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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fire shuts down payment processor

A July 2, 2009, fire that deadened the power supply at payment processor Authorize.Net's building in Seattle, Wash., shut down the payment platforms of about 240,000 e-commerce merchants. Power was fully restored after 12 hours, and none of the building's technology was damaged in the fire, according to CyberSource Corp., parent company to Authorize.Net.

Power went out at 11:10 p.m. Thursday night and was restored at 11:00 a.m. the next morning, noted Bruce Frymire, Corporate Communications Director for CyberSource. He said he didn't know how long the fire itself lasted, nor did he know the extent of the damage done to the building.

"I don't know enough to speculate on that," he said. "I saw pictures of the impact to the lower floor, and it appeared to be pretty serious – but I don't know the extent."

Representatives at Authorize.Net could not be reached for comment.

Frymire said the transaction networks of all of Authorize.Net's merchants – almost all of whom are Internet retailers – were shut down during the outage, and consumers who attempted to make online purchases were shown an error message.

Favorable timing

Frymire added, however, that the fire occurred at a time typically marked by comparatively low transaction volumes.

"If there's any sort of fortunate side to the whole deal, the timing was probably at a relatively low ebb for transactions because of the time of day and the day of the week," he said. "Typically our biggest days of the week are Mondays and Tuesdays, and they kind of slide down the week, the weekend being lowest of all and holidays typically being even lower than that."

During the outage, which shut down all of Authorize.Net's e-mail and phone communications, employees communicated with the company's merchants by sending out messages through Twitter on their mobile phones.

"We were looking for a way to communicate with customers without those phone lines; we went to a Twitter account, and there was a fair amount of gratitude on the part of people for finding a way of communicating," Frymire said. "We were only able to contact those people who thought to search for Authorize.Net and found the Twitter account and could come in and see it."

Fizzled backup

Frymire said the company tried in vain to go to its backup power supply during the outage. He said they had been in the late stages of a transition from their old backup supply to a new one and experienced unforeseen problems with the new system.

"We attempted to transfer to a new backup data center, and we had some unanticipated errors in doing that," he said. end of article

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