An IT bucket brigade relives Hurricane Sandy

A new film recounts how a data center's customers and employees worked tirelessly to keep the facility running after last fall's big storm.

The improbable tale of a diesel-fuel bucket brigade that kept a flooded Manhattan data center running in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is not retold with fondness by those who were involved, even if they do share a sense of pride in their achievements and can now see humor in the schemes they devised as they desperately tried to respond to the storm that struck the East Coast in October 2012.

The participants recall the stench of diesel in dark stairwells, and the physical toll of carrying buckets of fuel up 17 flights of stairs so they could pour it into a rooftop generator's fuel tank after floodwaters shut down basement pumps. They also remember sleeping on floors, going without showers, and enduring the stress of knowing that failure could put the data center operator out of business.

The story of the people who helped save Peer 1 Hosting's data center at 75 Broad St. is told in a documentary-style film that Peer 1 produced and first showed to a group of its customers and employees last month.

The thought of carrying fuel to the roof "seemed like a ridiculous idea," said Michael Pryor, president of Fog Creek Software, a major user of the data center and a member of the bucket brigade. "It didn't seem feasible."

His initial idea was to pump fuel using equipment from a fish tank in his nearby office. When that suggestion was recounted in the film, the audience -- and Pryor himself -- responded with healthy laughter.

But the fact that such ideas were on the table reveals the sense of urgency facing Peer 1 workers and customers as they struggled to find ways to make sure that a rooftop generator that burned 40 gallons of fuel an hour could keep the data center running.

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