When people ask me what I do for a living these days, I tell them I provide emergency response services. With this answer, I usually get very surprised and intrigued looks as they probe for more details about the excitement of saving lives. For those that have known me for a while, they are especially shocked since my career until recently has always entailed sitting in a cubicle, crunching numbers and manipulating spreadsheets.
I don't actually provide ERS, and I don't "technically" save lives during my work days, but I do provide emergency services for our customers, and if you ask them, they'll probably tell you I'm a little like a life saver. I tell people I'm an emergency responder as a bit of a joke, but it's actually a great way to start explaining what I do at SoftLayer. When a customer's service is disrupted (preventing them from conducting important business), we need to respond immediately and knowledgeably to get everything back online as quickly as possible.
As Server Build Technicians, we have to be alert and ready for situations where a server goes down and affects the availability of a customer's site. Being offline can often translate to the loss of revenue and this I completely understand: If I wanted to buy something on a site and I find that the site is offline, I'll probably fire up a search page and look for another vendor. The first store loses my sale because I'm so conditioned to everything being available right when I need it ... And I'm not alone in this mentality.
When I started writing this article, we were gearing up for natural disaster to hit the Washington, D.C. area over the weekend (for the first time in my career). We had to plan what needed to be done at home and work ... Because SoftLayer provides web hosting services that must be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we have to do our best to minimize any service impact. We were lucky to have avoided much of the damage from Hurricane Irene, but we still treated it as though it was heading right toward us. In addition to the employees on site, everyone was on call to be ready to come in and help if needed. For those who have never experienced a hurricane, just think of a severe thunderstorm that lasts 8 to 12 hours, resulting in widespread power outages, flooding and wind damage.
A hurricane is scary for everyone in its path, and to a certain extent, all you can do is be safe and have a plan of response. Our data center has extremely reliable power generators and staff to handle these kinds of situations; we're always prepared for the worst case scenarios for your servers so you don't have to be.
P.S. If you've never thought about becoming a "Server Emergency Responder," I'd recommend swinging by the SoftLayer Careers page to learn more about becoming a Server Build Technician. As of right now, there are SBT positions available in Dallas, Seattle, Amsterdam, Singapore and Washington, D.C.