Networking and Hardware Blog

Touring the OtterBox IT Dungeon

Otter 001 OtterBox is a company that has certainly captured our attention here in Fort Collins, Colorado. It's a rare success story in a down economy—a company that's experiencing strong growth but remaining humble and demonstrably grateful. (Watch for a future article about the company's altruistic OtterCares community-involvement program.) And you might even be intimately familiar with this company, without even realizing it! Chances are, you keep this company at your hip pocket at all times. OtterBox manufactures popular protective solutions for a variety of handheld devices such as smartphones and MP3 players.

"Like the animal that is our namesake," goes the company website, "we're a fun, creative bunch that likes to work hard and play hard too. We have in-house sales, customer service, accounting, engineering, public relations, marketing, web design, graphics, supply chain, human resources, and our own warehouse."

Otter 002OtterBox prides itself on its homegrown, northern-Colorado location, attributing the active lifestyle to the rugged design of its cases. The company's offices, after all, are located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, known worldwide for their plethora of biking, hiking, running, camping, kayaking, boating, skiing, and snowboarding opportunities. These are the conditions for which OtterBox's protective cases are ideal.

Here at Windows IT Pro, we work about five miles away from OtterBox, so we decided a facility tour was in order—with a focus on how the company's IT department is managing some pretty impressive growth.

We met Chad Atchison, OtterBox's IT Manager, at the company's Old Town office, with the knowledge that OtterBox is in the planning stages of a move to more swank headquarters. (During our tour, we noticed cardboard boxes at the periphery of the work areas: This is a company on the move!)

Today, Chad's IT department supports about 300 users. It wasn't always that way. Through the company's 10 years of steady growth, Chad has evolved from the company's sole part-time IT guy to manager of a bustling staff consisting of six full-time IT pros. And he's  looking to add two to four more this year.

Otter 010 "We're primarily a Windows environment," Chad says, "with a few Macs for our graphic-design folks." The OtterBox environment thrums atop a strong Cisco networking/VoIP infrastructure.

And OtterBox is right on the cutting edge of technology. "We have Windows Server 2008 R2 running on a series of HP blade servers." The company's web presence dabbles with cloud services: "Our website is taken care of through a third-party SaaS provider, and a lot of our web elements are implemented through Amazon S3. Our top concern with any cloud offerings, of course, is security." Asked what his upgrade horizon looks like, he said, "We're in the process of an Exchange 2010 upgrade right now, and we have an Office 2010 upgrade in the near future."

Otter 011Chad's greatest challenge? That would be just the fact of this company's quick growth—an enviable position to be in! "We have to keep on top of ordering new equipment, licensing, and staffing. Another significant challenge is the breadth of mobile devices we support. Because of the business we're in, we have to be very device-agnostic. Our salesmen need to be savvy with all the devices on the market. That being said, I'm mostly seeing iPhone and Android. I can't even remember seeing a Windows Phone."

Although he's often on call during off hours at OtterBox, he can perform 80 percent of his network troubleshooting from his phone. Specifically, he points to AirMagnet's WiFi Analyzer as an essential tool for anytime/anywhere mobile auditing and troubleshooting of enterprise networks. "It's indispensable," he says.

Otter 006A tour through the main OtterBox office eventually wound through the basement IT dungeon—a low-lit cave in which a few IT guys hunched over their systems as Return of the Jedi played on a projector system shot straight from the server room behind them. Star Wars is a prominent theme in this room, as you can see from the massive prints of the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star on the walls. We would expect nothing less from this ace group of tech geeks.

Our tour also took us past a unique shelving unit absolutely crammed with all manner of handheld-device packaging—testament to OtterBox's comprehensive product lines. And with this (and one more) amusing image, we'll end our visit with one of the more exciting companies in the consumer-electronics industry right now. We're proud to say they're from our town!

For more information, check out the OtterBox website.














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