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It's clear to Linode: There's a market to bring cloud services to small companies

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Christopher S. Aker, CEO, Linode, said his cloud services company is perfect for startups as well as small and mid-size companies.
Christopher S. Aker, CEO, Linode, said his cloud services company is perfect for startups as well as small and mid-size companies. - (AARON HOUSTON)

It's not easy competing with Silicon Valley, but Linode CEO Chris Aker says his company aims to distinguish itself through careful customization.

"My catchphrase is we have everyone from Joe Blogger to Fortune 50 companies," Aker said.

Aker is founder of Linode, a Galloway Township provider of Linux-based virtual servers to consumers and varying size businesses. Put another way: it hosts the infrastructure that hosts websites.

"Our flagship product, in a nutshell, is you're pushing a button and instantly, out there on the Internet, somewhere a virtual computer is provisioned for you, one in where you have complete administrative control," Aker said.

Linode has been catering to customers of all sizes since 2003, before cloud computing became a buzzword. As cost-cutting pressures and technological advances push more systems to the cloud, Linux finds that demand for its services is rising.

Revenue is projected to grow to $50 million in 2013, more than double the 2011 total of $22.3 million. Its growth resulted in consecutive appearances on Inc. 500 magazine's list of America's fastest growing privately held companies.

The flip side to that bullish trend in is that Linode finds itself competing in a crowded space led by big players such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, forcing Linode to differentiate itself.

Aker says whereas Amazon Web provides its clients a vast (and costlier) array of products that might appeal to large companies on bigger budgets — think Netflix — Linode seeks to provide clients a leaner menu focusing only on what businesses actually need.

"We have taken a deliberative, simple approach to everything," Aker said. "That's our core philosophy."

Linode hosting tools and services are bundled into one charge, often $20 a month, though Aker said it can expand offerings. The end result provides lower costs for startups on tight budgets, with flexibility for more depending on the customer's size and appetite.

"We take the chance that we might lose some customers, but we win the majority," Aker said. "We keep costs down for everybody."

Technology observers say there's a new market for cloud services, which were once considered beyond the price range of companies with 100 or fewer desktops. More small to midsize companies are finding such services necessary and practical.

"There's a huge opportunity for anyone who can provide these solutions," Maxine Ballen, president of the New Jersey Technology Council, said. "The Ciscos and the Oracles don't want to play with us. Who is going to provide a cost-effective service so we can migrate to the cloud?"

Linode wants those customers. About half its work force is dedicated to customer service, which Aker said enables Linode to provide faster and more personal communication that its clients can't get from industry behemoths. That list of customers has grown to about 150,000 globally.

Employment is rising, too, forcing Linode to search for larger quarters. Staff is projected to reach 50 by January, more than double 2011 levels. Aker said the company is outgrowing its 7,000 square-foot space at Jimmie Leads Road and hopes to locate to a larger site within one year, preferably in the area.

E-mail to: tomz@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @biztzanki

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