Stemp Extinguishes Smoking Server as Tax Filing Deadline Looms

Background:

Cummings and Carroll, P.C., a 5 person CPA firm in Great Neck, NY has been a client of Stemp since 1986 when Morris Stemp first installed a Novell Network server along with a client accounting and general ledger system.  After over 25 years, Stemp continues to manage the firm’s Windows server and network infrastructure including remote access for the accounting professionals and internal software such as QuickBooks and Lacerte Tax Preparation systems.

The most critical function performed by Cummings and Carroll is to file tax returns on behalf of its corporate and personal tax clients.  Corporate tax returns are due on March 15.  Part of an accounting firm’s annual work ritual is to spend increasing amounts of time in the office starting around February 1 until all tax returns or extensions are filed.  The weekends before March 15 and April 15 are an all hands on deck weekend with all staff and per diem tax specialists working 20 hour days.

Challenge:

Sunday morning, at 8:32am on March 13, 2010, just two days before the corporate tax filing deadline of March 15, Stemp technicians received an alert on their cell phones from our proactive monitoring systems that the single server at Cummings was “unreachable”.  As a former practicing CPA, our CEO, Morris Stemp, immediately recognized the significant impact a server outage on this specific Sunday would have on the many staff expected to arrive within hours to complete their tax return preparations and filings.  Morris immediately contacted Aleem Quadri, our CTO, to determine the cause of this unexpected event and dispatch the incoming Sunday help desk team to resolve. Stemp maintains 2 full-time team members who work on Sunday on our help desk to perform remote preventive maintenance on client servers, taking advantage of the only day most of our clients are closed to patch and reboot servers.

Around 9:30am, the CPA firm’s staff started to arrive at the office and was greeted by a smoky smell emanating from the copier/filing room where the server is located and multiple error messages on their computers effectively saying “we can’t communicate to the server”.  While it is usually quiet at Stemp’s offices on a Sunday, this Sunday our weekend team was waiting for the call from our client to remotely guide them to restart the servers so they could begin their very busy day of tax preparation.  After a few minutes of diagnosis and description of the smoky smell, it became clear that this server was, as they say, “dead”.

Resolution:

A conference call was quickly convened between Aleem, Morris, and the Sunday team to review our options to get the CPA firm back to work.  Our team considered two options.  Cummings and Carroll uses a Stemp Total Server Protection (TSP) appliance which is a disaster recovery and backup server with the ability to be converted into a live server within about a half hour.  The backups to these units are verified monthly by Stemp staff so we felt confident that this option would perform effectively.

The second option we considered was to transfer the hard disks from the existing physical server box into a new box.  Stemp had recently upgraded another client’s server which was identical to the dead server and maintained the old server in our stock room specifically for use in emergency situations like this.

By 10:30am, our Sunday tech was on his way to the CPA firm with the spare loaner server.  The plan was to first attempt to transfer the working hard disks from the dead server to the spare server.  This would allow the CPA firm to immediately start working and continue to operate through the end of tax season on April 15 when the personal tax returns are due.  By that time, Stemp would have time to order a totally new server and then could schedule a date to install the new server and migrate all systems.

If this did not work, Plan B was to engage the server virtualization feature of our TSP unit and have the backup appliance take the role of the primary server.  This would have allowed the CPA firm to start filing taxes but would have performed more slowly and would have required a more complex plan of recovery, called failback, when we installed a new server as a permanent solution.  With the goal of sticking it out just one more month to complete the personal returns, we opted for Plan A of using the spare server.

Customer Impact:

Plan A was fully implemented and tax preparation activities were back live in full swing by early afternoon.

Key Factors Contributing to Success

  • Stemp Systems implements multiple monitoring and alerting technologies to receive immediate alerts of all major server events which could cause client downtime.
  • Stemp Systems employs a team of experts available to do whatever it takes to resolve technical issues before they impact our clients and create stressful downtime.
  • Stemp Systems places a high emphasis on the value of collaboration and teamwork.
  • Stemp Systems maintains an inventory of new and used servers specifically to be used in emergencies.
  • Stemp Systems combines the expertise of almost 25 professionals to support an ever-growing multitude of interconnected technologies and to respond to alerts on a pro-active basis.
  • While Stemp technical staff is available 24×7, we maintain extended live technical support hours from 7:00am till 11:00pm daily and all day Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
  • Stemp Systems staff is committed to exceeding client expectations.

If you have any questions, please call (718) 784-7376.

(c) Ulistic Inc. | Search Engine Optimization Calgary | Calgary Small Business Marketing | Calgary Business Networking