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Involta adds satellite dish

The large satellite dish recently installed at the Involta data storage center in Duluth has created excitement among its staff. "Its antenna is huge," said Lucas Mistelske, Involta's director of data center operations. Stretching 25 feet in diam...

Satellite dish
Involta has snared a new and different customer — a worldwide satellite communications company. Instead of storing data, a large, 25-foot dish has been installed to send data to a satellite that will be launched next year. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The large satellite dish recently installed at the Involta data storage center in Duluth has created excitement among its staff.
“Its antenna is huge,” said Lucas Mistelske, Involta’s director of data center operations.
Stretching 25 feet in diameter and pointed skyward, the dish is a surprising sight for visitors who round the curve of Technology Drive to the data center in Kenwood. Mistelske can’t reveal the name of the company behind it but says it’s an established, worldwide provider of satellite services based on the East Coast.
The dish setup is for a new tenant at the multitenant center. But it
isn’t for storing critical information, it’s for sending data into space.
The dish’s antenna will send signals to a communications satellite after it’s launched into orbit next year. The satellite, in turn, will rebroadcast the signals to the satellite company’s customers, Mistelske explained.
Those customers do not include satellite television but could include cellphone providers and the federal government, he said.
The satellite communications company has 55 dish locations around the world, including at Involta data centers in Iowa and Arizona. But it needed one in northern Minnesota.
The setup in Duluth is different, however.
“We are one of their few sites in North America and the only one in Minnesota to have one of these satellites,” Mistelske said. “This is a whole new technology.”
Mistelske didn’t even try to hide his enthusiasm.
“It’s super cool,” he said.
For Iowa-based Involta, satellite work is a departure from its traditional mission of providing highly secure storage of digital data for health care organizations, businesses, government and educational institutions.
Call it branching out. But it’s adding fuel to the already rapidly expanding company’s growth.
Since Involta opened its first full-service data center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2004, it has opened 11 other centers in Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, Idaho and in Duluth, its only center in Minnesota.
In June, the company doubled in size when it acquired the assets of Data Recovery Services LLC in Ohio. That boosted the number of Involta centers to 13, its total staff to nearly 200 and its number of fiber route miles to more than 5,500, according to a company release.
Involta’s $11.5 million, 24,000-square-foot center near Arrowhead and Rice Lake roads in Duluth opened in 2012. In the past year, its staff has grown from six to 13, with openings for three more employees. Its client list has grown from seven to 15, including Essentia Health and four other large organizations, Mistelske said.
The Duluth center has two 5,000-square-foot halls for secure data storage. The first hall is now at 85 percent capacity, he said.
With full capacity near, expansion is next. The company is ready to build out the building’s second data storage hall. The plan is in place. The capital in hand. Even contractors lined up to do the work.
So what will it take to move forward?
“It takes the right client, and the right opportunity,” said Mistelske, who expects that to happen by next spring.
And when that second hall fills up, Involta plans to build a second 24,000-square-foot data center next to the first one.
It happened in Akron, Ohio.
Involta’s $20 million data center in Akron opened a year before Duluth’s did. The Akron center was set up for the same expansions as Duluth. With Akron now nearing total data storage capacity at its center, company officials last week announced it soon would break ground on the second 26,520-square-foot data center.

Lucas Mistelske
Lucas Mistelske, Involta's director of data center operations

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