By Daniel Coats, California Business Journal.
Imagine you are going through the financial records of your small business for quarterly accounting. Suddenly, an email appears demanding a ransom be paid in bitcoin to some location in Eastern Europe to enable you to access your files that have been locked and encrypted.
The nightmare of any business professional in the digital age, such as ransomware attacks and other cyber threats, are becoming increasingly common and damaging. In 2017, cyber crime of all types cost the average organization $11.7 million annually. Adding accidental losses, natural disasters, technological malfunctions, and the increasingly complex regulations and structures of today’s businesses, the need for data resilience has never been greater.
“When it comes to cybersecurity, the threats are multiplying daily. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to back-up your data. It is critical, especially for a business, to have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place so you can recover that information,” says Tom Fedro, President of Paragon Software Group Corporation, an international software and data solutions company with its headquarters in Irvine, Calif. “Keeping operating systems updated is absolutely vital, as is having the latest antivirus and malware – and most importantly making sure the backup is scheduled and tested to ensure that the business can recover after a disaster.”
Paragon’s mission is protecting data and making it available across platforms, formats and file systems. The business is concentrated in two sectors: the first being Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), companies who make tablets, phones, action cameras and routers. Customers include firms such as GoPro, Amazon, HP, Seagate and Toshiba. Paragon’s software engineers create data management solutions that empower end-users to easily store and access their data regardless of operating system or file systems used. The second sector is focused on small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In this case, Paragon provides holistic infrastructure security through disaster recovery programs for virtual and physical servers and workstations.
“When something goes wrong with their servers, we can bring them back to life and ensure all their data is there,” Fedro says.
Making Security Solutions Simpler and More Accessible
As many business executives and entrepreneurs have discovered, connecting a business with the latest software solutions is often easier said than done, with many vendors using a dialect of terminology, such as sockets, hosts, agents and other metrics to assess the costs to provide their services.
Paragon, meanwhile, offers its products through a site license format, streamlining the process.
“We come in and ask how many people are in your company, we’re able to offer a site license and in many cases that’s all it takes,” Fedro says. “One payment and here we go. Very flexible and easy to use licensing. Our U.S.-based support team also provides tremendous value to our customer base, we pick up the phone and handle the issues. When new products are implemented or there is a ransomware attack, it is good to have someone close by who can take care of you, rather than someone overseas.”
As technology moves forward, Paragon remains “at the forefront” of security and privacy needs, now mandated by legislation such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“Our latest backup solutions are leveraging the cloud so that we can deliver the most economical solutions in our space,” Fedro says. “Over the next five years, we will expand our offerings in disaster recovery products (DRPs) through the cloud so that it is easier for our customers to access regardless of where they are or what device they are using. We are also expanding into specific areas that are becoming more and more important, such as data destruction and disk wiping, as privacy becomes front and center.”
With a diverse customer base, Paragon often relies on its network of clients, affiliates and partners to ensure that the company’s products best serve the needs of today’s users. Paragon offers three mutually-beneficial programs for the broader industry – an affiliate program, a partner program and a technology partner program.
The affiliate program enables other website owners to direct customers interested in buying software to the Paragon site, in exchange for commissions of up to 50%. The partner program is for resellers who seek backup recovery solutions for their clients, provides, deal protection, substantial guaranteed margins and domestic support. Paragon’s relationships with large OEMs ensure that it is designing and building the best products for the future through the technology partner program, which brings industry expertise to the company’s board for thought generation and collaboration.
The Paragon Culture
Named among the best places to work in Orange County by the Orange County Business Journal, epitomized by persistently low turnover (the average tenure is nine years), cohesive company culture, generous benefits and vision, Paragon’s facilities on the top floors of a gleaming office building at the Irvine Spectrum exemplifies the company’s ethos and commitment to the surrounding community.
Fedro notes that his team is given 100% health care coverage, gym memberships, 401(k) matches, car washes and vacation benefits that are more typical of benefits seen in larger entities in corporate America.
“Life is too short to not enjoy where you work and who you work with. We take this very seriously here and put our money where our mouth is to ensure we can hire the best people,” he says. “When people start, they stay and we keep growing the business. People want to contribute for a long time.”
Paragon puts community service front and center, with relationships with such Orange County-based nonprofits as Coastkeepers, Global Grins, Free Wheelchair Mission and Second Harvest Food Bank.
“From cleaning beaches to preparing and serving lunches to the homeless to working with support animals for special needs kids, these activities help us work together as a team and help the community,” Fedro says. “Part of the DNA of Paragon is giving back to our neighbors. We are thankful to be part of the California lifestyle but we recognize that there are a lot of people who need our help and we hope to take care of them as best we can.”
For Fedro personally, the Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM) has been a particularly impactful. It was founded by Don Schoendorfer, an MIT biomedical engineer who first committed to the cause when he saw an elderly woman in Morocco who was literally crawling across the street with no one to help her. Since that day, Schoendorfer and his team have delivered over one million chairs around the world.
“We got involved with FWM through one of the half marathons I was running years ago in Huntington Beach. After listening to FWM’s charter it became clear: why just run for a shiny medal when you can use the effort to help raise some money that can literally change someone’s life?” he says. “So far we delivered 1,628 wheelchairs through this charity. You can change a life forever with an $80 gift. And not only the life of the person being given mobility is changed, but also their seven to 10 family members who have been providing care for so many years.”
Over the course of Fedro’s career, whether in the wireless space, fraud detection systems for cellular operators, real estate technology or his current role in leading Paragon, the University of Denver alumnus has been committed to team-building as the basis of business success. Along the way, he has been at the forefront of six M&A transactions leading to $700 million in value creation prior to his current role.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with great mentors and been given the opportunity to build great teams in multiple industries that have experienced very profitable exits,” he says. “My passion has been building strong teams that work well together and win big in new and highly competitive markets. I love helping people grow and seeing them achieve their dreams as we all work together to accomplish the company’s mission in a way that we can all be proud of.”
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