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This data protection firm stayed afloat by tweaking its cleaning for COVID-19

When the pandemic hit, East Setauket-based American Eagle Systems, a company which specializes in cleaning data centers and critical environments, had business come to a “grinding halt.” After clients inquired if the company could clean for the COVID-19 virus, American Eagle Systems added to its expertise in specialized cleaning by learning what was required to clean infected or potentially infected areas safely. Since then, they have been cleaning for the virus at data centers and places that executives would visit, such as offices, hotel rooms and conference rooms. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Measuring air quality was a standard part of cleaning at the data protection company American Eagle Systems long before COVID-19 hit.

American Eagle Systems cleaning crews diminish metallic and other air particles that may cause enough static to spark fires or otherwise damage data, according to Ed Fabian, president of the firm, which has its sales headquarters in Setauket and serves clients mostly within the United States.

Clients started asking if American Eagle System could sanitize facilities with potential COVID-19 contagions. So the business tailored its cleaning services to stamp out the virus, said Fabian, of Port Jefferson. Clients may choose to have the air quality measured for the presence of bacteria and other debris during so-called COVID cleanings.

He said demand for COVID cleanings helped keep his team working, while American Eagle System’s other services like data audits and e-waste management were not in high demand. Client needs are starting to get closer to normal, he said.

"The calls for COVID cleanings are reducing," Fabian said. "Our regular data center cleanings are picking up again. … Some of those regular projects are continuing now."

Newsday spoke with Fabian about the company's transitions. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

How did COVID-19 initially impact American Eagle Systems?

All of our customers basically said go home. They closed down all their facilities. … We were still selling some of the products that we sell, but all of our services halted completely.

When did things change?

I'd say within about a month. … Customers mostly started reaching out saying, "Well, do you do COVID cleaning?" It kind of started with: "We had a COVID case in our data center … how do we get back in there?' That turned into: "Can you clean every floor? Can you clean it every night?"

What did a pre-COVID-19 cleaning entail?

We take air samples to see what’s floating around … then we wipe everything down, with the combination of [ionized] air and these antistatic wipes: the walls, all the equipment, the wires, any cabling … even desks and computers. … Then we take particle counts when we’re done, and say: Here’s the difference. So you can see it went from 100,000 particles per million to 300 particles per million.

And what does a COVID cleaning entail?

It’s really the exact same process, just with more safety equipment and chemicals that aren’t only cleaning up the dusts and the metal fragments, but they’re also killing the virus.

How did this impact your expenses and prices?

If you had a data center cleaning, we would probably schedule it two or three weeks out. … This is more like, 'Hey, I need somebody tomorrow in Albuquerque.’ … We've passed that cost off to the customer, but they certainly understand.

What are the rates for cleaning currently?

It's probably in the range of 50 cents a square foot … but that's really a pie-in-the-sky kind of number. It really depends on what services are being used, and where, and how. And a lot of times, we have to do it overnight because we can't interrupt their daily process. So there's a cost to that.

What types of clients are seeking COVID cleanings?

We’re doing daily, monthly, weekly cleanings inside of a lot of customer facilities in the city and elsewhere, so that their executives … can return to work on a regular basis. We’ve had: "Hey, we have some executives traveling, can you sanitize their hotel rooms before they get there?"

How is American Eagle Systems faring?

We’re lucky. … The data centers have to be operational ... so our need never really disappeared.

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