single deadliest tornado flattens your building. Pieces of your office—walls, computers, furniture, files, and more—scatter for miles, carried away by 200 mph winds.
What do you do now?
StorageCraft® partner John Motazedi can tell you. He’s the CEO of SNC Squared Technology Group, a managed service provider in Joplin. Just five business hours after a tornado tore through his town, reducing his building to a pile of rubble, he got his company up and running—thanks to a dedicated staff and StorageCraft solutions.
“Our business survived because we have procedures and policies. We eat our own soup; we use our own backup systems. We practice what we preach. That’s how we were able to bring every one of our clients back.
The Class EF5 tornado killed 160 people and destroyed almost one-third of Joplin, including 8,000 homes and hundreds of businesses—an estimated $3 billion in damage. We get tornadoes a lot near Joplin, but none like that one. It was a mile wide and seven miles long. Nothing stood taller than six feet in the devastation area, other than bank safes. The tornado moved a solid concrete, ten-story hospital four inches off its foundation. The weather service almost needed another rating on the EF scale, the destruction was so bad.”
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Hardest hit was the area near the hospital, where SNC Squared and most of its customers’ offices once stood.
“We lost thirteen school campuses, two fire stations, multiple grocery stores, and fifty doctors’ offices. Patients were calling their doctors and saying, “Hey I need my prescription for my blood pressure.” No worries, because we were hosting that information safely in the cloud with StorageCraft ShadowProtect®.”
Thankfully, Motazedi’s family and home were out of the twister’s path. Soon after the tornado lifted, he texted his employees. To his relief, they and their immediate families were safe. That night, he and his staff helped clear roads and look for survivors. They even helped recover bodies from the wreckage of a nursing home near their former office.
Early the next day, after the heavy rains died down and the sun came up, SNC Squared employees started salvaging computer equipment from the ruins of their office and from customer locations. They brought the machines to Motazedi’s house, cleaned and dried them out, then set up a temporary network operations center in his basement. By 2 p.m. Monday, SNC Squared was back in business.
Rebuilding After the Storm
Despite the widespread damage of the Joplin tornado, SNC Squared recovered 100% of their customers’ data within seventy-two business hours of the deadly storm.
CEO John Motazedi credits the rapid recovery to technology from StorageCraft.
“The main reason we could keep functioning is ShadowProtect and bulletproof backup. We had a doctor whose last backup was at 5:39 p.m. on May 22, 2011. We confirmed that his backup data replicated off-site at 5:41 p.m. Two minutes later, that doctor’s office was completely gone. We were able to restore his server as of 5:39 p.m.”
The majority of Motazedi’s customers are in the medical field, and ShadowProtect is ideal for these continuously changing environments.
“Each transaction (each patient visit) is important. It must follow security and encryption policies, and be granular enough that I can get each patient’s records copied without loading the system down too much.”
The ShadowProtect line of best-in-class backup and disaster recovery solutions became even more critical to his medical customers after the tornado.
“In a disaster, hundreds of people are injured. Medical personnel need to get to patient charts and health records. For doctors to get access to medical records was absolutely key.”
SNC Squared uses ShadowProtect Server and ShadowProtect Desktop to do regular backups of client data every fifteen minutes for servers, and every thirty minutes for special workstations. It uses ShadowProtect IT Edition to recover damaged machines or to virtualize the client’s environment and give them remote access to it.
This saved us hours. The restoration to a virtual machine was particularly important. During the disaster we didn’t have access to new machines immediately, and we were able to virtualize backup images and get clients running. Because of these flexible and versatile StorageCraft solutions, SNC Squared was not only able to recover all of its clients’ systems, it was able to help others in the community.
“I sent a message to the local chamber of commerce: ‘We’re up; our customers are up. We’re willing to assist anyone. We just want to help.’ The Joplin Chamber posted it on their Facebook page.”
That message proved invaluable, not only to the community but to SNC Squared. At the beginning of 2011, it had seventy clients under contract. By the end of 2011, even accounting for those businesses who decided not to reopen their doors, SNC Squared had a net gain of twenty-three clients.
Being Ready for the Next One
Only a handful of managed service providers can say they’ve survived a disaster like the Joplin tornado of 2011.
Today, John Motazedi has a new career objective: to tell everyone they must make a backup and disaster recovery plan. Now.
It certainly contributed to their own survival. In addition to skilled staff and StorageCraft solutions, a detailed backup and disaster recovery plan contributed to the survival of SNC Squared.
“I have one dedicated staff member who checks the backups on 167 servers and workstations every day. When the tornado hit, I didn’t lose any sleep, because I knew we were backing up that data, and it was part of our standard operating procedure to check our backups every day. You’ve got to have some plan in place. We were lucky, but part of that luck was being prepared for disaster. Our preparedness met the opportunity. That’s what luck really is.”
Motazedi offers this advice about disaster recovery and business continuity.
- Make a BDR plan, communicate the plan, and test the plan.
- Learn to be humble. You don’t know it all. Be open to advice. Lean on friends and business colleagues as a resource.
- Put a legacy plan in place. Make sure your company can still exist if something should go wrong with the CEO.
- Keep your insurance up to date. Check with your insurance underwriter, not your insurance agent, to make sure you are truly covered in certain scenarios.
- Be sure you have backups for documentation, key people, and processes—not just your computers and software.
When disaster strikes, it also helps to get an outside perspective. The night of the tornado, a business associate in Arkansas drove to Joplin with an SUV full of supplies.
“The best thing he brought us was his brain. He was not directly involved, so he could advise me on decisions that had to be made really, really quickly.”
Founded in 1998, SNC Squared Technology Group provides IT support and comprehensive managed services to small and mid-sized businesses in Joplin, Missouri and the Four States Area (Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas).
SNC Squared helps customers realize the full potential of their technology investments. Their staff of IT professionals keeps up with the latest technologies and certifications so they can offer everything a fully staffed, in-house technical support department provides.
In addition to reliable, responsive service, they offer this guarantee: “Our goal is zero downtime. If something does go wrong we’ll have a technician on site in less than an hour, guaranteed. And even if your server dies completely, we can have you up and running again in short order thanks to our emergency backup virtual servers.”
For about six weeks after the 2011 tornado destroyed their headquarters, SNC Squared operated out of CEO John Motazedi’s home. “At one point we had 21 servers running in the basement,” he says. “Our primary goal after the tornado was not ‘where are we going to move?’ It was, ‘how can we get you back up and running, because we can operate from anywhere.’ We didn’t even think about our office space.”
SNC Squared has been using ShadowProtect since October of 2008. “We were relying on tapes, and ShadowProtect changed the way we do business,” Motazedi says. “We’ve had competitors come by, and I’ve said no. Across the board, we stick with StorageCraft and ShadowProtect. It’s fast, it’s efficient, and simple to understand.”