Big businesses: Safeguarding secrets
PITTSFIELD -- The protection of product designs and other business secrets has become a crucial concern in the Internet era, and the solutions are rarely simple or cheap.
Interprint Inc. and Apex Resource Technology, both founded in Pittsfield and now global in reach, have intellectual property they want to protect, and both have developed Internet strategies unique to their companies and industries.
"I want to believe we have an extremely elaborate [computer system] firewall," said Donald Rochelo, who with his wife, Donna, owns Apex in the Downing Industrial Park.
The firm develops plastic devices primarily for medical equipment companies, sometimes in other countries, and, "We send files back and forth every day," he said.
Each of his customer relationships requires "cultivation" over a period of time during the design phase, Rochelo said, and that means his firm generally knows who it is dealing with through Internet communications.
The company's main line of defense in protecting communications, however, is BrainSurf, a Chicago-based computer security and information technology services firm.
"They are worth their weight in gold, and cost-effective," Rochelo said.
Before hiring BrainSurf to oversee the company's computer services nearly seven years ago, Apex had problems with hackers getting into email and other computer systems.
Although Interprint has locations in nine countries and customers throughout the world, Director of Communications Peter Stasiowski said the company's product designs have not proved to be as difficult to protect as ones produced by other firms.
Interprint, founded in Pittsfield in 1983, has a facility on Route 41 near the Richmond town line. It produces and prints designs on paper primarily for use in laminates for flooring, counter tops, wood- and stone-like materials, and other products. Some of its major customers are Formica and flooring companies Armstrong and Pergo.
Designers typically create sample pieces 20-by-20 inches in size that provide a three-dimensional view of how the final product will look.
"This is what the clients want," Stasiowski said.
That means Interprint sales personnel "are always on the road, on a plane," he said, adding that the industry "is still very much face to face."
The company's principal use of the Internet is for communication, rather than sharing or displaying unique designs or priority information, Stasiowski said. But Interprint does have a team to handle the company's required systems and to manage information technology on a worldwide basis.
The system is "very heavily secured, and there is a very sophisticated firewall," he said.
Interprint and Apex also use remote websites set up for the storage of information, such as a catalog of products or designs.
Stasiowski said his firm's catalog information is password protected and "really just a repository ... that is used in-house. This is for an inter-company resource."
At Apex, Rochelo said product information sometimes is available for customers at a remote website that has no link to the company servers. This also is done when the computer files are large and need to be stored outside of the main company systems.
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