I remember watching the news from my nice safe apartment in Memphis on my shitty little TV. The devastation, the people on their roofs waiting for help. The horrific imagery of Canal Street under water. Everyone remembers. It’s cliche to say anything about it almost 10 years later.
About a month later I received the most important phone call I’ve ever had.
I didn’t know it at the time so I really don’t remember what I was doing, what I was wearing, what day of the week it was, any of the details of the phone call that one fateful day.
A friend and colleague, Bruce, asked if I still hosted Web sites and if I would be interested in helping out a few customers of a business he used to work for. The business had lost everything in the storm and was folding, but there were a few high priority customers that needed their sites to be live again as soon as possible.
I still loved New Orleans and missed my time there, I would have been happy to help out even one customer. Bruce got my current address, and after wading into the server room up to his chest in water, recovered the hard drives with the Web site files and databases.
He boxed them up and shipped them to me in Memphis and I duly mounted them on the server. To my surprise, when I looked into the harddrive I saw 300+ folders of Web sites stored there.
Getting the files was only half of the battle in starting this process. The previous company had registered all of the domains with his company’s name and contact information. These were locked away in his account, which meant that all of the domain names were frozen in their current status. There was no way to log into the company’s Web site to make any changes to the DNS or update contact information because their servers were under a few feet of water.
I spoke to the owner of the business, and he gave me the registrar login. He agreed to give me the hosting customers and files as long as I gave him a few of the domain names in his account and sent him back some of the data on the hard drive Bruce had mailed me.
So there we were, we had several hundred domains, all registered to a hosting provider who was no longer in business. There was no financial data since that was in the same building with the soaked servers.
So I sat there and thought for a second and then it hit me. I know, every Web site has a contact page. Every contact page has a email address that we can write them at. Oh that’s right, the e-mail server got soaked too so we’re going to have to call.
Phone numbers on contact pages, those are always there. Let’s start there. When viewing a bunch of directories, the numerical directories show up at the top. I dragged over the folder, located the contact.html file and dialed the number.
Someone answered. I explained that I was attempting to help them get their Web site and email back up and running.
It had been over a month since the storm, and they were ecstatic to talk to me. I copied over their files, made some minor adjustments on the contact form page so that the email form worked, and set up a few email accounts.
I had no billing system, no CRM system, no CPA, no credit card processing.
I told them they would get a bill shortly.
They asked me how much, and I stuttered because I didn’t know how much they were paying. I said I’d offer them the same rate they got from their previous guy. It was more than I was charging.
I coped over the next Web site and dialed the next number. They were ecstatic too.This felt good.
The real fun was the fact that, because I had access to the DNS of their domain name and a Web server that could set up hosting packages immediately, I was often able to turn a site back on while speaking to the customer. This was primarily due to the super fast DNS refresh of the registrar, but proved to be priceless in getting people back up.