SurfN Development Finds Mission In Data Storage by Emily McDonald
The vault at 3821 St. Elmo Ave. doesn’t contain precious gems or bundles of cash, but its contents are equally, maybe more, valuable to its owner.
What is stored in the secure vault at SurfN Development are computers and data that run the systems of the company’s clients.
SurfN Development evolved from a Web site maintained by a trade association, grew slowly in its four years of operation but now serves national as well as local and regional clients.
The staff of SurfN takes a client’s computer system or systems and "installs one seamless system" to replace what they were using, said Alan Field, company president. "We replaced seven systems for one client," he said.
SurfN has about 150 clients and 30 of them "rely on us every day for critical services," he said. Clients come from a variety of fields, among them medical and financial records, manufacturing and transportation. There are around 10 national clients and more are going to be added.
SurfN focuses on small and medium-sized businesses rather than large ones and is producing a model that can be licensed, Mr. Field said. It attempts to take a client from its current technological environment to a new one, its president said.
The Colonnade Center is a new facility in Catoosa County and SurfN has been involved with building its technology from the beginning. "We have gone through growing pains and so far they have met all the needs we have," said the center’s general manager, Dee Bridges.
"The thing we enjoy the most is it is Net-based," she said. "We can work from home or anywhere we have a laptop."
Express Shuttle was SuriN’s first client and came on board in 1999. "We linked his computer to our vault down here," Mr. Field said.
At that time, "as far as we knew, there was no precedent for what we did," said Express Shuttle owner Jon Woodward. "We didn’t have anything to go by."
The system controls everything to do with running Express Shuttle, he said. That includes reservations and files on drivers, vans, customers and travel agents.
SurfN has grown slowly from its beginnings as SurfNChatt, a community project of the Chattanooga Restaurant Association started in 1997. SurfNChatt was strictly a local Web site and provided links 'to other sites in town.
Eventually, Mr. Field said, "a lot of what we were doing was more advanced" and a performance model was developed that enables a client’s employees to let the computers do much of the work. The business was separated from the restaurant association and incorporated as SurfN Development in 1998. It based its technological foundation on the Sun Micrcosystems server equipment and the Solaris UNIX operating system.
The SurfN staff has grown from Mr. Field and his wife, Pauline, to a total of seven employees. And it’s making money.
"We are different from a venture capital company" Mr. Field said. "We have been profitable for two years."