Millions of people evacuated their homes in 2017 before Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida. When they returned, many found their property damaged or destroyed, including their connection to essential utilities such as propane.
Managing weather-related emergencies is par for the course for Suburban Propane. Whether it’s 3 p.m. or 3 a.m., the company is standing by to answer customers’ questions and dispatch service technicians. During severe weather conditions such as hurricanes, this makes all the difference to the company’s 1.1 million customers.
“Our business is customer satisfaction,” said Tom Chorba, Manager of Technical Services at Suburban Propane. “Customers count on us to deliver their fuel and provide 24.7.365 emergency service. Not being able to provide these services is unacceptable to everyone in the company.”
To provide emergency service, the company’s retail delivery system must be available around the clock.“If our retail delivery system isn’t available, we can’t send emergency service crews to reset customers’ propane tanks and restart their fuel supply,” Chorba said. “They need propane to heat their water, cook their food and fuel their generators, which keep appliances running until electricity is restored.”
Suburban Propane is no stranger to weather-related emergencies. The company deals with freezing temperatures each winter and wind and water damage the rest of the year.
“The weather is unreliable, which means IT must be reliable,” said Ron Traub, Senior Operations Manager at Suburban Propane.
“As we virtualized more and more of our IT infrastructure, we quickly realized legacy backup worked fine for physical machines, but not for virtual machines,” Traub said. “We weren’t confident in our ability to recover our retail delivery system quickly in an emergency. That’s not a comfortable position to be in when your customers are relying on you to restore their fuel supply immediately.”
Suburban Propane replaced legacy backup with Veeam® Backup & Replication™. “Veeam provides total availability across our retail delivery system, which means we can deliver propane to customers faster and ensure reliable service,” Traub said. “Veeam is key in helping us manage weather-related emergencies and serving our customers as quickly as humanly possible. In the case of a hurricane, this is critical.”
Suburban Propane helped thousands of residential, commercial and agricultural customers in Texas and Florida restore their fuel supply following back-to-back hurricanes. In addition to helping customers, Suburban Propane helped the American Red Cross provide emergency assistance during both hurricanes. The company donated money and propane so the American Red Cross could purchase food and cook meals for hurricane victims. Suburban Propane and the American Red Cross have been partners since 2012.
“We help keep America running strong, but we can’t do what we do without data being available 24.7.365,” said Chris Prevete, Technical Architect at Suburban Propane. “That’s why we chose Veeam in 2011, and that’s why we still use it today. Veeam is synonymous with 24.7.365 Availability.”
Veeam backs up 320 VMware vSphere virtual machines (150 TB) for Suburban Propane. Veeam Agents for Microsoft Windows and Linux back up physical machines. “We know our data is always available because of Veeam,” Prevete said. “Vendors approach us claiming they can do what Veeam does, but they can’t recover data instantly to avoid downtime.”
Avoiding downtime is dire in the propane industry. If fuel can’t be delivered, the U.S. economy will take a direct hit. According to ICF International, Inc., the propane industry generates approximately $40 billion in gross domestic product each year. “Suburban Propane is one of the largest providers in the propane industry, so it goes without saying that we must avoid downtime,” Prevete said. “That’s why we use Veeam.”
Suburban Propane has been serving the energy needs of homes, farms and businesses since 1928. With nearly 3,800 full-time employees, the company operates in 44 states, providing prompt, reliable service to approximately 1.1 million customers through 675 locations. Suburban Propane is headquartered in Whippany, New Jersey.
Hurricane season is a busy time for Suburban Propane. In 2017, back-toback hurricanes impacted hundreds of thousands of customers in Texas and Florida. When their equipment is battered by wind or flooded by rain, the company dispatches service technicians to reset and inspect it before restarting their gas. However, Suburban Propane can’t dispatch service technicians unless IT systems are available 24.7.365.