Rapidly growing companies like Archipelago Learning, a leading subscription-based online education provider, are frequently faced with a dilemma: to outsource data center services or build an in-house solution. For Archipelago, the choice became clear as the company's demands for data, power and a scalable computing environment continued to increase. Rather than make capital investments and spend ongoing operating dollars on an internal infrastructure, the company chose to outsource its data center needs. Finding the right colocation partner was Archipelago's next critical step.
Archipelago Learning provides standards-based instruction, practice, assessment and productivity tools that improve the performance of educators and students via proprietary Web-based platforms. Study Island, its main product line, helps students in kindergarten through 12th grade master state-specific grade level academic standards in a fun and engaging manner. During the 2008-2009 school year, approximately 8.4 million students in over 19,200 schools used Study Island products.
After comparing colocation providers and investigating Colo4's extensive, secure, environmentally controlled facilities, Archipelago Learning chose Colo4 to house 100 percent of the company's server farm supporting all of its online products. Since then, the company has experienced rapid growth and added equipment accordingly - and Colo4 has had no problem keeping pace.
We have never had any issues with power, Internet connectivity or cooling - the three big ticket items when looking for a data center," says Shane Shelton, Director of Infrastructure for Archipelago Learning. "But the thing that really separates Colo4 is the people who work in the facilities. They provide a very solid, stable service and aggressive pricing, and we've never had issues with them. We've asked for some outrageous things, and they've never had a problem meeting our needs."
For example, as Archipelago Learning adds new products and expands its services to more school districts in the United States and internationally, its demand for faster, scalable networks; greater bandwidth; and more equipment continues to grow.
"During a period of particularly rapid growth, we needed increased capacity so I approached Colo4 about adding a redundant 10 gigabyte connection, which at the time was a very unusual request," Shelton says. "They made it work. That's the kind of responsiveness we need, because obviously we're not going to let our colocation provider hinder our ability to grow."
When Colo4 expanded its facilities in 2009, Archipelago Learning expanded also, moving all of its equipment into Colo4's newly built-out data center space. Thanks to careful planning by Shelton and precise, accurate cage construction and pre-wiring by Colo4, the complex move involved simply rolling equipment into the new space, plugging it in and testing.
"From Colo4's end, everything was 100 percent," Shelton noted. "Colo4 even had an electrician on-site during the move to address any power issues immediately during installation."
Because Archipelago Learning manages its own equipment remotely, the company rarely calls upon Colo4's around-the-clock, on-site technicians to provide assistance. But on the occasions when it has, Shelton says, the Colo4 technical team has resolved the problem within minutes.
For Shelton, the decision to stay with Colo4 ultimately boils down to just one thing.
"All colo facilities pretty much offer the same services, so it comes down to the people you have to work with there," Shelton says. "We've chosen to stay with Colo4 because whenever we have to deal with someone there, it's always a great experience."