Storage bin: A business with a heart

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Go figure. Sometimes when you peel away all the competitiveness, positioning and baloney that pervades our industry, and look really, really hard, it's amazing what you can find. It seems that not every vendor in our world is a soulless, money-grubbing scuzzbucket.

A few years ago a pal of mine, Brian Casey from Daymark Storage, asked me to help him raise money for his pet charity, Sylvia's Haven. Sylvia is a 75-year-old sweetheart who for years has been helping homeless and battered women with children get back on their feet, get financially healthy and get a home. Brian knew that I rub shoulders with many storage industry muckety-mucks with lots of money. I figured maybe it would help me get into heaven, so what the heck. I sent out an e-mail and "suggested" that some of these vendors would be well served to give a little back to society. Some did. In the first two years, storage folks gave the charity $50,000.

This year, I decided to step up the pressure a tad, and we raised another $50,000. It was great. I was sitting at a bar afterwards and Sylvia came in, gave me a hug and said, "God bless you." I felt guilty. She's asking God to bless me, of all people!

This from a woman who raised two kids by herself, working low-wage factory jobs where women really weren't regarded too highly. But she did it. And when her second husband died and the kids had moved out, Sylvia did what almost no one I know would have done. She took what money she had and opened her own home to women with kids who needed help. She asked little in return, only sobriety and a determination to succeed on their own, without a man. (I love that part.)

Since then, Sylvia has helped hundreds of single-mom families get back on their feet. She gives them two years in their own rent-free furnished home, as long as they learn to live a self-sufficient life. One screw-up and they're out. When a family "graduates" after two years, Sylvia sends them out to a new "not-free" home, along with all the belongings and furniture they've had access to, so they don't have to start all over. Mostly, they leave with a sense of pride and the knowledge that they can do it, that they can be a positive influence in our society and never a burden.

I don't mean to use this column as a pulpit; I promise not to do it more than once a year. But I want to thank those whose generosity helps to make the storage world part of the real world. Over the years, we have consistently received big-money donations from EMC, Legato, Network Appliance, NSI Software and Veritas. This year, CommVault, GlassHouse Technologies, Intransa, Iron Mountain, McData, Softek, StorageTek and Tacit Networks dug down deep to help make the event a huge success. Now, do your part and do business with these people. I don't care if they have the best stuff or not, they're OK in my book.

We also received a lot of smaller pledges from startups and individuals. Every dime goes to this great cause, and I'm not only grateful for the generosity of those who help, I'm awed. One donor, who insisted on anonymity, gave $5,000 out of his own pocket--and won't let me thank him publicly. That's the kind of person who's out there in the storage world, and one who I'd be happy to work with as long as he'll have me.

Storage is about information, and information is about people. Like anything in technology, storage is deemed important first because of the dollars it generates. But at the end of the day, it's the people on both sides of the industry--and many others on the periphery--who make the whole thing work. Thanks.

This was first published in November 2004

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