Information technology

Cloud computing rising over Columbia

rburris@thestate.comNovember 8, 2012 

— More than a dozen Columbia-area businesses signaled new interest Wednesday in cloud computing, the concept of outsourcing some or all of their information technology hardware and software functions to a specialty provider.

EarthLink, the Atlanta-based information technology company with a piece of the cloud on Columbia’s Main Street, hosted a midday luncheon to highlight some of the business benefits of joining a “cloud.” Those benefits could include saving money by better using trained staff to focus on increasing product output – and therefore profits, representatives said.

The company currently has roughly 2,000 business customers across South Carolina – 500 or so of them in the Columbia area, according to James Blake, EarthLink Business Division senior information technology sales services executive, and the company is looking to grow.

Banks, manufacturers, insurers and other companies are among those seeking to outsource services to cloud computing, Blake said.

EarthLink, more widely known for its early role as an internet service provider, launched its business division in 2010, when the company restructured and began acquiring a host of companies that could complement that business model. EarthLink Business now has South Carolina offices in Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville.

E-mail hosting, web banking, and firewall management are among the popular services contracted by businesses from the company, Blake said, though the rising occurrence of destructive storms such as Hurricane Sandy has put a spotlight on EarthLink’s cloud-based back-up and recovery architecture capabilities.

In addition, the recent international computer hacking scandal at the South Carolina Department of Revenue has put greater emphasis on the importance of pervasive, quality encryption services to protect various business, health and other private records that are irreplaceable or at least would be very expensive to re-create.

Rhythmlink, a Columbia-based neuro-diagnostic accessory manufacturer that employs 30 people locally, but 90 worldwide – including in China where the manufacturing portion of its business is done – attended the Capital City Club luncheon.

The company, which has grown by double-digit percentages each of the past three to four years, recently contracted EarthLink’s asset management services after a break-in, said Michael O’Leary, Rhythmlink’s chief operating officer. During the break-in, bank account information was stolen and $50,000 of its funds were transferred to an account in Russia, O’Leary said.

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