It’s been one year since we first spoke with Tom Kohley and Kevin Toohill, founders of Beartooth Mapping Inc. The company provides customized topographic maps to outdoor enthusiasts. Their e-commerce site, MyTopo.com, launched in October 2000, allows their business to reach far beyond local Red Lodge, Montana customers.
On MyTopo.com, customers can create their own maps by choosing a location and then selecting an outline of an area within that map. That information gets sent back to Beartooth’s servers where special software interprets the parameters and the coordinate grids, and transfers that information to Beartooth’s enormous database in the office. Beartooth then ships a printed copy via the U.S. Postal Service.
Previously, because Beartooth is located in a small, remote town, it was limited to communicating with a 56K modem for connecting the local server to the hosted Web site.
To compensate for the low bandwidth, Beartooth was using co-located servers to hold their database and help it load faster in locations far from their home base. In addition, only a simplified version of the full database could be accessed over the Web site, limiting the interactive mapping for online customers.
A lot has changed in the last year. DSL and Cable Internet are still unavailable in Red Lodge, so this past October Beartooth adopted a T1 line. In order to offset the added expense, the company spearheaded a plan to share the connection with other local small businesses.
They initially contacted other small technology businesses in their area that were looking for a broadband connection. They then found an ISP that was able to supply them with the T1 connection and let them act as a base station for sharing the connection over a wireless antenna built on their roof. Currently, 15 other small businesses feed off Beartooth’s antenna, and they expect more to sign on.
With the faster T1 connection, Beartooth Mapping is able to serve their entire database online, enabling them to produce a wider selection of custom maps and let customers preview them online before placing their orders. They were also able to eliminate the need for the co-located servers, regaining the valuable time they used to spend maintaining the servers.
Click here to read what Beartooth Mapping had to say the last time we spoke.