September 16, 2005--They worked around the clock or slept on the floor, ate a stash of food, and watched the streets break out into chaos below.
But resilient Web hosting firm directNIC.com, a New Orleans branch of Intercosmos Media Group, kept much of Louisiana online at the height of Hurricane Katrina and through its aftermath.
Holed up on the 10th floor of a downtown office tower, directNIC, which hosts some 800,000 Web sites and is responsible for a further 1.2 million domain names, "didn't lose service once during this entire disaster and has three weeks of backup power secured," CEO Sigmund Solares said in a statement issued last week.
Solares thanked the firm's customers for "overwhelming support and inquiries into our well-being." None of the workers who stayed behind were injured, he said.
"We have people depending on us and we are not going to let them down," Michael Barnett, the company's crisis manager, wrote in his Web journal last week.
With phone lines down across New Orleans, the company, located in one of the city's few dry neighborhoods, relied on a network of fiber-optic cables to stay connected to the Internet. Still, it had to drop a humor site to save bandwidth.
Barnett said they were also running out of fuel for the generator, but risked being "robbed and killed" in the streets trying to replenish supplies. "It's that bad," Barnett said in his blog about the breakdown in civil disorder last week, likening it to the Lord of the Flies. Things improved somewhat when federal troops arrived, he added.
Workers were called upon to run 24-hour rotating guard shifts, further limiting their downtime. When they did sleep, it was on a thin layer of carpet over the concrete floor. On his blog, Barnett said "it takes about 3 days to get accustomed to sleeping on concrete."
Despite these hardships, directNIC took in a rival company's database, as well as a police officer whose station was submerged by floodwaters.
Barnett called his boss, Solares, the most "organized, stockpiling human being on earth, and we all love him for it."