US ATTACK: Red Cross boosting IT capacity

Officials at a Georgia software company today said they are donating software to the American Red Cross that will enable the organization to effectively double the capacity of its current IT staff.

Vector Networks Inc., a Duluth, Ga.-based development company specializing in desktop management software, has donated 300 licenses of its PC-Duo remote control software to the the Red Cross. The agency has been in the forefront of groups helping out in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

PC-Duo software is designed to allow Red Cross teams to remotely connect desktops at the organization's satellite locations across the tri-state area near the New York disaster site. The software allows lists and information to be shared; enables a central IT support team to provide help to all desktop users across the network; provides a snapshot of the system configuration to technicians with all the pertinent information about individual PCs; and better allows task groups to be created across remote locations.

"Even though our company is miles from the disaster site, we at Vector Networks, along with the entire nation, empathize with the people in New York and Washington, D.C who have been affected by this horrific incident," said Andrew Parsons, a vice president at Vector Networks. "We hope that this donation hastens the relief effort and can help bring comfort to those in need."

Also offering to help was Yahoo Inc., which on Thursday stepped in to relieve the Red Cross' Web site, which was accessed by a record-breaking 12.4 million visitors the day after the terrorist attacks.

The organization has so far collected about US$6 million in donations this week, many of which were made online.

Yahoo is now managing between 75 percent and 85 percent of the Red Cross' traffic and has taken charge of the donation part of the Web site, along with all the organization's online transaction services. This has helped to ensure the Red Cross keeps the rest of its Web presence up and running, according to Alec Minor, the organization's Web master.

"My initial reaction was that we were going to melt down," said Minor, adding that the organization would not be able to get the crucial donations to aid the disaster victims if its network went down.

"People would have to find alternative ways to donate and they may not come to Red Cross to do so, or they may say, 'This is very frustrating' and turn off and decide not to donate. This has definitely meant more donations."

On Wednesday, the organization received 17,542 online donations. An additional 15,528 donations were made on Thursday. Those numbers compare to an average of about 50 online donations a day, according to Minor.

The number of visitors to the site peaked on Wednesday at 12.4 million, compared to 176,000 on Tuesday and 228,000 on Thursday. The site had just 24,000 visitors on Monday, the day before the attacks.

"[The increased number of visitors] was too much for us to handle," said Phil Zepeda, director of online media at the Red Cross. "It's 50 to 100 times bigger than we've ever had before. We had estimates that only 60 percent of the people trying to hit our site over those two days were getting through. Everyone else was abandoning. We were losing huge amounts of money."

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