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.
Bruce Frymire, Corporate Communications Director for CyberSource, said he didn't know how long the fire itself lasted, nor did he know the nature of the damage done to the building. "I saw pictures of the impact to the lower floor, and it appeared to be pretty serious - but I don't know the extent," he said.
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.
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."
Frymire said Authorize.Net tried in vain to go to its backup power supply during the outage. He said the company had been in the late stages of a transition from its old backup supply to a new one. "We attempted to transfer to a new backup data center, and we had some unanticipated errors in doing that," he said.
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