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Case Study: Charter Schools USA

December 11, 2017

Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) is one of the oldest, largest and fastest-growing education management companies in the United States. They provide first-class educational solutions designed to ensure the success of its 75,000 students. Founded in 1997 with one school in Fort Lauderdale, the organization has expanded to 85 schools in seven states, employing over 8,000 teachers and boasting a 95 percent parent satisfaction rate. Equipped to build new charter schools and to accept struggling school districts into its organization, CSUSA is committed to delivering unprecedented educational excellence.

An enterprise divided by localized technology

Initially operating a single school, CSUSA set up an inhouse infrastructure to support its IT and telecommunication needs. As new charter schools were added, each followed suit, establishing its own environment. By 2015, CSUSA comprised 69 schools with 69 different networks, servers and ways of doing business. Not surprisingly, this model was costly and difficult to manage, and CSUSA worried its budget could not effectively accommodate this level of individualized technical support as it continued to grow. CSUSA needed a more centralized, integrated IT model that could offer the pricing, agility and security it required.

Adding to the urgency of the issue was a troubling physical IT environment. CSUSA’s critical IT systems were housed in a small office within its headquarters. Regulated by a failing HVAC system, the room experienced extreme condensation resulting in buckling ceiling tiles and a less-than-ideal IT environment.

Bill Poirier, chief information officer and chief security officer for CSUSA, knew they needed a more stable environment – and quickly. He brought in Richard Shellow, a long-time, trusted consultant for CSUSA, to help them research options.

Stability, accessibility and cost drive decision-making

Faced with under-performing back-office applications, CSUSA quickly opted to employ a cloud-based environment to host its email, file, human resources and financial services applications. However, for privacy and security reasons and to maximize existing hardware investments, CSUSA wanted to keep some of its critical assets out of the cloud. The organization wanted to develop a hybrid IT solution with a local colocation provider who could offer the security, availability, support and pricing to sustain its enterprise operations nationwide.

After vetting several highly reputable data center providers, CSUSA chose to house its key corporate systems with Peak 10 + ViaWest. With a state-of-the-art data center in Fort Lauderdale, the provider offered the local access that allowed CSUSA’s IT team to visit the site as needed.

The data center’s hardened concrete construction and ability to withstand a Category 5 hurricane were additional selling points, as CSUSA was no stranger to hurricanes and the damage they can inflict on a business. For added ease of mind, Peak 10 + ViaWest’s redundant connectivity and backup power via multiple UPSs and generators ensured continued operations during a utility power outage.

Peak 10 + ViaWest’s commitment to tested emergency preparedness plans and multi-faceted disaster recovery plans promised to further minimize service disruptions, and the fact that the facility serves as the emergency operations center for a local county was another vote of confidence.

“Overall, we felt that the value Peak 10 + ViaWest offered with its people expertise, competitive pricing and facilities was the best option,” explains Shellow.

Unfaltering uptime and rigorous security send Peak 10 + ViaWest to the head of the class

In 2015, CSUSA moved its hardware to Peak 10 + ViaWest’s Fort Lauderdale facility. Working closely with CSUSA, it expertly coordinated the move, ensuring the appropriate resources were available to assist the process while minimizing downtime and ensuring systems came back online within the allotted timeframe.

“The implementation went without incident and things came up right away,” says Poirier, noting that its professionalism and project management skills enabled CSUSA to complete an implementation it did not have the inhouse resources or bandwidth to accomplish on its own. Peak 10 + ViaWest also collaborated with CSUSA to establish a direct fiber pipeline between it, CSUSA and CSUSA’s MPLS provider. With redundant paths and no single-point of failure, CSUSA experienced heightened connectivity through cross connects between its corporate offices, carriers, and Peak 10 + ViaWest.

Ultimately, CSUSA transitioned from 69 individual networks to a single, integrated enterprise domain. With Peak 10 + ViaWest as the hub for its IT ecosystem, CSUSA created a powerful hybrid IT solution that leverages the power and expertise of third-party resources for its colocation, connectivity, MPLS environment and cloud capabilities.

Its strict protocols for testing and maintaining its systems also factor into the organization’s operational success, a point not lost on Poirier who appreciates the unwavering availability of the Peak 10 + ViaWest solution. He notes that while many companies claim to offer 99.99% uptime, it consistently delivers on that promise.

Peak 10 + ViaWest’s security and compliance is another benefit for CSUSA. Boasting strict protocols and five-level physical security, including biometric fingerprint readers, card/PIN access, combination lock cabinets and 24/7/365 video surveillance and armed guard, it ensures the physical equipment and the data within it are fully protected.

“Peak 10 + ViaWest’s physical security is second to none in the commercial sector,” expresses Poirier, a retired military colonel who likens the data center to a military bunker.

To further support its internal IT team, CSUSA also uses Peak 10 + ViaWest’s Remote Hands functionality when something onsite needs attention. This added service leverages its ITIL-certified experts who are available 24/7, and frees CSUSA’s staff to remain focused on other pressing IT initiatives.

“I haven’t had to have a whole lot of interaction with the Peak 10 + ViaWest support team because things don’t go wrong,” says Poirier. “There’s something to be said about that. I’d rather have a partner like Peak 10 + ViaWest where there are no crises. That’s how I define A+ customer service.”

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest