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Earl Fife - Computer Products & Services

During the fall semester of 2002, under the sponsorship of The Spoelhof Faculty Externship program, I worked at CPR (Computer Products and Resources), a local computer services company, in the area of computer security. CPR was founded in 1982 as one of the first organizations in West Michigan dedicated solely to the service and support of computer services and equipment.

My project at CPR was to develop a prototype of a low-cost intrusion detection system that would serve the needs of smaller companies, and the majority of my time was spent in researching and developing the system. Once or twice a week, I would meet with my manager. In our meetings, we discussed a variety of issues, ranging from the project itself to its business model and other pending projects and ideas related to security. Although I was accustomed to thinking of the technical aspects of security, the emphasis on the business model was a new aspect that I had not appreciated before my externship.

My career has been spent in academia, where success is measured by how much is learned. I had never appreciated the attention a business has to give to how a product could produce revenue and continue to produce revenue. It was attention to this detail that I came to learn was how CPR had managed to survive a decline in the economy that, several years before, had resulted in many other competing technical companies in the region having to close.

Since my externship concluded, I have drawn on my experience with CPR quite often. It has enabled me to appreciate more fully the non-technical, business-related aspects of security. For an organization, security engenders business continuity plans, disaster recovery plans, and justification for security spending, as well as matters usually addressed by IT. Recent legislation and regulation have made business-related issues comprise an increasingly important part of the practice of security. My externship experience has allowed me to address them in my classes with a better understanding of their role today.

I am grateful to the Spoelhof family for funding Calvin's faculty externship program. Being able to spend a semester with a local business was possible only because of their generosity.