Windstream on Thursday formally opened its new Little Rock data center, a facility the company will use to sell business services to customers in the area and across the country.

Little Rock-based Windstream has more than 20 of the centers around the nation, and they illustrate the company's aggressive push in marketing cloud computing and dedicated services for large and small businesses.

Windstream was spun-off from the former Alltel in 2006 as a traditional wireline phone company serving mainly rural areas. The company offers broadband, voice and digital television services to those customers, a business that provides the financial stability for the company to make its push into data.

Windstream is using its network, which includes 115,000 miles of fiber-optic cable across 48 states, as a system through which the data system operates.

The Little Rock center employs fewer than 20 people onsite, but numerous jobs throughout Windstream's operations are tied to its data centers.

The company hosted a Thursday evening event at the center for invited guests, who heard CEO Jeff Gardner and senior vice president for data Christopher "Kip" Turco speak, along with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

During tours afterward, the guests learned that a data center is as loud as a factory. The roar from cooling systems made conversation difficult as workers guided people through a series of rooms where data processing and storage units and electrical systems hum around the clock.

The systems are fully redundant, including two sets of generators outside, to keep customer data available, even if the weather turns ugly.

Speaking afterward, Gardner said a business anywhere can take advantage of Windstream's services, but having a physical location to tour helps sales.

"They love when they can see it," Gardner said.

Turco noted that, in addition to Arkansas, prospective customers from four states were on hand to get a look at the new 30,000-square-foot facility.

"That's why Windstream's network is so important," Turco said.

The company has other major data centers in cities including Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Philadelphia; and Phoenix.

Windstream had revenue last year of more than $6 billion and has 14,000 employees across the country. Its shares closed Thursday at $11.27, down 7 cents.