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From Storm to Cloud

On the evening of the 5th December 2013, the east coast of the UK experienced one of the biggest storm surges since 1953. As the Environment Agency made the decision to lower Hull’s Tidal Flood Barrier at 4pm that afternoon one of the region’s most successful steel suppliers had no idea of the long night to come and the repercussions on every aspect of their business to follow.

Michael Barugh Steel Stockholding Ltd have been operating from their dockside premises since the millennium and pride themselves on focusing completely on the local customer and their varied needs.  Supplying high-quality steel combined with a first class service to customers large and small has ensured them an enviable reputation in the area.

After the storm

However as the storm surge started to impact on that cold December evening there was concern from the Environment Agency that as the tides rose to about 30cm from over-topping the barrier that this flood water could travel up the River Hull inundating large parts of the city. The barrier acts in the same way as the Thames flood barrier protects London.

Video footage of the floods in Hull.

Unfortunately for the premises on English Street it was already too late with the water starting to seep into Michael Barughs’ premises. The water was not flooding in from the dock side where one would expect but from the side street that surrounds it and for MB Steel time was running out.

Staff who were working late suddenly had to take refuge in upstairs offices as the waters rose rapidly but unfortunately it was too late for stock supplies and the computer servers located in the ground floor offices. With back-up discs locked in the safe also, nothing was safe from the rising tides.

A nerve-wracking few hours ensued for the four staff who were stranded in the upstairs office with no power, although the emergency generator kicked in offering a dim half-light, there was no heating or telephones and with charge on mobiles running very low the sight of the emergency services some six hours later was met with huge relief – particularly as one staff member was due to fly out on holiday the next morning.

The vision that greeted the rest of the team the following morning was not something any business should have to deal with.  The flood waters had reached knee height within the office which was strewn with papers, files and personal effects, quite an upsetting scene for Mark Donoghue (Director) who has been with the organisation since the outset.

Everything is lost

‘The scene that greeted us was one of devastation this was our place of work, the company had been built from scratch – seeing the impact of the flood waters and the damage it caused along with colleagues work and personal effects littering the floor evoked strong emotions in everyone’’

With no operating telephone system, no internet, no emails, no computer system, and therefore no sales history, they were not only faced with the huge clear up but more importantly how to start trading again with nothing in place.

The servers were under water and the back-up discs – which on any other day would not have been on site but in an unlucky twist of fate were left supposedly secure in the safe – were also contaminated with sea water.

The first day of trading was chaotic and first efforts were concentrated on fielding calls on mobiles as all the telephone systems were down. The following four days were taken up with the setting up of a manual stock system, with manual delivery notes and stock checking; however retrieving the vital sales history was of paramount importance. Attempts were made to try and piece items together, but keeping control of stock this way proved extremely challenging. Surprisingly a number of local customers were unaware of the chaos due to the isolated nature of the flooding, concentrated in the dockside area; however fortunately for MB Steel many were understanding.

With the last data back-up being on the evening of Wednesday 4th December a new trading day had to be created. Metalogic were contacted the following day and the first priority was to get the sales history restored.

The floodwater leaves it’s mark

As the servers and discs had been contaminated with sea water the priority was to limit any further damage, the external USB hard drives were sent to a specialist company to be decontaminated in clean water and then slowly dried out. The same principle was applied to the discs which were also ‘baked’. After the shock of the flood the most nerve racking time for Michael Barugh’s was not knowing if their data was recoverable and being helpless without any data to call upon – telephone numbers, email contacts and sales history all unavailable. In addition because of the damage to the buildings the correct environment for locating servers and other hardware systems was at a premium and this coupled with the lead time on the conventional route of obtaining new machines provided another set of challenges. To remove these obstacles Metalogic put forward their Cloud Service – a remote hosted application accessible from any Internet connection using a high level of security, resilience and performance. Seeing this as the quickest route to return to normal operations MB Steel gave the go ahead. A high speed internet link was then sourced and Metalogic set up a copy of all their current systems on the Metalogic Cloud Platform to wait for news of the data recovery operation.

Eventually the word came through that the data had been recovered this meant that Metalogic could copy the data back from the hard drives to the Cloud server which had been set-up for MB Steel.  The operating system was put in place and their recovered data was uploaded. All that remained then were final checks on the server and data and set-up of printers and users. The whole process meant they were up and running again in under a day from receipt of data, with all systems working as before the flood, and all that had been lost in terms of trading was just one afternoon.

As they await the building work to commence on the refurbishments to the flood damaged building, a host of fibre optic broadband cables run like the company’s lifeline through their existing and temporary office units.  Michael Barugh’s are now still operating within the Cloud and without doubt have now realised the benefits of working with offsite IT services.  It was those first few weeks when trying to trade which proved the most challenging when access to their systems were needed most.

Mark Donoghue ‘Nobody can imagine the chaos and disruption caused unless they have experienced it for themselves. The peace of mind we now have operating on the Cloud is invaluable, knowing that our data is recoverable at any time should we be unlucky enough to be in this situation again. I cannot recommend highly enough to organisations to consider working in this way.’

What happened at MB Steel was extreme and unexpected; however the benefits of working in the Cloud go far beyond data access and include:

  • Cost savings – Research suggests that the costs of maintaining legacy applications and mainframe systems is growing as they continue to age.
  • Energy Savings – Outsourced IT systems are far more energy efficient and in turn more eco-friendly.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility“Businesses that run applications in the cloud can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by about 30 per cent or more compared to running those same applications on their own onsite infrastructure.” Microsoft
  • Increased Business FocusOnsite IT installations require responsibilities for control of hardware management and planning duties – an offsite solution will allow you to focus more on your business and less on your IT installations.

Contact Metalogic today to discover how cloud working can work for you.


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