Struck by Lightning: One Retailer’s Story of What Happens Next

It’s a retailer’s worst nightmare: One of the biggest weekends of the year and a lightning strike takes out the POS in a store packed with customers.

That nightmare came to life recently for Sickles Market, a popular farm stand, nursery and gourmet market run by the Sickles Family at the New Jersey shore since 1908.

Late on Friday afternoon at the start of the July 4th weekend, a nearby cable company node was struck by an approaching storm. The current traveled over the cable right into Sickles’ network, burning out the firewall and with it all of Sickles’ internet access including its credit card processing. Its backup internet access was also taken out by a zapped modem. Transactions screeched to a halt at POS terminals, sending staff scrambling to enact the backup plan: obtaining written info for credit cards so transactions could be put through later.

Fortunately, Sickles is a long-time customer of STF Consulting, where network monitoring spotted the disaster as soon as it happened. Soon Sean Furman, president of STF, was en-route to Sickles. As it turned out, the problem was much bigger than first thought. The lightning strike had impacted Sickles’ firewall, a bank of switch ports, two workstation network cards and the backup cable modem.

As part of its business continuity services, STF keeps spare firewalls in stock and stores images of its customers’ settings for just such emergencies. Furman arrived with the custom configured firewall and worked with a Sickles technician to install it within one hour of the initial power surge, restoring internet access and credit card processing so POS could get back up and running.

The two then turned their attention to troubleshooting, bringing the rest of the workstations back on line and addressing the switch issue and other spurious power-related problems. All remaining workstations and registers were up and running within three hours of the surge. Store associates processed the paper-based transactions and took inventory to assure all merchandise was accounted for. STF also expedited a request for the cable company to replace the burned-out modem within 24 hours, restoring the company’s back-up internet connectivity. Sickles’ big holiday weekend proceeded without a hitch.

Most nightmares don’t end so happily. According to the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council, nearly 75% of companies are at risk of failing to recover from a disaster or outage because their inadequate disaster recovery preparation, and 14% of outage incidents are due to weather.

By choosing a boutique, nimble IT provider with high service levels and a manageable client roster, Sickles Market was able to avert what could have been a disaster.

“This was awesome response time even in this case of a very unique situation,” says Susan Henderson, project manager at Sickles Market. “We are very lucky to have this type of support.”