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10:15 AM
Cheryl Rosen, InformationWeek
Cheryl Rosen, InformationWeek
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Credit-Card Processing: A Blackout Story

First Data's ability to process transactions continued apace during the blackout.

First Data Corp., the $7.6 billion processor of credit-card and money-transfer transactions, was left without power in its Melville, N.Y., and Montvale, N.J., offices Thursday. The facilities are not major data centers, and none of First Data's critical operational centers was impacted, a spokesman says.

First Data possesses a state-of-the-art payment-processing system that's monitored by a support team 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that transactions are processed smoothly with minimal downtime. Redundant data centers are fully online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. The redundant systems are capable of handling First Data's systemwide volume at any time, should it become necessary.

"The blackout didn't really hinder our ability to process transactions thanks to our redundant systems," the spokesman says. "Our ability to serve merchants was not affected; the power outage did affect the point-of-sale devices, though, because they work on electricity." This is perhaps a place where wireless systems would be helpful, he says.

The company says that what happened on Thursday is one of those scenarios that it plans for and tests for, and everything went according to that plan. But for Howard Rosen, director of software development at AIG (and this writer's husband), all plans took a hike Thursday evening. And so did he.

After taking the ferry from AIG's offices in Jersey City, N.J., to Manhattan, he walked close to five miles to 34th Street, hoping to catch the Long Island Railroad home. With no trains running, though, he went to his own backup plan: He rented a car, picked up five other stranded Long Islanders, and set out on a 30-mile trek that took three hours.

The clerk at the car-rental company didn't let the lack of power and transaction processing slow her down. She took out a pencil and paper, rubbed it over his credit card until she had a clear imprint, and said she'd put through the $89 bill as soon as the system came back up. Maybe the wireless systems will be ready in time for the next blackout.

Article originally appeared in InformationWeek.

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