Small business spotlight: Natural disaster aftermath with eMazzanti Technologies
In honor of National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we talked with Carl Mazzanti about how he and his wife Jennifer developed eMazzanti Technologies into a leading business continuity expert. He also discusses their experience with natural disaster recovery after Hurricane Sandy and how small business owners can benefit from preparing for a business interruption.
Please share some details about yourself. What’s your background?
I'm a graduate of Georgetown University with a triple major in finance, new and small business management, and international business. Technology was always a passion where youth can excel and dreams become reality. Our firm eMazzanti Technologies was the realization of a dream Jennifer, my wife and business partner, helped create.
When did you first start eMazzanti Technologies? Explain what your business does.
Jennifer and I founded eMazzanti Technologies in August 2001 and quickly adopted a business continuity mindset. We were in the World Trade Center on 9/11 when the first plane hit. Some of our first clients suffered irreparable damage that day. The experience galvanized our approach to problems, customer needs, and response.
We specialize in multi-site implementations, outsourced network management, remote monitoring, and support based on Microsoft and related technologies for customers ranging from professional services firms to global retailers.
Where did you recognize the need for these services? Who’s your typical client?
When we started the business, we thought that we could provide IT services in a different way, putting ourselves in our clients' position to solve their business problems. We saw that a lot of IT companies were just selling materials without thinking about the need being filled. After 9/11, we knew that our place in the world would be helping businesses to overcome challenges, especially when faced with disaster and adversity.
Our typical client is a small- to medium-sized business, but we also serve larger enterprises. We are experts that supplement staff or leverage our skills for a particular need, like business continuity, firewall security, or software development, to name a few. We help a lot of accountants, lawyers, designers, and small manufacturers to solve business problems and enhance revenue with technology.
Before Hurricane Sandy hit, what were you concerned about?
Our primary concern before the storm was to help our clients and our employees prepare for the worst. We knew from Hurricane Irene and previous disasters that businesses that didn’t resume operations quickly do not survive. As we watched the Hudson River get closer to our building, we went to sleep that night not knowing what we were going to wake up to.
Once the storm passed, what sort of difficulties did you experience?
We made our way through flooded streets to the office the next morning as the sun was coming up that day. With each passing street, the scene looked grimmer and calls started to come in from those in need. Without power in our own facility, we coordinated a response from our recovery facilities to meet the needs of our customer base.
Did you underestimate your preparedness for the storm?
You always learn with each new recovery effort, but the outcome shows that eMazzanti Technologies was well prepared and those we serviced were better off from the pre-planning. In the days before Sandy hit, we enlisted all of our employees into a customer support role, making backups and advising clients on how to prepare to get their systems back up as soon as possible.
In the aftermath, what steps did you take to get up and running again?
For many in our region, power was our biggest challenge. We did not have power, and a lot of clients in Lower Manhattan had no way to use communications or the systems they rely on daily to operate. Many were even worse off – literally under water – and at the time, we couldn't tell which customers were down with complete loss or just without power. Finding customers, checking on each site, and assessing damage to plan next steps often took the longest, but our reporting tools proved invaluable at providing information about each environment.
First, we had to figure out who needed help and how we could help. We had to strategically see where to bring up servers, locally or virtually. For some, we simply had to move equipment to different locations to get customers up and running. For one customer, we climbed up 19 flights of stairs to get their equipment from a building without power (no elevators when the power is out), then walked two blocks and up another 14 floors to get that equipment into a data center running on generator power.
How did the storm affect your ability to do business?
We set up temporary headquarters in several staff members' homes outside the danger zone and did what was needed to use our tools to respond to the challenges ahead. These tools are the same as those leveraged by many of our customers (deployed by eMazzanti) that have kept 100% of our customers hit by Sandy in business today.
Did you have a disaster recovery plan in place?
Yes. We were up and serving customers within a few hours, and remarkably, we were able to recover all of our customers within 72 hours.
Our biggest lesson from Sandy was that it is just as important to treat our own site as a client. We tend to be client-focused in any emergency and now realize that some customers needed a place to go, and going forward, that will be our own facilities. Said another way, to help others effectively, you sometimes need – at a bare minimum – to be near the status quo to truly help out the masses beyond the sphere we support daily.
How do you help small businesses that find themselves in the same situation?
We guide them through the business continuity and disaster recovery planning process and supply the hardware and services that they need (e.g., backup data storage, cloud servers, etc.). Our hands-on experience helps inform the process.
Tips from eMazzanti Technologies on disaster recovery
Create a business continuity and data security mindset first. Businesses must adopt this way of thinking to survive a disaster.
Identify disaster scenarios. Natural disasters can be devastating, but most disasters are internal or caused by employees.
Develop a contingency plan. Planning ahead can help you identify risks and prepare for disasters small and large.
Work with a partner. Enlist the services of a professional for disaster recovery and business continuity planning. It will save time, money, and perhaps, your business.
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