Among the many temporary casualties of Hurricane Sandy was ShoreTel Sky, the company's hosted communications service. ShoreTel has said that its data center providers and multiple carriers had connectivity issues that led to outages for some customers, but in a new message, it also admitted that a back-up option to another geographically located data center was not yet operational in time for the storm.

"The advantage of having a data center in Manhattan is you have terrific access to just about every telecom carrier and network on the planet," said Dan Hoffman, president and general manager of ShoreTel's Cloud Division, in a Nov. 2 video post to the ShoreTel Sky blog. "The disadvantage we saw all too clearly in the last few days."

Hoffman said in a two-minute message that after M5 Networks was acquired by ShoreTel earlier this year, the company began work on a project to update its "geographic redundancy," he said, and has contracted with a facility in the Chicago area.

[Related: 7 Service Providers Slammed By Hurricane Sandy]

"Unfortunately, it is coming online early in 2013, too late to have helped us in the past few days," Hoffman said.

Hoffman and the ShoreTel team have been posting updates to the blog for the past week. According to ShoreTel, ShoreTel Sky began to lose services from two of its data centers starting at about 10:45 p.m. EST on Oct. 29, the night Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey. Interruptions with two carriers in particular -- Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Broadview -- were persistent, Hoffman said.

ShoreTel reported that all of its core systems were stable by 5 p.m. EST on Nov. 1, but some customers were continuing to have interrupted service into the weekend, according to ShoreTel Sky postings on Twitter. A ShoreTel spokesperson declined to provide an estimate to CRN as to how many ShoreTel Sky customers were affected.

Hoffman said ShoreTel will hold a webinar at noon EST on Wednesday, Nov. 7, where it will address questions about the Sky outage. Hoffman also urged ShoreTel partners and customers to contact the company directly for one-on-one support.

While the ShoreTel team lost access to its headquarters on W. 17th St. in New York -- the site of the former M5 offices, with about 100 employees affected -- ShoreTel has been able to use unified communications to keep its employee base and customers informed as much as possible.

"Be aware that there continue to be issues throughout the telecom networks," Hoffman said. "We do have some ability to route you around those issues."

A number of Internet infrastructure providers with data centers in the New York City area were still coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy Monday. But for ShoreTel, the Sky outage is a particularly pesky public relations challenge heading into its Champions Partner Conference this week in Orlando.

"That's a tough thing to be going into a partner conference with, so I'm sure it will create a lot more conversation," Sheila McGee-Smith, principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, told CRN. "The good part for M5 is, if it had happened before they were acquired, it might have really damaged them. Now they have a larger umbrella company that can help them create this geographic diversity they require."

A number of ShoreTel Sky customers in the New York area did make it through Sandy unscathed. Joe Larizza, chief administrative officer of Fieldpoint Private Bank & Trust, a wealth management firm based in Greenwich, Conn., said the cloud-based approach has been "ridiculously phenomenal" and that its ShoreTel Sky system functioned 100 percent throughout the storm.

"As long as people had connectivity, they were able to do every part of their job. Obviously, ShoreTel Sky was a big part of that," Larizza said in a note emailed to CRN Monday. "Employees were able to forward their phone to whatever number they wanted, so we were able to take client calls, and that's functionality we wouldn't have had if we had an in-house system."



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