Internet business unaffected by power failure

The lack of a shopfront works in your favour during a power blackout as one Sydney business retailer discovered during the city's outage on Tuesday.

Flairview Travel, based in Kent St in Sydney was one of many business which had work disrupted after an electrical fire in an underground tunnel on Monday evening caused many buildings in the city's centre to go without power.

The company, whose business is entirely done online, operates two hotel sites: hotelclub.net, which provides a discount hotel reservation service; and ratestogo.com, a last-minute hotel booking Web site.

Flairview's director of marketing, Chloe Lim said the company was lucky. "The impact was not that great. Our business is predominantly done online."

She said the company's Web servers are hosted off site, with backup servers at yet another location, meaning transactions and Web site enquiries could still take place. "In terms of the front end, it was business as usual," she said.

Had the business been a shopfront -- like so many in the travel industry, which deals with people face-toface -- she said it would certainly have been affected.

While most of the city workers discovered the effects of the power outage on Tuesday morning, the fire occurred the evening before. And Flairview, whose staff typically work extended hours, experienced the brunt of the outage on the Monday night. "Most of the power was off at 6:30pm. So people still at work made sure the front end was running OK," she said. At that stage staff turned off their machines to handle the power surges when electricity would eventually flow again.

Shutting down machines cannot be underestimated according to Greg Jan, manager for Opti International, a supplier of uninterruptible power supply boxes.

He said Windows servers especially are sensitive to improper shutdowns. When a power outage automatically kills the switch the result can be loss of information and the potential rebuild of systems. Damage to hard drives, which are precise and delicate mechanical instruments by nature, can also result as the servers' drives are not used to sudden stoppages.

A UPS provides battery power to the servers for up to several hours, depending on the size of the UPS box. They also provide the important function of closing all open applications on the server correctly, allowing it to follow normal shutdown procedure, he said.

According to Jan most metropolitan business have UPSes installed. "Smaller businesses in suburban and rural areas won't install a UPS until they feel the damage," he said.

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