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Planning Ahead Helps Swimming-Pool Company Survive Katrina

For SCP Pools, a remote data center located outside of Hurricane Alley made the difference between survival and going out of business.

Darrell Dunn

September 1, 2005

3 Min Read

New Orleans-based SCP Pools Corp. credits three years of disaster-recovery planning with helping keep IT running its nearly 200 branch stores across the country.

The wholesale provider of swimming-pool supplies and equipment is using offsite facilities to keep its IT infrastructure running despite the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The company, with expected revenue of about $1.5 billion this year, decided in 2002 that it needed a change of direction from its more traditional disaster-recovery program and moved its primary data-center operations out of "Hurricane Alley" and into a more secure facility, says Tim Babco, senior director of information technology for SCP.

"It may prove to be the best thing I ever did in directing our IT operations," Babco says. "We decided we needed to take disaster recovery seriously with respect to our hurricane potential. If we hadn't, we wouldn't be operating this week." A business outage would be particularly expensive at this time of year; the company does most of its business during the summer.

SCP contracted with VeriCenter Inc., a provider of IT outsourcing and managed services, to place its primary data-center operations in VeriCenter's Dallas facility, creating a dual data-center environment, Babco says. SCP in 2002 moved its data-center equipment to VeriCenter. SCP now runs its primary ERP and main business-application systems out of the VeriCenter facility. VeriCenter also operates facilities in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, and Minneapolis.

SCP researched setting up its own facility in a secure location, such as Dallas or Atlanta, but found it could cut costs by using VeriCenter, Babco says.

As Katrina entered the Gulf last week, SCP threw its disaster-recovery plan into motion. The plan is automatically triggered whenever a storm reaches a predesignated latitude. At 2 p.m. Friday, the storm shifted significantly from its original projected landfall in the Florida panhandle, and company executives met for the first time to discuss disaster planning. Three hours later, the company identified six IT employees to be part of a traveling team to be sent to Dallas.

The first team was joined by another six IT employees on Monday, and they set up an IT call-center operation in the VeriCenter facility to handle needs of branch stores in 38 states, as well as in Canada and Europe. As a result, Babco says there was "minimal disruption" of IT services to any of its 2,500 employees.

Mike Sullivan, founder and senior VP of sales and marketing for VeriCenter, says disaster recovery has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the company.

"SCP is a great example of a customer who did it right," Sullivan says. "They executed basically according to their plan. The longest element was the cutover to their call center, which took less than 24 hours."

Disaster recovery accounts for about 20% of VeriCenter's revenue, Sullivan says, and as much as 40% of its new business. "The combination of things like the hurricanes in Florida last year, 9/11, and Sarbanes-Oxley has led to quite a bit of increased demand, and companies are finally stepping up and implementing these kinds of solutions," he says.

A good recovery plan can mean the difference between survival and going out of business for companies faced with disaster.

Says Sullivan, "Studies have shown there is a very high percentage of failure among business that cannot get their infrastructure back in operation within a couple of weeks following a disaster."

This story was modified on Sept. 2 to correct the name of SCP Pools Corp.

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