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At a small network operations center in Commerce Township, employees at Nuspire Networks battle viruses, worms, spyware and other cyber security threats, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The network security service provider has been steadily growing its business since opening in 1999. It develops its own tools to combat increasingly sophisticated online security attacks. According to Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm, Nuspire is one of 20 key industry players in the $2.8-billion market, competing against much larger rivals such as Dell, AT&T and Symantec.
"We want to be on the front line" of developing the newest and greatest technology, said Saylor Frase, Nuspire's 36-year-old president and co-founder.
The privately owned company, which employs more than 60 people, is on the verge of establishing a second network operations center in Michigan, with the location yet to be determined. It's also in the process of adding about a dozen new hires, primarily application developers, network engineers, programmers and salespeople.
The increase in business has forced Nuspire to expand its 10,000-square-foot headquarters in Commerce. It's running out of space to put new employees.
"We've got seat problems right now," said Frase, a software engineer with an MBA degree from Harvard University.
Nuspire, a play on the words "new inspiration," specializes in the online security needs of large corporations that have many branch offices, retail stores or other small sites.
Its customers include General Motors' dealer network, Subaru's dealer network, Cardinal Health and ADP.
In recent years, it has diversified its business beyond the auto industry, with about half of its revenue now coming from other sectors such as health care, retail, finance and professional services.
The company monitors computer networks in 82 countries around the world, constantly on alert for any signs of suspicious activity. It uses contract workers in most of these countries but sometimes sends teams of employees abroad.
The recession didn't stop Nuspire's growth, but the company took a hit in 2009 when a big customer, InkStop, went bankrupt and liquidated its business.
Frase, who grew up in Pontiac, had started a software development company while a student at Central Michigan University. But in the late 1990s, he sold the business and launched Nuspire, teaming up with Steve Whitener, a customer of Frase's first company.
The two recognized early on that network security would become a major corporate issue and used their own money to establish Nuspire.
Today, one of Nuspire's biggest challenges is finding the talent it needs. Frase said many people with high-end technical skills that his company needs have left Michigan.
To attract and keep talent, Nuspire focuses heavily on employee satisfaction and engagement. For instance, a special good times committee regularly organizes fun activities like scavenger hunts, unusual sports competitions and an annual summer trip to Mackinac Island.
Nuspire has been recognized as a Detroit Free Press Top 100 Workplaces company for each of the past three years.
"We're focused on service," Frase said. "Without highly motivated people, we don't have a business."
Written By Katherine Yung - Detroit Free Press Business Writer