When lightning strikes, business booms for IT firm

SpectrumIT owner Scott Peiffer is busy helping clients pick up the pieces after late August storms zap computers
Ozaukee Press staff

Although last month’s storms have subsided, there are still aftershocks looming for local businesses.

“We’re normally busy, and when you have some storms move through and do some additional electrical damage, that always spikes things up,” said Scott Peiffer, owner of SpectrumIT in Port Washington.

Peiffer said he has six new small business clients who lost their data due to the storms, which produced about 5,000 lightning strikes in a five-mile radius.

“Typically you lose motherboards, power supplies, hard drives and controllers. Any electrical component will take a surge and go out,” he said. “We’re getting new clients because they were down hard. They didn’t have the proper power protection in place.”

The clients have been stressed because of the disruption to their business operations, but so far Peiffer has been successful using his tools and more than 20 years of information technology experience to recover their data.

The clients Peiffer had before the storms hit were not impacted because they took preventive measures, which included installing uninterruptible power supply devices with automatic voltage regulation technology.

“It protects from power surges and power brownouts,” he said. “If you have a complete power blackout, it helps run the systems on a battery.”

Peiffer said its common to experience power outages during the summer because there is a large demand with running air conditioners and other appliances.

“Most people don’t know it but it slowly degrades the power supplies,” he said. “That will typically damage power supplies over the years.”

It’s a time-consuming process to restore a customer’s data. Peiffer’s technicians have to learn the company’s software and business operations. More often than not, the company is running on outdated equipment.

“A lot of times we’re using a different operating system,” he said. “We normally have to come in and recover any data on a server that will no longer come up.”

A lot of small businesses have power strips that are 10 to 15 years old. Peiffer said they usually last three to five years.         “People think they’re protecting against power surges but they’re not,” he said.

Peiffer said companies should speak with an IT service provider to learn the critical components of their network before things go wrong.

“The first step is to learn about your firewall, switches and servers to make sure those are protected against power surges,” he said.

He recommends checking with insurance providers to make sure the technology is covered.

Installing backup disaster recovery (BDR) technology for critical work stations is “the ultimate insurance” because  it takes minutes to bring the server back online, Peiffer said.

“We have backup and recovery systems that will actually allow us to back up your critical server to a local appliance in the event the production server is destroyed,” he said. “We can turnaround and virtualize the backup image and attach an IP address to it so you can continue to run your business on our recovery BDR.

“It gives you a line of defense, and it allows you to transact while we investigate and repair the server.”

The time it takes to recover information varies based on the amount of data and severity of the outage. Equipment could be down for a few days or a couple weeks, Peiffer said.

“When lightning strikes and power circuits blow, it doesn’t matter what kind of business it is,” he said. “When people believe they’re a small business and will never be impacted — that’s not true. It doesn’t matter how small or large you are.”

Most of his customers have custom-built hardware that could take several weeks to rebuild. Peiffer said it’s important to have data backed up to a data center.

“While the business may not be 100% off line, you’re still able to get your email and phone services while only a small impact is made on a server or multiple servers,” he said.

SpectrumIT, 110 S. Wisconsin St., serves customers in southeastern Wisconsin and the Chicago area. The company also has a network operations center in Pensacola, Fla., to provide services during the hurricane season. Peiffer said Florida clients make up about half of his business.

“It’s one of the lightning capitals of the world,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot from the lightning storms there and how important it is to protect your technology.”

Peiffer, a 1989 Port Washington High School graduate, said he’s proud to own a business in his hometown. He started SpectrumIT in 2001 and plans to grow his operations outside of the IT industry in the next six months to provide more jobs. He declined to elaborate.

“It’s good to be in the community to offer jobs and opportunities to people,” Peiffer said. “We hope to put more people to work outside of the IT area. There’s a great talent pool here that can be a vital a resource in the community.”











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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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