The Lessons of Hurricane Sandy

MASS Communications Helps Seeger Weiss Prepare for the Unexpected

By Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Two years after Hurricane Sandy devastated downtown Manhattan, telecom management firm MASS Communications is applying lessons learned to clients across all geographies and industries. The New York-based technology firm was on the front lines of the disaster, providing critical network infrastructure services for hundreds of affected customers.

New York Magazine's Famous Ivan Ban photograph of a blacked-Out NYC after Hurricane Sandy

New York Magazine's Famous Ivan Ban photograph of a blacked-Out NYC after Hurricane Sandy

“We learned a lot of lessons from Sandy and what we learned is you really do have to pay attention to the infrastructure,” explains Darren Mass, CEO of MASS Communications. “You have to prepare for the fact that Mother Nature is immovable. You cannot predict it. Unfortunately, interruptions to voice and data services can cripple a business –it means you have to be prepared at all times.”

MASS’s client Seeger Weiss LLP, a 70-person New York-based class action law firm, couldn’t agree more. Back in 2012, Seeger Weiss had recently moved into new office space on Water Street. The new space featured the latest technology to support the growing case load the lawyers were handling. “We represent individuals all over the country who are suing a manufacturer of a medical device or a pharmaceutical company because they’ve suffered crippling side effects. When you represent individuals, it’s critical that they can always reach you,” says firm administrator Patricia Isaacson.

Isaacson says her firm, which had a disaster recovery plan in place, wasn’t prepared for the severity or the long-term outages caused by the storm. “We worked under the assumption that the New York office might be offline for a couple of days, not five months. No one expected the kind of devastation in lower Manhattan that Sandy brought.”

Like most companies in the city, Seeger Weiss relied on Verizon for their voice and data services – links that MASS had rolled out for the firm. The storm took out Verizon’s infrastructure after flooding overwhelmed all of downtown Manhattan.

Innovative, Fast Response to Crisis

“The MASS team helped us recover in three days after Super Storm Sandy. We were up and all our clients were getting phone calls within 48 hours,” says Isaacson, who faced an urgent need to divert all the firm’s incoming client calls to their NYC headquarters to their office in Newark.

Facing the possibility of significant business loss, the law firm needed to get back online as quickly as possible. “MASS was one of the few providers after Super Storm Sandy who knew which carriers were working and who still had service up.”

Darren and Pat atop the roof at 77 Water Street two years after Sandy

Darren and Pat atop the roof at 77 Water Street two years after Sandy

They quickly identified options for Seeger Weiss, from checking the roof of the building for satellite line-of-sight to other alternative options. Ultimately, Seeger Weiss had MASS work with a cable provider to restore data connectivity. MASS also transferred all of the law firm’s New York numbers to Seeger Weiss’s Newark location, which became the new temporary headquarters.

“We split a data service into a voice and data service for them, leveraging multiple solutions over one data circuit,” says Darren. The added bandwidth gave some of the firm’s lawyers and other staff who lived in the Bronx or other far-flung boroughs the ability to work remotely rather than face a three-hour commute every day to Newark.

Seeger Weiss wasn’t the only MASS client affected by Sandy – hundreds of clients were touched by the severe storm. Everyone at MASS jumped in, triaging and supporting network operations regardless of their role. “We were able to get all but a handful of customers in service almost immediately after the storm and we rectified coverage issues for all of our remaining clients shortly thereafter,” he recalls.

MASS tapped into its existing relationships with carriers, who provide the company with dedicated support and escalation teams.   “We have a fast track through to the carriers,” admits MASS’s CEO. The company leveraged its experience in infrastructure management and close relationships with leading telecom and other solution providers, to help restore service as quickly as possible to affected customers.

For the engineers and network infrastructure experts at MASS, responding to the unexpected comes with the territory, and requires them to practice what they preach so they can best serve their clients – namely, to design solutions with built-in redundancy.

Diversification is Key

“We diversify everything – we have links all over the country to ensure no single incident can destroy our business,” Mass says, noting that having that redundancy requires a little more investment per month, but can more than pay for itself in the event of a disaster. “We ask our customers what is their threshold for a complete outage and the answer we hear is they can’t survive any blip in coverage. If you can’t afford any downtime, the cost to have network redundancy is a cost well spent.”

Ironically, Seeger Weiss’s New York office building on Water Street was one of the most severely impacted by the storm. The firm had to work from its Newark office for seven months following the storm as Verizon – with a nudge from MASS -- built new high-speed fiber links into the building.

Now, Isaacson is looking to MASS again as part of a competitive bid proposal for its next infrastructure update. “We are putting more emphasis on diversity for all their locations to try to prevent the next Sandy from taking them down,” explains Mass. The company has proposed a new VoIP (Voice over IP) solution because it is non-location specific. The solution also calls for MPLS-VPN (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) links that will connect the firm’s main offices in New York City, Newark and Philadelphia together, with back-up data service for redundancy.

Isaacson remains highly complementary of the team at MASS who came through when her firm was at its most vulnerable following Hurricane Sandy.

“The value has been tremendous. They (MASS) had the technology and resources to get the job done. MASS has demonstrated again-and-again an understanding of our business needs and the ability to bring it all together, and in the case of the newest technology update, they have the most cost-effective package on the table,” she concludes.

For MASS’s part, they are not resting on their laurels in the afterglow of their ability to help customers rebound from Sandy.

“A lot of things are out of our hands and fortunately for our clients, they are coming to the right place,” says Mass. Our engineers are among the best trained in the areas of communications, engineering support, and infrastructure management. They are constantly being put to the test in external environments of carrier management and troubleshooting so our clients don’t have to – that is what we do; that’s our number one job.”

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About MASS Communications

MASS Communications, a leading connectivity and telecom management provider, takes a consultative approach to deliver a full suite of voice, data, risk management and security solutions.  Founded by engineering innovators, MASS designs custom networks with best-in-class carriers across an international footprint. The New York-based Competitive Local Exchange Carrier made the Inc. 500|5000 List for two years running in 2013 and 2014.  For more information, visit www.masscommgroup.com.

 

New York | New York - 2014 Fall Issue

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Telecommunications | Voice | Data | Networking | Support