Bringing Structure to Unstructured Data: Inside COMPU-DATA International

Homegrown Products, Partnership with Kodak Alaris Drive Business



“The biggest challenge we at COMPU-DATA International face is that many businesses don’t realize they have a data problem—we think about delivering ROI on unstructured data every day,” said Juan Celaya, COMPU-DATA’s Founder, President, and CEO. “One organization we worked with recently has reduced the clerical time it was spending on routine searches by over 60 percent and is now providing 80 percent faster turnaround to customer requests. A similar business is going one step further by giving clients access to their public unstructured data and enhancing their services.”


Countless organizations from Alaska to the lower 48 have come to trust COMPU-DATA and to rely on the software, hardware, and services it provides. And this is no overnight sensation, not at all: 2018 will be the company’s 30th anniversary, and for many years COMPU-DATA has kept a low profile focused on servicing customers and helping them succeed.


“The rise in adoption of cloud computing, the BYOD trend, the penetration of SaaS-based solutions, and big data are expected to drive the content management system market growth,” Celaya said. “I remain confident in scan-and-store and search-and-retrieve technologies as part of our overall unstructured information management strategy. The cloud has allowed for better distributed capture of content and to both move away from thick clients and put information back into data centers—in essence, we’ve gone back to the future. It’s not about achieving the paperless office, rather we like to say it can be a ‘less paper office,’ which in turn transforms workflow and reduces costs.”


Juan Celaya, COMPU-DATA International’s Founder, President, and CEO


While studying at Sam Houston State University, Celaya was the operations manager for the campus computer center. He transitioned to a role as systems director for a trucking company, and he also has a background in programming. Then, almost a decade after graduating college, he was ready to be his own boss—enter COMPU-DATA. March 1988. At the outset, Celaya was a one-man band who sold storage for $5 or $10 per MB (“The good ol’ days of high hardware margins!”), consulted with businesses (the majority were in the oil industry), and built computer rooms and networks (his forte).


COMPU-DATA was doing well, but things picked up even more when he formalized a partnership with Excalibur Technologies. “Data was growing, it wasn’t being keypunched anymore, and centralized computers were on the way out,” he said. In 1992, Excalibur had a turnkey solution that included scan-and-store and search-and-retrieve functionalities. Three years later, following a merger, ConQuest’s Software and Excalibur’s flagship product were combined into RetrievalWare, which not only gave organizations an enterprise search engine but enabled them to manage both text and image content from a single application, too—“Powerful stuff, especially at that time.”


By the turn of the century Excalibur—now Convera—leveraged COMPU-DATA’s expertise to enhance their professional services organization. Celaya had long since understood that the company’s future was tied to software and solutions, but he also knew the company needed a new differentiator…


“The biggest challenge we at COMPU-DATA International face is that many businesses don’t realize they have a data problem—we think about delivering ROI on unstructured data every day.” –Juan Celaya


“By 1999, it was clear that it would be less expensive for us, and more favorable to us, to just build proprietary tools that could fulfill 80 percent of what all businesses needed—the other 20 percent is where uniqueness and customization come in,” Celaya said. “On top of that, scalability, to satisfy one department but be able to roll it out to an entire organization over time, for instance. Otherwise it’s about capturing, indexing, and managing content, with the enterprise search requirements and robust security to complete the package.”


A quick look at COMPU-DATA’s homegrown offerings…


DigitalAsset Finder: Layered on top of an enterprise search engine, this platform bridges the gap between searching for files and accessing different data sources. It uses a relational database system to support both auto-classification of metadata and reporting capabilities, among other things.


Virtual FileRoom: A content management piece that provides search-and-retrieve, collaboration, and reporting functionalities. Supporting any file format, with auto-indexing and security permissions, Virtual FileRoom is the heart of COMPU-DATA’s proprietary software portfolio.


Data onDemand: Standing apart from the other two COMPU-DATA solutions, this brings it all together for organizations. The company’s secure and affordable content management cloud services provide every business with easy access to the technologies, processes, and procedures used by COMPU-DATA in its 30 years of existence.


The company was ahead of the curve when it began work on the foundation of its software. As most of the industry relied on databases for their applications, COMPU-DATA leveraged its expertise in enterprise search technology to develop its content management product suite. Today, the company has a team of experienced developers who keep the products running smoothly and routinely add more functionality.


COMPU-DATA International’s mission statement is to “Empower users to access information instantly and without barriers to uncover knowledge through technology.”


A dozen or so years ago, Celaya realized that the integrations COMPU-DATA was handling for customers would be even more powerful if supplemented with hardware offerings. At the time the company was procuring scanners from various distributors, but he then entered into discussions with Alaris, a Kodak Alaris business (back then, simply Kodak), and the partnership was formalized in 2005.


Today, COMPU-DATA has hundreds of scanners from Alaris —from desktop models to production—in the field. Kodak Alaris-badged techs provide hardware service should any be needed, and clients can call either COMPU-DATA or Alaris for support. A typical deployment, according to Celaya, comprises Alaris Info Input Portfolio hosted on premise or in the cloud, along with some devices, while an optional VPN tunnel enables captured data to be funneled into Virtual FileRoom or a third-party system. Once in Virtual FileRoom, data can be securely protected against internal and external threats.


“Aside from the profitability aspect, what makes the relationship special is that COMPU-DATA has grown with Alaris and vice versa,” Celaya said. “Sometimes we do hardware-only deals, but because of the tight integration between products from Alaris and ours and because we have different types of agreements (perpetual vs. term, cloud vs. on premise, and so on), we’ve had the great fortune of providing a strong bundle of hardware and software to our customers. And now, with all this history with Alaris, we have the knowledge and expertise to ensure that our clients get the absolute right scanner(s) to suit their needs.”


“The cloud has allowed for better distributed capture of content and to both move away from thick clients and put information back into data centers—in essence, we’ve gone back to the future.” –Juan Celaya


So, what types of customers does COMPU-DATA serve? As Celaya explained, it’s really all over the place, with a good mix of verticals. Chief among them is state/local government, specifically police departments—“There’s not a lot of money in these situations, but there is a lot of need,” he said. Healthcare (labs and hospitals), education (universities), manufacturing, and insurance are other profitable markets for the company.


One particular city agency worked with COMPU-DATA to streamline its water-permit process for businesses and restaurants. The goal here was to enable better tracking and quicker searching and retrieving. The agency prepped all the documents by creating both barcode and separator sheets, after which COMPU-DATA collected all the boxes, did the scanning, and loaded everything into the Virtual FileRoom. Previously, the agency had been contracted with an organization that manually entered vital information and then saved the data onto discs—clearly not an ideal situation.


With a large hospital network in the Northeast, COMPU-DATA deployed a workflow solution on top of an existing document management system and integrated all to their patient records system. Why? Patient information wasn’t flowing from one location to the other, but that hasn’t been an issue now for over 10 years.


COMPU-DATA also partnered with a worldwide manufacturer, which obviously has to comply with OSHA regulations. The requirement: A business that uses chemicals must have all the paperwork on how to wash hands, clean spills, and the like to be onsite. Furthermore, the business must report any incident, otherwise a steep fine—in the thousands of dollars per day—can be levied. The resolution: COMPU-DATA added a safety datasheet component to their Virtual FileRoom software for this enterprise and implemented the solution for the customer, and said datasheets are now accessible from every one of the organization’s manufacturing locations across North America. Problem solved.


Because that’s what COMPU-DATA does.


In addition to selling hardware and software for document management purposes, COMPU-DATA International provides scanning services and microfilm and microfiche conversions (wide format included).




Carl Schell
Managing Editor
With over a decade’s worth of experience at Buyers Lab, Carl manages workflow on the BLI side of Keypoint Intelligence’s Office Technology and Services Group. He also manages both editorial content on the KPI corporate site and the BLI newsletter, LabLines. For the past few years his primary interest has been on the channel, specifically writing dealer-focused articles, while his prior responsibilities included producing reports on printers/MFPs and software.