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  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 6:16 a.m. February 4, 2011
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
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Change might be difficult for many businesses, but change has been a lifesaver for Terry Nelson's technology firm.

The company, Sarasota-based Akuwa Solutions Group, is an IT help desk for companies, with a focus lately on implementing a backup server system known as virtual server technology. Several other Gulf Coast IT firms have picked up on the technology recently, and Akuwa is one of a few local firms to have used it as the foundation for a growth spurt.

Indeed, Akuwa, pronounced Ah-Koo-Wah, has grown revenues double-digit percentage points for three straight years, including 22% growth in 2010 over 2009, to just under $1 million. It has seven employees and plans to add at least three more this year. “Change drives business for us,” says Nelson, a senior partner and the firm's chief operating officer.

That holds whether a client shrinks or expands. In the former, Akuwa has some clients who moved to a smaller office because of the recession and need less servers and gear. On the other hand, says Nelson, “we have some customers who are actually still growing,” and for those companies Akuwa performs some of the same duties.

In addition to a growing customer base, many of Akuwa's individual clients are bigger than any time in its 11 years. The list includes Lakewood Ranch-based construction firm DooleyMack, a $134 million company, and Roper Industries, a $2 billion publicly traded firm also based in Lakewood Ranch.

Virtual server technology, however, is currently the company's linchpin for future growth. The concept is designed around creating an easily accessible backup server system, one that duplicates all the data a company creates. This way, if a client's computer server fails, order can be restored quickly.

“In the past, rebuilding a server was a painful and expensive process that could shut down a business for several days or longer,” says Akuwa chief technology officer Chuck Hickey. “Now through server virtualization we can have a business up and running in minutes on a laptop from anywhere with an Internet connection.”

Nelson founded Akuwa in 1999, taking a name, he says, that held no meaning for marketing purposes. Nelson had previously worked in IT management for several large Sarasota insurance firms, including Riscorp and FCCI Insurance Group, but he tired of the travel to the company's regional offices.

One of Nelson's early goals with Akuwa, he says, was to build a business that could provide big business-like IT services for small companies. Says Nelson: “We've taken the large company mentality and brought it down to a small business environment.”


Dan Madigan, marketing director of Sarasota-based Akuwa Solutions Group, an IT support firm, says there are three common mistakes made by small businesses when it comes to technology. The mistakes include:

• Companies that put the employee who seems to know the most about computers in charge of IT. “That person is then put in an unenviable position when the inevitable happens,” says Madigan;

• Failure to regularly maintain a backup system. “Monitoring nightly backups is extremely important,” says Madigan, who adds that he's seen companies pay for good backup systems but back up the wrong data;

• An overreliance on protecting data from outside forces at the expense of internal threats. Says Madigan: “Not everyone at a company should have access to all critical data.”


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