Tech Companies Rush to Help Clients Recover

The rescue effort at ground zero of the World Trade Center disaster has justifiably been the focus of the nation’s attention these past two weeks. But there is another, less visible, but vital recovery effort under way. More than any other industry on the planet, financial services depends on an extensive technological infrastructure, and in the days following the attack technology providers rushed in and worked round the clock to restore this infrastructure to full functionality.

Many technology companies went very far beyond the call of duty, donating time, space, equipment, and money to the recovery effort. “Business isn’t happening as usual right now,” said Dell spokesman Matt Boucher. “There’s real recognition that these are extreme circumstances.” The company’s complete care warranty excluded terrorist actions from coverage, for example, but after the tragedy Dell renegotiated the coverage with its insurance carrier. “We’re covering this,” Boucher said. “We were lucky-not one person from Dell was hurt. But of course we were affected because we have great customers in that area, great people, and not all were as fortunate.”

Dell had 80 large customers affected in the World Trade Center tragedy, as well as numerous small businesses, he said. “We established priority routing for all these customers-they go to the front of the line in the manufacturing assembly line. We set up expedited financing. We started talking orders as early as Tuesday afternoon and some of those orders were on the road by Wednesday morning. They couldn’t go by air because the planes weren’t flying so they went by trucks and got there by Thursdays-it takes that long to drive to New York from Texas.”

Like many technology companies, Dell has set up a crisis response process that proactively learns what the company can do to help customers-and then brings in the necessary resources and the personnel. For Microsoft, that required driving personnel in a Winnebago from Charlotte, N.C. immediately after the disaster. “Everyone started working on this,” said company spokesman Dan Leach. “This affects everyone –our hearts go out to everybody who was affected by this thing.”

There was also Microsoft personnel on the ground in New York when the disaster struck who immediately sprang into action. “On the day of the attack, a Microsoft senior account consultant was in the World Trade Center meeting with a major customer on the 44th floor of the first tower that was hit,” Leach said. “Later that day, he was meeting with that same customer at their emergency center helping the customer get up and running.”

In addition to mobilizing personnel to help Wall Street customers, Microsoft has donated $5 million toward consulting and technology services for those affected, and another $5 million to the Red Cross, Leach said. Microsoft has also partnered with Compaq to establish the Family Registration System, putting Internet kiosks at American Red Cross service areas in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington D.C. These kiosks manage data on those who are deceased, missing or displaced, and individuals can use them to register and send emails to loved ones.

Compaq is helping the recovery by providing wireless equipment and accessories as well as helping to establish a wireless, geographic information system NYC emergency officials can use to gather data on the status of buildings in and around the devastated area. The company is also helping damaged businesses locate space and assess needs for technology equipment and services. It is estimated that 20 percent of downtown office was space was lost because the attack.

Compaq’s other donations include: $725,000 in equipment to the Red Cross, $100,000 of notebook computers from Compaq Canada to assist collaborative relief efforts between the Canadian Red Cross and the American Red Cross, $14,000 worth of equipment to New York’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to help log, track and identify victim remains, and $250,000 to the United Way September 11 Fund, which will provide assistance for short-term disaster relief and long-term community rebuilding.

Compaq had an office at 1 Liberty Plaza that was closed due to damages from World Trade Center collapse and four employees, all based in the New York City area, were in meetings with customers on upper floors of the towers and are still missing.

In addition, a fifth employee, Jeff Coombs, was on board Flight 11, the first airplane to crash into the World Trade Center. Compaq has donated $225,000 to a fund to provide education for his three children.

Many companies have offered to share space with businesses in need. Versatech Consulting offered free temporary office space and workstations in both its New York and New Jersey offices. Core Technology Partners offered space on Wall Street. ECommerce Solutions offered 6,000 square feet of space-and 22 workstations-at its Stamford, Conn. location. IBM relocated some customer operations to its own facilities. “We are providing thousands of square feet of data center capacity,” said IBM spokeswoman Carol Makovich. Like IBM, Sun Microsystems is also speeding equipment to affected customers. In the case of one Wall Street customer that needed equipment immediately, Sun took a couple of hundred Ultra 10 workstations out of its New York area education center.

And many technology companies offered more specialized services. Global Crossing, for example, offered free teleconferencing to businesses affected by the attack. Semotus Solutions offered a free wireless messaging service, available through the Internet,

Another company addressing communications problems is Cisco Systems. Spokeswoman Brianna Reynaud said she didn’t want to speak about specific vulnerabilities-for security reasons-but the company has set up a customer operations center in the Northeast to manage customer requirements and prioritize requests. Cisco has donated about $6 million to the Red Cross and other relief organizations that are supporting aid efforts. “Our partners and our employees and the community are our first priority,” Reynaud said.