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Network Streaming making tech support faster, more effective

RIDGELAND — Two years ago, 22-year-old Joel Bomgaars, a new systems engineer for Ridgeland-based Business Communications Inc. (BCI) and recent Belhaven College grad, needed to be in two places at the same time.

Realizing that he was wasting valuable hours on the road traveling to customer sites and talking users through computer problems via the phone, Bomgaars sought a solution designed to make his job as a network engineer easier and more efficient. Accessing computers from remote locations would do the trick, he thought.

Network Streaming was born.

“I had no intention of marketing the product when it was originally developed,” said Bomgaars, a native of Jackson. “In fact, the first use of it was to enable myself to be a much more efficient engineer. Once I realized there was a radical shift in my own productivity, I had a vision that this product could help other support engineers.”

Tony Bailey, CEO of BCI, one of the state’s largest information technology (IT) consulting companies with offices in Gulfport and Birmingham, Ala., said that from the first day Bomgaars worked for the company, “we knew Joel was a keeper.”

“Joel wanted a product to help him better support our customers,” he said. “He found a couple of products that worked, but none of them did all the things that he wanted them to do, or they were too expensive to be cost effective. He developed and shared his product with the rest of BCI’s engineers and they started using it as well. When he started full-time in June 2003, I agreed to let him work on further development of the product during his down time. He developed a Web site and started selling the product.”

Bomgaars’ simple homepage advertised: “Control Virtually Any Computer Worldwide By Directing Your Customer To A Website.” The product, then known as ExpertVNC, began selling almost immediately.

“It quickly became apparent that this product had major potential, so we formed an LLC and Joel went full-time with it,” said Bailey.

Bomgaars, who had graduated at the top of his class three months earlier, already armed with Cisco, Microsoft and Novell certifications, immediately hired two college buddies: Nathan McNeill, COO and head of product development, and Patrick Norman, CFO and chief Web architect. The trio began working full-time on development, product documentation and sales and marketing for the new company.

McNeill, who wrote most of the Web site documentation and user guides, said he focused on making the software functional.

“From an engineering perspective, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and think: I’ll make this seem really cool and work really well,” he said. “But we also wanted to make it very usable, both from the customer’s perspective and the representative’s perspective.”

Bomgaars started hiring the best and brightest people he could find, said Bailey.

“The company has grown from Joel’s idea to a company with more than a dozen people in less than a year and he has never had to borrow a dime,” he said. “That is a pretty impressive accomplishment for anyone unless you know Joel, and then you would not expect anything less.”

Since it was established last August, Network Streaming, LLC, a subsidiary of BCI, has racked up $425,000 in revenue through Web-based and word-of-mouth advertising. Of that, $325,000 has been made in 2004.

In May, one week’s revenues climbed to more than $27,000 by mid-week, well above projected sales. The company has clients in 41 of 50 U.S. states and 10 countries, and authorized resellers in Irvine, Calif., Kelowna, B.C., Canada, and London.

“The company was cash flow positive from day one,” said Bomgaars. “It’s been a tremendous success.”

Network Streaming’s clients include Reno, Nev.-based Sierra Computers and Training, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Evansville, Ind., and Beckman Coulter, a $2.2-billion per year medical equipment manufacturer based in Fullerton, Calif.

“Network Streaming allows us to connect to our clients’ computers in seconds,” said Dean Craig of Golden Rule Software in Lancaster, Texas, “and share desktops to solve software issues quickly.”

SupportDesk and AccessDesk are Networking Streaming’s two key products. SupportDesk, which has a one-time cost of $795, is a software application that enables a support representative or technician to gain remote control of any computer worldwide in about 10 seconds, for the purpose of remote troubleshooting. It only requires a 260Kb download onto a user’s system, making it one of the fastest downloads of any remote support software. When the remote user opens the support representative’s file, it installs on demand. At the end of the session, SupportDesk is completely uninstalled, and vanishes without a trace from the remote system.

Secure access

Users can authorize remote access without compromising their network security or opening a port in their firewall. A SupportDesk session is initiated from the remote user’s computer so the session travels outbound through the user’s firewall.

“Our software is extremely secure,” said Bomgaars. “If someone were to use it maliciously, within five seconds, I could tell you exactly who and where the person was that accessed your system.”

AccessDesk, which is in the final testing phase and has the same functionality as SupportDesk, costs $4,950 for 10 systems. The difference between SupportDesk and AccessDesk: Unattended systems can be accessed with AccessDesk.

Webex and GoToAssist, which charges around $350 per support representative per month, said Bomgaars, are Network Streaming’s chief competitors.

“With our product, customers are able to turn their investment into revenue very quickly,” he said.

The company plans to step up development, said McNeill. “We’re looking to ramp up our advertising and marketing, to take advantage of a wide-open market,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com..

About Lynne W. Jeter

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