Crisis aftermath brings help from IT vendors

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Information technology vendors are prioritizing emergency orders from government customers and in some cases offering free services or opening hot lines to process orders in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

GTSI Corp., Dell Computer Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. established hot lines for government customers requesting products and services.

GTSI circulated an e-mail message Sept. 11 announcing a 24-hour hot line to provide access and support to its customers. "We are prepared to accept verbal orders for all IT products when necessary to meet any emergency deployment needs," the e-mail stated.

The message said top priority would go to emergency orders from the departments of Defense and Justice, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Guard, intelligence agencies and other government emergency service providers.

Dell has set up an emergency-only toll-free number for government customers who have "an immediate request for products and services as a result of events," said a Dell spokeswoman.

Compaq Global Services has established a North American Services Command Center to provide a focal point for customer communications. The center will help customers assess their situations and develop service plans to support customers once they return to work. Compaq has also opened a toll-free customer support hot line.

CDW-G Inc., which has a 450,000-square-foot facility in Illinois, has set up a common carrier to make two-person nonstop truck runs directly to Washington, D.C. "The costs are higher for us," said Larry Kirsch, senior vice president of CDW-G, "but the situation warrants it."

Harry Heisler, executive vice president and general manager of MicronPC LLC, said his company is starting to fill disaster-related orders. "We have been in constant contact with FEMA, and as of [Sept. 12], we're working on an emergency order for the FBI."

Hewlett-Packard Co. has set up a 24-hour communications center for emergency orders. "Any orders that come as a result of the attacks will be given priority, especially those from government agencies, health care organizations or other mission-critical customers," said Brad Bass, a communications manager at HP.

An Apple Computer Inc. spokeswoman said that the firm had received many calls from government customers about product needs. "We're doing everything we can to help and giving government emergency orders priority."

PictureTel Corp., maker of videoconferencing equipment, and its partners are helping government employees on a more personal level. "We've had a lot of requests from military personnel in Germany [who want] to contact friends and family at the Pentagon," said Lew Jaffe, president and chief operating officer. "You can't bring personnel there to help, so we'll be prepared with telemedical counseling and grief counseling."

To coordinate the effort, which is also available to businesses, PictureTel has established a central reference Web site listing locations of existing videoconferencing facilities.

On a similar note, CI Host, a Web-hosting and Internet solutions provider based in Bedford, Texas, is offering free e-mail services and Web-hosting to military personnel as well as victims of the attack and their families. And accessing e-mail via a dial-up account will cost only $8 a month.

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