11-12-14 | Blog Post

20th anniversary: Thoughts from Online Tech co-founder Gary Baker on the company’s evolution

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Online Tech is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. While our business model has changed considerably since 1994, three things have remained consistent: customer service, adaptability, and a leadership role in the technology world.

Online Tech was founded as the first website hosting firm for businesses in the state of Michigan, a cutting-edge venture at the time. MIT researcher Matthew Gray claims there were a grand total of 623 websites by the end of 1993.

Fast forward 20 years and Online Tech is the Midwest’s leader in secure, compliant enterprise cloud and colocation hosting services.

How it got from point A to point B is an interesting tale. The fact that it got there at all is even more noteworthy.

“Of all the companies that formed around that time to support corporate customers’ hosting/email/ISP needs, only one is left: Online Tech,” said Gary Baker, a company co-founder and its first CEO. “It is a testament to the company’s reputation with customers and its adaptability over time, which has helped it not only survive waves of technological change but grow into one of the greatest success stories in the region’s tech industry.”

Originally, Online Tech offered businesses web hosting and email accounts tied to their domain names.

Baker, now a senior vice president and chief technology officer at Flagstar Bank, said the company “somewhat reluctantly” expanded the business from offering web hosting and email accounts tied to customers’ domain names to becoming a dial-up internet service provider because its customers wanted to use the same provider for its hosting, email and Internet access.

“So, from the very earliest days of the company, corporate customers saw us as their go-to IT expert,” says Baker.

The evolution of Online Tech continued as the needs of its customers changed. Demand for website design was strong, so Online Tech added an internal development group.

“Today, that would be unheard of for a cloud services company, but back then the pioneers in this space were jacks of all trades for customers,” Baker said. “There was no professional training back then for web design, so I believe our team learned a lot of tricks of the trade by reverse-engineering the HTML of websites we liked. That was how best practices were passed around back then.”

In 2003, current Online Tech co-CEO Yan Ness led a group of investors to acquire the company. Serving as CEO since the purchase, Ness oversaw a significant investment in the company’s data center and network infrastructure to start the transition to becoming one of Michigan’s largest managed data center operators.

In 2008, Mike Klein purchased a share of the company and joined the executive team. He became co-CEO with Ness during the recapitalization of the company after it received a $20 million investment from News-Press & Gazette Company to help expand across the Midwest.

Since 2003, the company has seen tremendous growth both physically (from 600 to more than 100,000 square feet of capacity) and financially (30-percent annual growth). That includes the recent opening of its first out-of-state data center in Indianapolis and the upcoming open house celebration of the opening of its fourth Michigan data center on Dec. 2.

“The two most important moments in the company’s history were when Mike and Yan joined,” Baker says. “Their vision for the company and the way they have collaborated to chart a course for its growth has been remarkable.

“The company has a well-deserved reputation as the leader in secure, compliant cloud and hosting services, which is a significant growth market. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the company’s history and to see how far it has come.”


Want to wish us a happy birthday? Come celebrate with us at the open house for our new Metro Detroit data center from 3-7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2. We’ll provide the food, drink, a no-sell tour of our newest facility and a chance to network with other Metro Detroit IT professionals. Register to save your seat!


Press release: Online Tech Celebrates 20 Years of Technology Leadership and Growth

Open house on Dec. 2: Check out Metro Detroit’s newest data center

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