The view from one Atlanta IT firm as a 'historic' storm nears

Power outages from freezing rain expected in the South

The headlines about the storm approaching Georgia include a tinge of panic and wonder, but the view from Monty Hamilton's Atlanta office is of streets calm and empty.

Hamilton is the CEO of Rural Sourcing Inc., a domestic IT services company based in downtown Atlanta. He reported Tuesday afternoon that it was raining, but the streets were mostly deserted as weather reports forecast freezing rain and power outages.

"It's pretty vacant right now," said Hamilton, who said the city and state were doing a lot to prepare for the storm. That's in contrast to two weeks ago when a storm paralyzed the city with several inches of snow, leaving many stranded, including Hamilton.

"We didn't prepare for it, and we didn't take it seriously, so there was a little bit of over reaction at this point in time," Hamilton said.

In advance of the latest storm, the headline writers were loaded with flare. USA Today blared, "South braces for 'mind-boggling if not historical' storm," while the Christian Science Monitor observed, "Atlanta's a ghost town ahead of winter storm." The hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, was the most ominous of all, declaring, "Winter storm 'could be even worse' than 2000 storm that left thousands in dark for days."

In the last storm, Hamilton said when he saw the roads gridlocked at noon he waited until 5 p.m. to leave. It took him until midnight to get home, and he had to walk the last five miles. Normally, his commute is 20 minutes.

Rural Sourcing's staff will continue to be productive despite the weather. Emergency officials urged employers to have their workers telecommute, and that's what RSI will doing to continue to deliver services to clients. The company also has remote service centers in Jonesboro, Ark., and Augusta, Ga. All the offices, including the downtown Atlanta building, have backup power.

About 25% of RSI's staff came into the office Tuesday, mostly those who either live close to the office or rely on rail mass transit, Hamilton said.

For those stuck at home, "everyone has the capability to dial into clients from home, presuming there is power," he said.

Meanwhile, President Obama has already signed an emergency declaration for Georgia, while Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been tweeting away, warning Atlantans that hundreds of thousands may be without power for days, and urging local residents to "telecommute where possible."

This article, The view from one Atlanta IT firm as a 'historic' storm nears, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

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