Here is a lesson every Web site manager may be taking away from Hurricane Sandy: It is probably not a good idea to put the backup power generators where it floods.
Quentin Hardy and Jenna Wortham of The New York Timesreport that as computer centers in Lower Manhattan and New Jersey shut down or went to emergency operations after power failures and water damage on Monday night, companies scrambled to move the engines of modern communication to other parts of the country. Others rushed to find fuel for backup power generation. In some cases, things just stopped.
They note that as more of life moves online, damage to critical Internet systems affects more of the economy, and disasters like Hurricane Sandy reveal vulnerabilities from the sometimes ad hoc organization of computer networks. In places like Manhattan, advanced technology comes up against aging infrastructure and space constraints, pressing servers and generators into whatever space is available.
The largest telecommunications company affected by the storm appeared to be Verizon, which lost a considerable amount of old-fashioned wired phone service to the flooding. Bill Kula, a Verizon spokesman, said the storm surge from the hurricane flooded its central offices in Lower Manhattan, Queens and Long Island, causing power failures.
Many companies affected by the storm and its aftermath built out distributed virtual networks of people, as well. Ben Smith, the editor of BuzzFeed, said engineers worked throughout the night to shift the site to Amazon Web Services from Datagram, whose Lower Manhattan operations were flooded. Mr. Smith said one man, Eugene Ventimiglia of Emerson, N.J., was working from home when a tree crashed through his house. He soldiered on.