John Junod had modest ambitions when he began writing computer programs in 1979, he said.
"My goal with everything I wrote was to write something that was useful to me," said Mr. Junod, an Evans resident and the director of the locally based research-and-development arm of software firm Ipswitch Inc.
As it turned out, at least one of Mr. Junod's applications helps people do their jobs a lot better. The program, WS_FTP Pro 5.0, won PC World magazine's World Class Award for best Internet utility this year.
The program helps users transfer files over the Internet using "file-transfer protocol," a method that computers use to speak to each other. When the business-software market shifted a few years ago from a focus upon "suites" of bundled applications to individually packaged programs, WS_FTP Pro became the center of Lexington, Mass.-based Ipswitch's universe, said Roger Greene, president and founder of the privately owned company.
"It was head-and-shoulders above everything else that was out there for FTP," Mr. Greene said. "WS_FTP was the real star of our applications."
At the time, Mr. Junod was a much decorated Army master sergeant stationed at Fort Gordon. In 1996, he resigned after 18 years of service to join Ipswitch, which held the rights to sell WS_FTP Pro and other programs developed by Mr. Junod.
Mr. Junod convinced Mr. Greene to allow him to stay in Augusta, and the company moved its research-and-development arm to the Garden City, Mr. Junod said. Now, nine of the company's 60 employees work in Ipswitch's local office, located in a business park off Davis Road in Columbia County.
Mr. Junod said his reasons for remaining in Augusta were simple.
"I came from up North, and it's cold up North, plus there's too many people up there," he said. "I was looking for an area that was not quite so crowded, but large enough to have everything we needed. Augusta had a lot of things to offer."
The area's low cost-of-living and its weather helped Mr. Junod attract employees from major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston and Washington, he said. Mr. Junod also hired two of the nine Augusta employees locally, he said.
Those nine employees develop new versions of WS_FTP Pro, and also program updates of Ipswitch programs WhatsUp and IMail Server. WhatsUp monitors large computer networks to ensure that they operate correctly; IMail Server is the program behind many corporate e-mail networks.
The programs range in price from $37.50 for WS_FTP Pro to $995 for WhatsUp and IMail. Ipswitch's sales have doubled almost every year, Mr. Greene said.
That success hasn't prompted Ipswitch executives to sell the company to a larger firm, as many other small technology firms have done, Mr. Junod said.
"We're in this partly for the fun of being in business," Mr. Junod said. "If we were to sell it, what would we do tomorrow?"
Ipswitch executives also say their company can compete with software-industry giants such as Microsoft, Oracle and Netscape, many of which have an interest in the same types of network and Internet tools that Ipswitch develops, Mr. Junod said.
"Being a small organization, we can recognize a shift that's going on in the computer industry and change overnight," Mr. Junod said, pointing out that Microsoft took two years to adjust to the rise of the Internet. "Those 900-pound gorillas actually have a harder time than we do."
After building a successful product in WS_FTP Pro, Mr. Junod's next challenge is to improve upon that product's success. Although previous versions targeted corporate, government and educational users, the company wants future versions of WS_FTP Pro to increase the number of people who use the program with their home computers, Mr. Greene said.
"Ipswitch is going to broaden the appeal of WS_FTP," Mr. Greene said. "We will do the kinds of programming that make WS_FTP more widely used and more popular. I see Ipswitch now appealing to a much larger market."
THE COMPANY LINE
The firm: Ipswitch Inc. The company develops networking and Internet programs for personal computers running the Windows 95/98 and Windows NT operating systems.
The leaders: Company president and founder is Roger Greene. Evans resident John Junod is director of the company's research-and-development arm.
The stats: The privately owned company, founded in 1991, employs about 60 people; 50 employees work in Ipswitch's home office in Lexington, Mass. The company's research-and-development arm, based in Martinez, employs nine people.
The products: The company's major products include WS_FTP Pro, a program for transferring files via the Internet; IMail Server, which acts as the brain behind many corporate e-mail networks; and WhatsUp, which monitors large computer networks to ensure that they operate correctly.