With its three hotels in New Orleans out of commission in the wake of deadly Hurricane Katrina, IT workers at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. are focusing on moving data systems elsewhere so they can get critical operations up and running again.
After five days of work by the four-person IT staff, operations at the three hotels -- a Sheraton in the 500 block of Canal Street and two W Hotels in the city's French Quarter and downtown -- are far away from returning to normal operations. But data backup hardware and other equipment is being prepared for shipment to other hotel locations.
The three hotels share an IT director and a telecommunications specialist, while the Sheraton has two systems managers and the W Hotels share another systems manager.
"You just sort of cope," said Mark McBeth, vice president of information technology, North America, at Starwood's White Plains, N.Y., headquarters. "The team was dealing with a crisis, and they don't even know if their own homes are OK."
As the storm approached and hotel guests were being moved into ballrooms in the buildings for safety reasons, the IT staffers were busy moving critical servers and other equipment up from the ground floors of the buildings to protect them from flooding. They also completed extra backups of on-site hotel data, including catering contracts and sales information for upcoming conventions and meetings.
To help stranded guests in each hotel, the staffers also went to work in the ballrooms, hooking up telephones and computers with Internet access so guests could communicate with loved ones until electricity and communications links were lost. They even set up DVD players and screens to entertain young children as the storm approached and used power from backup generators to power up the hotel's electronic card key systems. That way, guests could retrieve personal items from hotel rooms during the storm