Sven Gustafson
Michigan Business Review

Southfield-based IT firm Secure-24 Inc. is building a $5 million state-of-the-art data center in Plymouth Township, capitalizing on what the company says is a trend by companies to save money by outsourcing the hosting of business-critical applications.

The new center is slated to open in March in a 16,609 square-foot facility in the Metro West Industrial Park near Sheldon Road and M-14.

The building, which is undergoing extensive interior renovations, will include a data center with servers, offices, conference space and a command center for customers.

"We're anticipating (investing) $10 million over the course of the next couple of years," said Cheryl O'Brien, marketing manager.

While the data center - the company's fourth - will not house a large number of new employees, Secure-24 has seen steady growth since its founding in 2001.

The company appeared on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing, privately held companies in the U.S. in both 2007 and 2008. The latter list placed it as the fastest-growing firm in Michigan with a growth rate of more than 1,400 percent.

The company, which has 105 employees, finished its most recent fiscal year with $11.8 million in revenue. It expects its growth to continue in 2009.

"What we're expecting to do is to add high-end technical jobs," including network and application specialists and database administrators, O'Brien said. "These are high-end jobs and we hire locally. And all of our people, aside from a couple sales offices on the East Coast, all these people work in Michigan."

Secure-24 targets its managed hosting, disaster recovery and managed services to mostly middle-market companies of roughly $25 million-$1 billion in revenue. It hosts and manages critical enterprise resource planning software such as Oracle, SAP and QAD.

By outsourcing those services, companies avoid the need to build their own data centers and can instead focus their IT efforts on improving products or services, O'Brien said. Secure-24 also helps customers in financial, health care, government agencies and automotive industries deal with compliance issues that arise with regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Information Portability and Accounting Act.

"We secure the infrastructure for them," O'Brien said. "That helps them meet that compliance. That's huge. That's just getting more and more complex all the time."

The design of the new facility, which was pushed by CEO Matthias Horch and Farmington Hills-based Biddison Architecture + Design, focuses on energy efficiency and is a departure from the company's other data centers.

The facility, which is being constructed by Royal Oak-based Ronnisch Construction Group, will feature a custom-designed cooling management system centering on an exaggerated raised floor. That allows for more precise control over cold-air flow, and it includes a system to keep hot air emitted by servers from re-circulating, O'Brien said.

The facility will also feature next-generation server and data storage technology, such as servers with adaptive cooling, 91-percent efficient server power supplies and blade technology that boost the efficiency of servers while decreasing their physical size.

It also will rely on virtualization technology, which partitions one physical computer server into multiple "virtual" servers to allow the server to run several operating systems and applications simultaneously. That helps boost server capacity, drive down energy usage and reduce the need for hardware, ultimately lowering costs for customers, O'Brien said.

The township welcomed the new facility and worked with Secure-24 to navigate zoning changes necessitated by the presence of backup generators on the site, said Richard Reaume, Plymouth Township supervisor.

"It's not a great number of jobs, but they're the right kind of jobs, they're the high-tech information jobs that Michigan needs," he said.


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