Considered one of the finest symphonies in the world, the Minnesota Orchestra has a vast business operation beyond the musicians who appear on its downtown Minneapolis stage. The classical music empire, which often celebrates the work of composers from the 18th and 19th centuries, boasts a 21st-century computer network used by more than 160 employees. The orchestra performs more than 200 concerts a year, many which are broadcast on 120 radio stations across the country, distributed by American Public Media.
In 2002, the orchestra’s Internet provider was sold to a larger company and its service fell off dramatically, according to Gean Halstead, the organization’s Director of Information Technology. The orchestra began a search for a new ISP, one capable of both Internet service and Web hosting. "We heard about VISI from several organizations and we found they were able to support the same features as our former ISP," he says. "The company also has been very supportive of non-profit organizations."
The orchestra recently had a second need – an ISP with ColdFusion Web server experience. "The decision was made to go with ColdFusion six years ago," says Halstead. "We needed an organization that could support our existing platform. Sometime in the future we might not use ColdFusion, but for the time being it is what is being utilized."
VISI now hosts a dedicated server for the Orchestra’s Web site. If the orchestra decides to revamp its site using different software, Halstead has little reason to doubt VISI’s ability to make the transition.
VISI upgraded the orchestra’s digital subscriber line (DSL) to a full T1 communications line, allowing for employees to have faster and more reliable access to the Internet. VISI handles all the orchestra’s email traffic and uses Postini anti-spam monitoring software for detecting junk email. The transition from the DSL to T1 was smooth.
"The T1 connects with our Ethernet backbone and has really satisfied our needs," says Halstead. "If there are any points of failure in the system, VISI has a good process of dealing with those and addressing or responding to customer questions. And we’ve been comfortable with their support solutions."
The dedicated server hosted by VISI is the Web face of the orchestra. The orchestra’s richly informative site tells visitors about the organization, promotes upcoming shows, offers access to artists’ biographies, video and audio clips and recent press announcements. Real time online ticket purchases are also offered.
When Web site visitors move to buy tickets, they are seamlessly transferred to a different Web server, one managed internally by the orchestra’s information technology staff. "The system works well," Halstead says. "We wanted to continue to manage the ticketing operation on our own but not have the additional duties involved with hosting the main Web site. The arrangement has served our needs."
VISI helped the orchestra through one additional project: For many years orchestra staff members could opt for a spam filter on their email. However, as the floodgates of spam continued to grow, the orchestra decided in 2005 to make it mandatory for every staff member to use a spam filter.
"We initially had some issues with this but VISI was very quick to respond to our concerns," says Halstead.
The orchestra has had a good partnership with VISI since 2002. "Whenever rare problems have arisen with the network and the Web site – from hardware glitches to problems with the Web site being down – VISI has been very responsive," says Halstead. "We’ve had very little downtime and our service is very much improved. The company has been extremely helpful at a low cost."
Reflecting on the partnership, Halstead cannot recall any significant challenges or issues, which is just the way he likes it. "It’s never been an eventful partnership, which is good," he says. "The Internet connectivity and the Web hosting support we receive from VISI has been very good."
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