Scott Thomas and Scott Howells, co-owners of a Galloway Township computer-consulting firm, entered the information-technology field in its infancy, when personal computers were just coming into vogue.
Today, their business helps people with their highly specialized or broadly general computer needs.
Thomas and Howells, both 48, co-own Computer House of South Jersey LLC, an all-purpose consulting and technology company that installs, repairs and maintains networks and all manner of computer equipment in businesses and homes across southern New Jersey.
Computer House, located on Sixth Avenue in Galloway, caters to commercial and residential customers.
“Businesses are our primary business. We service hundreds of companies from a single very small network to very large networks and businesses with satellite offices,” Thomas said.
They work with all the major hardware and software manufacturers, including those that specialize in legal, accounting or publishing programs unique to those professions.
Most of Computer House’s customers use them in place of in-house IT technicians. That means responding to emergency calls to address interruptions in service to the Internet or network connections.
“We have a 24/7 emergency line customers can call,” Thomas said. “If someone has an emergency, we will dispatch a technician. For example, if the server is down, we have to send someone down there.”
Among the common issues are fixing malware and virus infections, repairing or replacing hard drives and installing new networks.
“We do the wiring and equipment from beginning to end,” Thomas said. “Doctor’s offices and law offices are our most common clients. Then we have clients who work out of their homes.”
Businesses have more options than ever today to back up their important files. One popular option is storing it in “the cloud,” or over the Internet. But that is one of the most expensive options as well, Howells said.
Computer House helps customers retrieve lost or damaged data and offers options for backing up files. Redundancy is important when it comes to avoiding such a calamity.
They also provide website hosting and email service to customers. This includes their own spam-filtering service designed to save time and improve employee productivity.
In one example, a client with fewer than 80 employees routinely sees 14,000 spam messages per day that get screened by the filtering software. That’s 14,000 messages that employees don’t have to delete each day from their in-boxes, Thomas said.
“That’s quite a bit of spam. You can’t get it all, but it filters the majority out,” he said. “And it saves a ton of time.”
Despite waves of outsourcing, information technology is a growing field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field had 307,900 jobs in 2010 and is expected to grow by 18 percent through 2020.
“It’s tough to grow any small business in this economy,” Howells said. “The challenge for new technologies comes down to training, time and dedication. I think it’s the same with any small business.”
Like many people in information technology, the two men had an aptitude for working with computers.
“I started using a personal computer in 1987,” Thomas said. “I went to the Rye Technical institute in 1995 and got an associate’s degree in digital electronics.”
Howells had a similar back story, attending a computer-science program at Somerset Community College in 1983 before joining Computer House in 1989.
Howells, of Upper Township, said some of his friends had a similar career trajectory when they capitalized on this untapped field and filled the vacuum created by the advent of the information age.
“We got a jumpstart on IT, which was just being introduced. I have friends who are in it and are doing very well in the industry,” he said.
As for the coincidence behind the birth years of the computer industry’s pioneers? Thomas said it stands to reason that these entrepreneurs would be in the same peer group.
“But I think it is inevitable it would go that way. If they weren’t there to take advantage of it, somebody else would have,” he said.
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