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Bomgar CEO talks mobility, cloud risks and old cars

Mississippi-based remote tech support company sticks to its on-premises roots

By , Network World
March 19, 2013 09:58 AM ET

Network World - To hear founder and CEO Joel Bomgar tell it, he might never have started his eponymous company if he'd had a cooler car.

"I got sick of driving around the state of Mississippi in the heat in my 1979 Buick LeSabre," he says with a laugh.

Bomgar worked part-time as a tech support pro while attending Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., more than a decade ago -- a role that entailed long hours on the road.

[ BACKGROUND: It wasn't always Bomgar.

"I was a systems engineer, so I'd get dispatched to solve problems if somebody's x/y/z wasn't working," he says. "In 2003, there really wasn't good technology on the market to do tech support over the Internet."

With graduation on the horizon, Bomgar began to get anxious about his future.

"I'm thinking, 'I'm about to graduate and go full time ... My life is going to be in my 1979 Buick LeSabre. Do I want it to be there?'"

So instead of upgrading his wheels, Bomgar developed a remote desktop access tool that could work through firewalls, VPNs and all the other security systems that foiled the support options of the time.

"The technical challenge of developing a product was more appealing than getting a nicer car," he says.

His system was initially a software platform that brokered connections among clients and support workers, allowing them to simply OK a remote connection over the Internet. Initial development took six months.

While the system was initially designed solely for internal use, Bomgar says he quickly came around to the idea that it could be saleable as well.

"So I thought, 'Hey, that was six months of work, it'd be a shame if I didn't see if there was someone else who cared about this technology like I do,'" he says. "So I put it out there on the Internet and sold 50 licenses in two months and basically built it from there."

Today, Bomgar says his company is the preferred remote support option for enterprises, boasting 7,000 customers and a staff of 210. He's happy to concede the small-business market to rivals like LogMeIn, saying that the hardware-based model is far more attractive for bigger firms.

"If you buy LogMeIn, you're going through their cloud, which has security issues, which has other issues. With our technology ... you put [our devices] in your data center, it's all Web-based, so tech support reps can log in from anywhere in the world," he says. "The box does a couple things -- one, it brokers all those connections to make them possible. Two, it secures all of them, and it logs and records -- everything on it is auditable."

(UPDATE: A company spokesman for LogMeIn strongly disagreed with Bomgar’s assertions about the cloud security model, as well as his characterization of LogMeIn’s customer base. According to senior corporate communications director Craig VerColen, LogMeIn’s cloud infrastructure “has never had a single security breach. … We stand behind this record.” VerColen added that the company’s clients include Microsoft, Vodafone, Symantec and O2 – not just small businesses.)

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