June 25, 2011

Firms lighten cloud-computing load

With the recent boom in the cloud-computing industry, some local businesses have found a niche market in helping cloud-computing companies outsource their tech support.

J-Curve Technologies in Phoenix is one of those companies.

It provides enterprise business to technical support for cloud-computing services, which let customers use data networks to store, access or stream information. J-Curve has seen its clientele increase from three companies during its founding in 2005 to more than 20 companies that now use its tech-support outsourcing services, said CEO Jim Kaiser.

Big-name clients, such as Walmart and Panasonic, have prompted Kaiser to increase his workforce from six technical-support workers to nearly 100, with round-the-clock shifts 365 days of the year, he said, adding that the company is still hiring.

"Cloud computing is a new technology. Once you get it established, your growth can be pretty extraordinary," said Tom Rex, associate director at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

Chuck Vermillion, CEO of OneNeck IT Services in Scottsdale, a hosting-services and customer-support provider, said that while technology has become the norm for all businesses, a company's ability to manage that technology often drives up costs.

"(Smaller companies) have the same technology challenges as the Fortune 500 companies have, but they don't have the same budget," Vermillion said.

That's where companies like OneNeck and J-Curve come in. Vermillion said it's becoming increasingly difficult for midsize and small businesses to handle their technology, such as e-mail applications and technical support, which is essential to their operations.

Working with clients such as Sunny Delight Beverages Co. in Cincinnati, OneNeck is another example of a company that works behind the scenes to provide data storage for its clients.

"They don't know where our data center is. They don't know what network it's running over. All they know is that when they double-click that icon on their desktop, (it should work)," Vermillion said.

J-Curve stores its data in what Kaiser calls a "bulletproof" room with dozens of servers at its Airport Technology Center office in Phoenix. And in the unlikely event of a system crash, J-Curve has a backup system in another part of the city, he said.

To better manage clients' information, J-Curve developed an internal database to store all of its clients' programs so support workers can quickly access a given company's specific information, said J-Curve's Vice President of Operations Mechelle Childs, who oversees the team. They're expected to communicate with a company's supervisors if they notice an increase in complaints about a particular aspect of a company's service, she said.

"We don't want a bunch of robots," Childs said. "We want them empowered and to feel like they're part of the solution."

So while the recession has caused firms to cut costs or downsize during the past few years, the opposite is true of technology companies, such as J-Curve and OneNeck, who now benefit from those same companies having to outsource their services. "A down economy helps our business because companies are looking to be more efficient," he said.

Still, ASU's Rex said there are some risks companies take when outsourcing support positions, mainly because of a potential loss of control. Also, while companies might be reducing their costs short term, their costs could increase long term, he added.

It's unlikely the outsourcing trend will go away anytime soon, Rex said.

by Kevin Cirilli The Arizona Republic Jun. 23, 2011 12:00 AM



Firms lighten cloud-computing load

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