Last week, I attended a leadership conference in Las Vegas with more than 500 women from the U.S. and those representing more than 25 countries around the world. This was the International Women’s Forum’s annual Leadership Conference, and one of the many highlights are “behind the scenes local tours” that you can sign up for.
Because I signed up for my tour several months ago, I didn’t really remember what I chose. But on my badge was the word “Switch.” When I arrived at the loading area for the busses, my tour guide’s sign said, “Inside the Internet.” Whaaat?
First let me go back a few years to show why location matters here. In 2006, when I was a director of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, I remember one of our monthly meetings was held in Las Vegas. Nevada is part of the 12th District of the Fed (as is California, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, plus American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). During that meeting, speakers from Nevada presented to us and shared that Nevada historically is free of all natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc.) and thus is a place where many companies securely store their offsite data.
So, when we arrived at SWITCH headquarters several miles from the Las Vegas Strip, it all started to make sense.
Not only did we have to surrender our drivers’ license IDs when we entered the building, but there were no pictures allowed. (I took these few photos with permission from security.)
We were given an overview by one of the most confident and knowledgeable people I’ve ever heard present—Missy Young, Chief Information Officer of SWITCH. She is an 18-year employee and started working for founder, Rob Roy, shortly after he founded the company in 2000. When Switch Communications started it was mainly a government and military contractor, but the company started to target Fortune 1000 companies about a decade later. They have 5 Exascale, industry leading telecommunications solutions and next-generation technology data centers in the United States, plus two more coming on board in Milan, Italy and Thailand.
Rob currently owns multiple patents and trademarks and is truly brilliant. The company is currently public but it has plans to go private again soon. I didn’t get to meet Rob, but you can tell by the branding inside and outside the company, the uber high-level security, and the quality and passion of their team that he is an industry icon and inventor.
Check out this 3-minute video tour of the Las Vegas data center.
The way it’s set up is that SWITCH provides the power grid and the concrete buildings, as well as back up to power the data for companies around the world. Each client company provides its own services and equipment and is assigned fenced cabinets in areas of the various buildings. SWITCH never accesses anyone’s data. Each client company is responsible for all the maintenance and installation of their own equipment. SWITCH is the data warehouse and power source.
While we were touring one of buildings in Las Vegas, I turned to our tour guide, who happened to be a member of the sales team. I asked her, “Is this the easiest sales job ever?” She smiled at me and said “yes!” I asked her that because in the data security business, I cannot imagine there is another company on the planet that guarantees a 100% power uptime 24/7/365, plus security on par with the Pentagon, with triple backup systems. (In the video, the blue, red and grey-colored boxes are each a part of the power system grid with two of them always operational while the third one is being serviced.)
Fun fact: Every one of the staff was dressed in mostly black, with a bit of red. So I asked, is there a uniform? I was told that everyone who works for SWITCH always wears at least 51% black, and the rest of their outfit can be denim or grey with a “touch” of red (just like their buildings, their vehicles, and their website!).
As we were leaving SWITCH in Las Vegas, I asked if they give public tours. I was told if conventions are held in Las Vegas that tours of SWITCH are often available. They have resumed tours after a two-year COVID-induced pause. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in offsite data storage and security—or simply technology innovation in general—to find a way to tour SWITCH. They can’t mention all the names of their clients (without permission), but SWITCH runs Amazon. Enough said.
As we were leaving, Missy said to our group: And now you can tell everyone that you have been “inside the internet.” Literally.