25 years is a long time in tech for Palmerston North ICT firm

Think back, 25 years ago, four gigabytes of memory would have cost the equivalent of $400,000, while the worldwide web, was nowhere to be seen.

Think back, 25 years ago, four gigabytes of memory would have cost the equivalent of $400,000, while the worldwide web, was nowhere to be seen.

For Palmerston North business ComputerCare, which is celebrating 25 years in business, there have been major changes within the ICT industry, especially when it comes to size and power of technology devices.

“The processing power is just ridiculous now,” says Wayne Masters, MD, ComputerCare. “I remember when it was $100 per megabyte of RAM and most PC’s only came with four megabytes, today they come with 1,000 times as much.

“In the early days a laptop was as heavy as a brick and was often referred to as a ‘luggable’. There was no Internet, but instead bulletin boards which you accessed via modems and it would take several hours to download a megabyte size file.

“Today laptops are featherlike, yet incredibly powerful and as well as a laptops many people also have tablets and a smartphone as part of their every day business tools.”

Masters and wife Vicki Roach bought ComputerCare in 2001 from Steve McFarlane, who founded the business in 1990 - the year Microsoft launched Windows 3.0 - growing the company from a staff of five, to what has now become Manawatu’s largest IT support business, expanding regionally to Wanganui in 2004 and Hawke’s Bay in 2009.

Even the newly elected Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith was involved in developing the company’s branding, firstly in 2001 when he updated the logo and again in 2006.

“Our first office was just 40 square metres in a building at the back of Broadway and we’re now in the former Farmers building, where we take up four levels,” Masters recalls.

In the early days the business predominantly repaired computers but has now expanded into developing software, providing IT consultancy, sales and support to designing and building websites through its Etheory brand.

Masters says the company also offers Cloud services through its CloudHQ division and was also one of the first New Zealand IT support providers to become HP and Microsoft accredited service providers.

“In the early days computers weren’t set up to talk to each other, you stored information on the computer and it couldn’t be shared with other computers without transferring information onto floppy disks,” he recalls.

“Those disks only had a capacity of less than half a megabyte, so transferring large files meant breaking the file up onto a number of pieces and using lots of disks.

“Networking changed all of that, with the sharing of information between computers and storage servers as simple as a click of a mouse.”

Masters says the Internet totally dominates the way businesses now operate and the availability of information, tools and resources used in business has been totally transformed.

“When we first started every business was pretty much an island in their own right,” he adds.

“There was very little communication between businesses electronically. The Internet and Google have freed up communications giving businesses a huge flow of information.”

Masters says technology is so fast moving that there needs to be an increased focus on system security because with the move to cloud computing, he predicts “real risk” of cyber security breaches, which small and medium businesses could unknowingly get caught up in.

“A small business in Palmerston North may think that they have a non-existent profile to cyber thieves but they could still be impacted by association,” he adds.

“If you’re storing information in the Cloud and other high profile businesses are also stored in the same Cloud, then you could unfortunately be impacted.”

ComputerCare has recently joined other leading IT companies in a government led initiative called Connect Smart, to help business protect themselves online.

“We’re regarded as a IT leader nationally, but we’re incredibly proud to be based in Palmerston North, employing local people and providing support to many customers, both local and across New Zealand,” Master adds.

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