Here Comes the SunBy Mel Duvall Print
Data center operators Phil and Sherry Nail were tired of skyrocketing electricity bills. They converted to solar power—and now the green strategy is generating business of its own.
For a relatively small data center operation, Affordable Internet Services Online boasts a rather eclectic customer base.
Unlike most data centers, which are voracious energy consumers, AISO pays nothing for its electricity. The facility—its servers, cooling systems, even the owners’ residence next door—gets all its power from an array of solar panels.
“We initially did this because we thought it was the right thing to do,” says Phil Nail, who founded the company with his wife, Sherry, in 1997. “It wasn’t exactly part of a business plan to attract customers. But we found that companies from all over the world have been drawn to us. They want their customers to know that their Web sites are powered by solar energy.”
Prior to 1997, the Nails ran a small awning manufacturing business, but when the Internet revolution went into full swing, they decided to try something new. Despite having little IT experience, the couple decided to go into the Web site hosting business.
“At that time I couldn’t even install the software needed to run the first server we bought,” he says. That’s how Nail met his current network administrator, Steven Craig. Nail ran into Craig, who was just 15 at the time, at the local bowling alley. Craig told him he knew how to get his server up and running.
Nail housed that first server in a co-location facility 400 miles away in
He flew to
Today the company boasts some 15,000 clients, and Nail’s daughter, Jennifer, has joined the operation.
In 2001, Nail decided to take another gamble. Faced with increasing energy costs and an understanding that data centers were gobbling up electricity across the country, he began looking into how he could make the business more efficient. He initially considered windmills, but determined the winds weren’t consistent enough around Romoland. Instead, he decided to make use of what was abundant in the desert-like climate—sunshine.
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