Hunkered Down Internet Firm Weathers Hurricane

An Internet registrar whose staffers refused to leave New Orleans and instead hunkered down in their offices, have kept their business, blog and webcam up and online.

An Internet registrar whose staffers refused to leave New Orleans and instead hunkered down in their offices, have not only kept their business up and online, but have provided some of the most stunning images and commentary from inside the chaotic city.

While other business fled, DirectNIC -- the 11th-largest domain name registration firm, according to Netcraft, with more than 1.1 million domains registered -- stayed put through Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of most of New Orleans.

Powered by 750Kw generator hooked up to a 1,000 gallon tank of diesel -- the latter replenished from 55-gallon drums' -- DirectNIC kept its servers running and its connection with the rest of the world via the Internet alive.

"We are pleased to announce that we haven't lost service once during this entire disaster, and we have three weeks of backup power secured, and more resources are on the way," promised Sigmund Solares, the chief executive of Intercosmos Media Group, which runs DirectNIC, in a statement Wednesday.

"Our staff is safe and well - some have been working around the clock in New Orleans to keep clients running smoothly, and other employees have left to safer locations to keep an eye on the network from afar," Solares added.

As conditions in New Orleans deteriorated, the decision looked foolish to some commenting on the blog maintained on the DirectNIC site, but the blog's author -- Michael Barnett, the company's crisis manager and a veteran of Gulf War I -- refused to budge.

"We've got people begging us to leave, but that's not going to happen," wrote Barnett. "[We] are going nowhere until New Orleans' infrastructure is rebuilt or declared permanently and irrevocably destroyed. As far as I'm concerned, this building is my post, and it will not be abandoned until I'm properly relieved."

As if it wasn't enough for DirectNIC to simply stay in business, Barnett's blog, the live feed from the Web camera that the company pointed out its 11th and 12th-story windows, and the digital photographs staffers posted after venturing on reconnaissance missions to street level, gave outsiders a once-in-a-lifetime account of an American city coming apart.

Among the entries on the blog, Barnett detailed looting of ATM machines, aimless patrols by demoralized New Orleans police, police involved in looting, and arson-set fires blazing within blocks of his location Friday.

"The National Guard, FEMA, the NOPD, and City authorities DO NOT have the city under control," he wrote on Thursday. "There are live radio feeds for the National Guard comms and NOPD comms which have been circulating the web, and you can listen to the chaos and disarray for yourselves. I doubt the government's ability to reestablish order without a full active duty military presence to crush the mob mentality."

But even as his blog reported Friday that troops were arriving in the city, Barnett's commentary turned poetically pessimistic, and provided an inside view that conventional media hasn't offered.

"This place is completely coming apart. The hopelessness on the street breaks the heart. The old, the tired, the sick seem resigned to their presumed fate," he wrote. "Thanks so much for the moral support, guys. I only wish we could pass it on to the people who need it more than we do."

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