Techbeat: Data center operator Online Tech snags $20 million deal to expand across Midwest
Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com
There are at least two of everything at the Online Tech data centers in Pittsfield Township and Flint Township — multiple Internet connections, two cooling systems, two generators, and even vendor contracts with two fuel providers located in opposite directions of the center to ensure that if the road was blocked in one direction, they would still be able to operate.
As of today, there is also a $20 million deal with the Missouri based News-Press & Gazette to expand into other Midwest markets. The investment will help Online Tech open four new data centers over the next two years.
"The News-Press has seen that journalism is more and more becoming digital, and at the heart of everything that's digital is data centers," Klein said.
"They opened a couple data centers themselves and liked what they saw so they decided they wanted to invest in a company that specializes in what we do."
The redundancy in equipment Klein oversees as he prepares to expand the company is created to protect the servers located in the data centers. The buildings house computer servers for companies ranging from small technology businesses to large banks, manufacturers and hospitals.
Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com
“Everyone talks about ‘the cloud’ these days,” Klein said on a tour of one of the company’s two centers in the Avis Farms complex in Pittsfield Township. “The cloud sits in data centers.”
Online Tech houses servers and cloud computing for a number of clients both within Michigan and across the country. Recently, the company was one of just a few centers nationwide to be certified to hold medical records under the new HIPPA standards protecting patient confidentiality. Klein said the health services, financial, and e-commerce sectors are the main clients his company pursues for their cloud computing services.
Klein said the deal with the News-Press & Gazette illustrates Online Tech’s readiness to expand outside of Michigan.
“The key to growing a high-growth business like ours is figuring out the recipe and then repeating it,” he said.
“We’ve spent four years doing that preparation, and our first test was the Ann Arbor 2 center. We were able to be up and running with clients 90 days after we got the keys to the building.”
While they are looking to build their new centers outside of the state, maintaining the cloud and keeping client’s servers up and running is a task that Michigan is uniquely suited to, Klein said.
“Michigan has the lowest rate of major natural disasters of any state in the continental 48,” he said.
“And it has a very good climate for holding the centers.”
In addition to a lack of severe weather and earthquakes, Michigan also has two separate power grids, an attractive proposition for an industry where backing up and staying online are always major concerns.
“In the big power outage in 2003 when the whole East Coast went dark, DTE lost power but Consumers Energy was still up and running,” Klein said.
“So we’re able to assure people that we have centers just 53 miles away, an ideal distance for data backup, and they are on different grids.”
The emphasis on not shutting down even extends to the 15 seconds it takes for the generators to kick in if power is lost. All power that goes into Online Tech’s data centers is first charged into batteries that are then used to power the servers. If power were to go out, the batteries have enough juice to last 15 minutes, more than long enough for one or both of the generators to kick in.