RealTime IT News

WildPackets Survives Fire

Ultimately, the loss may be considered trivial: When the Walnut Creek, CA, headquarters for WildPackets, the software company behind products like AiroPeek NX and EtherPeek NX, burned in the early morning last Monday, July 15, no lives were lost and all intellectual property was backed up to off site offices.

The building, however, was destroyed, and lost were the contents of cubicles and offices, along with memorabilia, including awards and trophies earned by the company's software products.

Despite all that, WildPackets has continued to work almost as if it were business as usual. At least as much as they could under the circumstances.

As of yesterday, the company moved the 65 of its 80 employees based in Walnut Creek into a temporary office space in San Ramon. Phones are installed and over 100 PCs are on the way.

Employees for the company didn't lose much ground in the last week. According to the WildPackets.com Web site, the workforce "began meeting in borrowed conference rooms, employee homes, parks and restaurants" the day after the fire.

"Immediate after the first morning, when we were all in shock, all the teams started getting back together," says WildPackets PR Specialist Ronnie Holland. "I'm in the marketing group, and our graphic artist, who isn't even full time, offered his studio to the group for meetings."

Despite WildPacket's many award winning products in the Wireless LAN space, those off site meetings were actually the first time some of the company's employees used Wi-Fi. Holland said the graphic artist whose space they met in purchased enough client cards for all to connect to the Net via his studio's 802.11b-based router.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined, though investigators are looking at external sources. WildPackets' office was in one of two twin buildings on Camino Diablo. The other building houses a local East Bay publication called Diablo Magazine. Initially firefighters feared the blaze would take both buildings. Winds kept the fire contained to just the WildPackets offices, however.

"[Diablo has] definitely been affected by the disruption, the smoke, the fumes, the coming demolition, and their generous offer to let our operations folks move into their conference room until we found an alternate location," says Holland. "That enabled us to have a control center."

WildPacket's own Intranet was up and running by the same day. By the second day, so was technical support: "They moved into a home of one of the tech support guys who worked form home part time," says Holland.

Because of the company's business interruption insurance, they were already negotiating for new space by the end of the day the fire took place.

Equipment orders took the longest to process, and getting the WildPackets.com Web site back online (they hosted their own servers on site) also took some work. Overall however, the company has bounced back fast.

"That is completely due to the spirit we have here at the company," says Holland. "[We said,] if this is going to happen, we'll go on and do the next thing."

Holland expects many stories will continue to come out of this event in the coming days as she talks to more employees. Not all the stories are inspiring: one marketing intern was visiting the site of the fire on the first day investigators were going into see what could be salvaged, and as she watched, unbeknownst to her, someone broke into her car and stole her laptop and other personal effects.

WildPackets management is currently negotiating for brand new space back in Walnut Creek. Holland says it was bound to happen anyway: "We'd already exceed our space, we didn't have nogh parking, places to put new people. They knew we had to look for new space." The plan was to look at the end of the year, but fire has a way of moving up even the best laid plans.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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