In less than seven years, Miami-based Netrox LLC has evolved from a regional Internet service provider (ISP) to a national information technology company with more than 1,500 corporate and residential clients across the country.
The reason the firm has defied the dot-com crash is relatively simple, according to Netrox president Alex Rodriguez. "We listen to our customers," the 28-year-old executive says. "That’s the biggest thing we’ve done. We have listened to our customers and asked them what they’ve needed and adjusted our products to meet those needs."
Listening isn’t just an occasional thing for Netrox, which provides Internet access, Web hosting, network integration, and other IT outsourcing services. Listening is entrenched in the company’s culture.
"It is so important," Mr. Rodriguez says, "that we talk to certain key customers almost daily. We’re not like some companies that come up with what they think the market wants and then spend millions developing an idea, only to find out there isn’t a market."
When customers have asked for new services, Netrox has delivered them more often than not. When customers asked for high-speed Internet access, Netrox diversified its product line with the addition of broadband products such as ISDN, T-1, and DSL Internet service.
"We bring the whole package," Mr. Rodriguez says. "We are a one-stop shop for business services, system security, Web hosting, integration, and technical support."
Netrox is a certified reseller or technical support provider for products made by many of the major players in the tech industry, including Cisco, Microsoft, WatchGuard, SonicWall, WorldCom, and Lucent Technologies.
Netrox chose a good time to focus on IT outsourcing. According to the technology research firm IDC Research, spending on IT outsourcing will reach $100 billion annually by 2005.
In addition to listening to customers, Netrox encourages its employees to speak up. Consider Mr. Rodriguez, for example. Not long after he began working for Netrox in 1995 as a technical support representative, he suggested that the company should expand into Web hosting.
"The move into virtual Web hosting and other areas was something we had to do. We knew we wouldn’t survive as only a dial-up service provider," says Mr. Rodriguez, whose rapid rise at Netrox has coincided with the company’s national expansion.
A privately owned company, Netrox won’t disclose its revenues or profits, but the South Florida Business Journal called the firm one of South Florida’s fastest-growing technology companies. Netrox has a staff of 12 and expects to add three engineering and programming positions this year.
Netrox was launched at the beginning of the Internet craze by entrepreneur David Marcus, currently the Netrox chairman. Backed by private funding, the company was one of the first ISPs to adopt the unlimited-access model that is now the industry norm.
In early 2001, Netrox’s success caught the attention of Allied Riser Communications Corp., which purchased the company. Later that same year, however, the shareholders of Netrox, which was originally known as BridgeNet, bought the company back and changed the name to Netrox. (Allied Riser was itself purchased by Cogent Communications Group Inc. in February.)
The new name is meant to symbolize the company’s emergence as a national IT services provider, Mr. Rodriguez says.
As Netrox has expanded, one of its fastest-growing market segments has been security-related services. "It’s been a growth market for us, especially since September 11," says Mr. Rodriguez.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks, many small and medium-size businesses have recognized the vulnerability of their information networks and have turned to companies like Netrox to provide secure IT services. Such requests have slowed in recent months, but Mr. Rodriguez does not expect the demand for enhanced security ever to return to pre–September 11 levels.
Virtual Private Network integration, dedicated T-1 lines, and secure DSL links between executives’ business and home offices are some of the most requested security services and products Netrox provides.
Given the rapid pace of technological development, it’s difficult to predict what services will be hot in, say, five years. But Netrox is intent on staying ahead of the curve.
"The integration of telephony products with data is starting to emerge," Mr. Rodriguez says. "There’s been a lot of hype, but the products I’ve seen recently really merge voice and data, and we’re going to bring those products to our customers."
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