On Call During Hurricane Michael: OmniUpdate Helps Gulf Coast State College Get Back Online
After a devastating Category 4 hurricane, OmniUpdate’s Customer Support team worked around the clock to get Gulf Coast State College’s website back online in record time so that students, faculty, and staff could stay informed during the crisis.
Does customer service matter when choosing a content management system (CMS)? Just ask Sherri Davis, webmaster at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida. In the days before Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018, she and Patrick Main, the college’s IT and network systems analyst, discussed moving their website into the cloud—something that had been on their to-do list for some time.
With three Florida campuses (Panama City, North Bay, and Gulf/Franklin) and over 7,000 students, Gulf Coast State College offers 150 program options with two-year and four-year degrees and national technical certifications.
“We discussed cloud-hosting as one option for server security, but other projects always took priority,” Sherri explained. “Plus, we had moved our servers to our North Bay Campus, which is also home to the Bay County Emergency Operations Center (EOC).” Located 26 miles inland from the Gulf Coast, the EOC serves as an incident command center during community emergencies. “We’ve never been hit directly by a hurricane, but if we were going to be, what place could be safer?” Sherri said.
When it became apparent that Hurricane Michael was not only intensifying to a Category 4 storm, but headed directly for Panama City, Sherri and Patrick scrambled to see if they could move their website to the cloud. They called OmniUpdate, their CMS provider, and OmniUpdate’s Technical Support Analyst Supervisor Christopher Zack provided the two with detailed instructions. But it was too little, too late. With the pending storm, Sherri and Patrick called it quits to evacuate with their families.
Wednesday night after the eye wall of Michael passed, Sherri checked the website. It was down. Gulf Coast State College suffered significant damage to their Panama City Campus, with every building impacted, no power, no internet, and hundreds of downed trees and tons of scattered storm debris. The North Bay and Gulf/Franklin campuses also experienced damage, but on a much lesser scale.
After the storm was over, Sherri went to work to try and figure out the next steps for the website. “It was so important for me to get it back up,” Sherri said. “Our website is our main form of communication. We couldn’t email. No one could even get in to see what had happened at our college. And while people in our area didn’t have electricity, we have a lot of students who commute to our campus from other areas. We needed to keep them apprised of what was happening on campus so they wouldn’t show up for classes.”
While Gulf Coast’s servers survived the hurricane without incident, a major fiber cable was severed during the storm, bringing down the county’s entire network. Not knowing where to turn, Sherri submitted a work ticket to OmniUpdate.
“Christopher is in California, and he called me before he even got to work,” Sherri said. “I explained our issue and told him that I needed his help to set up the cloud server, and without hesitation, he started in on getting us back online. It was important for our employees and students—if they could even get online—to feel a connection with the college during a time of chaos and uncertainty.”
All day Friday and throughout the weekend, Christopher, along with Shawn Schneider, OmniUpdate’s Senior Systems Engineer, configured the new cloud and rebuilt the system as if it was an original install. By Sunday, October 14, four days after the hurricane hit, Gulf Coast had a temporary site online where Sherri could post updates for students and employees during the crisis.
“Our site was up even before the EOC had their site back,” Sherri said. “Christopher worked at a moment’s notice—over his own weekend—to help us get back online.”
We’ve been a customer for two years, and they have always been fast and friendly. But I now understand that OmniUpdate provides a different level of service. OmniUpdate went above and beyond to save the day. Christopher, my technical support analyst contact, saved my life. If it wasn’t for him, our website might still be down. It’s great to have good customer service when you have routine issues, but in drastic situations like a Category 4 hurricane, it’s a necessity to have OmniUpdate on your team.Sherri Davis, Webmaster, Gulf Coast State College
Does customer service matter? Just ask Sherri Davis. “We’ve been a customer for two years, and they have always been fast and friendly,” she said. “But I now understand that OmniUpdate provides a different level of service. Christopher went above and beyond to save the day. He saved my life. If it wasn’t for him, our website might still be down. It’s great to have good customer service when you have routine issues, but in drastic situations like a Category 4 hurricane, it’s a necessity to have OmniUpdate on your team.”
During ongoing restoration and cleanup, the college’s entire site is now in the cloud, and Sherri and her team have opted to limit site use, displaying only the current temporary front page until the infrastructure is secure. “But as soon as I get the go-ahead to publish, I’ll call Christopher.”
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