Eric J. Ruff holds an accounting degree from Brigham Young University, but his business interests after graduating quickly shifted to software.

The PowerQuest founder and president's first venture was Gazelle Systems in 1985. Gazelle's first product was the file management utility Q-DOS. Backup program Back-It followed, receiving a No. 1 ranking by Software Digest; followed by hard-disk optimizer OPTune.Ruff relinquished control of Gazelle Systems in 1990 and sold his interests in the company in 1993 to found PowerQuest Corp.

Novell contracted with him in 1993 to design a program to manipulate the disk and file structures of OS/2 hard disks; and award-winning PartitionMagic was completed in 1995.

PowerQuest's software development continued with the shipping of DriveCopy, Drive Image and Drive Image Professional. Drive Image was reported as outselling all retail backup utilities combined just months after its release in September 1996, according to PC Data; and it was listed as one of the top 10 best-selling utilities this January by the New York analytical group NPD SofTrends.

Company growth was enhanced through creative publicity campaigns that focused on exposure to Internet and live-audience user groups. Press tours and evaluation copies of software netted free publicity worth $100,000. PowerQuest attracted $3.5 million in venture capital in 1997.

Product releases so far this year include Guardian Angel, which prevents harmful system configuration changes when new applications are being installed, and NetWare server products ServerMAX and ServerMagic.

PowerQuest expects to have more than $50 million in sales during 1998, doubling its 1997 revenues. The company employs 224 full- and part-time employees and plans to break ground soon on a new building.