Handing Over the Reins (and the Headaches): Harrison College

Case Study

Harrison College — 13 locations across Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina; offering degrees in six disciplines and over 30 fields of study — was facing the reality that it was time to upgrade its data center. All options were on the table, including whether to build new facilities, upgrade, or take an entirely different approach.

At the time, Harrison College managed every component of its IT systems, retaining physical possession of its hardware and data, with all the expense and concerns that entailed, from worrying about natural disasters, to providing redundancy, to linking all the college’s campus systems, to the on-site challenges of climate control and physical security.

Not only was the existing system expensive, it did not lend itself well to expansion. But abandoning a familiar model for a modern but unfamiliar solution takes a lot of convincing.

Joe Meadors, M.S. Ed., Senior Vice President – Information Services and Facilities, said, “We knew we had an outdated data center, and we were faced with remodeling or moving to a colocation model like IFN’s. We were also looking to bring our network to fiber connectivity. We sent out an RFP, and IFN could do it all; others could do only parts.”

When Harrison chose IFN, Harrison no longer had to foot the bills for HVAC, security, and redundancy. It didn’t have the looming demand for more IT space. Harrison didn’t have to build its own fiber network, or lease from multiple other providers. “IFN keeps everything safe in its remote data center; necessary data are accessible across all campuses and functions,” said Meadors.

Meadors noted that IFN’s scalable approach merged handily with Harrison’s needs. “Services are set up to accommodate each location’s, and each discipline’s, needs,” Meadors said. “This scalability allowed Harrison College and IFN to build the entire 13-campus network all at once, rather than employing a potentially confusing or costly rollout.”

Planning to meet the conditions of the RFP and tweaking details before the rollout prevented problems. Meadors said, “Most of it went as planned. Our challenges were minimal and anticipated. When we turned it on, it worked right away, aside from a few things we had already anticipated. These were handled right away, and we were up and running.”

The need for additional capacity never goes away, and soon Harrison College was looking to add facilities. “Since the initial installation, we’ve added a couple locations,” Meadors said. “They went up easily. The model is absolutely scalable. Everything IFN designed initially has been sufficient.”

Harrison wasn’t “behind,” but they saw the day, in the near future, when they would be. And the old model was expensive, with no relief in sight. Harrison was smart to recognize future problems that its existing model and facilities wouldn’t be able to handle. “As businesses consider what to do with their data centers, the traditional thinking is to build their own. We have found a tremendous advantage in having a colocation facility,” Meadors said. “Our decision was largely economic; it was advantageous to simply start over. What we have found is a lot fewer headaches, having our gear in their space. The advantages have been terrific: reliability, redundancy, less maintenance.”

Meadors recommends this solution to other institutions. “Maybe you don’t want to build new or expand a data center,” he said. “There is a big economic advantage in using IFN’s hub. Having a colocation facility has pretty dramatic economic and operational advantages. We don’t have to worry about cooling, power, physical security, or uptime. All that is expensive — it’s all built into the IFN model.”

The IFN solution is simple in both concept and in execution. It allowed Harrison to maintain much of its existing structure – the parts that worked well. “Old data centers still exist, but only as spokes. The hub is IFN,” Meadors said.

“Having our core data center in an IFN facility rather than in one of our buildings is a huge advantage,” Meadors said. “Our gear is housed at the colocation — literally a wire cage with racks, in space IFN provides, at their hub. All our campuses come to the IFN cage. We built in redundancy, and it’s working really well. We have had terrific reliability with the IFN network, with very good response time.”