There always will be companies that are obviously great investments -- in hindsight. Looking in the rearview mirror, we can see we should have bought Microsoft or Wal-Mart at their IPO and realized tens of thousands of percent returns over the years. Yet for every stock out there screaming "buy me," others simply give us a nudge in the ribs and a knowing nod. They may be tomorrow's obviously great investments, but how do we tell them from the thousands of pretenders?

The stars' walk of fame
Over on the investor-intelligence site Motley Fool CAPS, we know these opportunities as four-star stocks, companies that rank higher than most of the other 5,000 stocks in the CAPS universe but are just shy of achieving stardom. In the long shadows of stocks that garner the coveted five-star rating are top-tier companies approaching greatness.

While the full "secret sauce" of the way ratings are calculated is kept proprietary, three factors influence a stock's star rating:

  • Whether a stock is rated "outperform" or "underperform"
  • The length of time it is expected to perform (a few months or a few years)
  • The ratings of the investors who make the picks.

Every player is rated just as every stock is rated. The best and brightest of these players are considered All-Stars, and because they are correct more consistently than their peers, their opinions weigh more heavily in favor of (or against!) a stock.

Searching out of the spotlight
So while all the attention might be focused on the five-star stocks, good four-star investments slip under the radar. Yet we can sift through the CAPS database to find some of these worthy companies approaching greatness:

  • Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)
  • Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO)
  • Yamana Gold (NYSE:AUY)
  • Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN)
  • InterNAP Network (NASDAQ:INAP)

Some of the names might surprise you. After all, anyone who has surfed the Internet can thank Cisco for providing the backbone infrastructure to get them there. Sometimes the most familiar names are among the best investment opportunities -- maybe we've forgotten the potential they still hold. Just as meaningful, investors in CAPS are giving these companies the nod as less obvious places to look for tomorrow's great buys. So let's delve into why these five companies merit your attention.

No NAP-ing allowed
Long-term opportunities can earn you the greatest profits. While Cisco gets the headlines, InterNAP works at a much lower profile, but its flow control technologies offer exciting potential. With future broadband growth predicted to continue its penetration internationally, particularly in Asia, turnaround company InterNAP stands to benefit profoundly from this trend.

CAPS All-Star robhy cites the combination of technology, sales acumen, and great fundamentals as a reason InterNAP will be a leader.

Internap has invested in the technology to allow companies to communicate faster in the new flatter world. More importantly, they provide the after sale support to keep things running smoothly (and profits coming in). Just turning profitable, with solid cash flows, and EBITDA expected to [rise to] around 37 million, INAP is trading very cheaply relative to its growth rate.

While CAPS player tverkerk5212 made an ambitious call earlier this year, the advantages InterNAP will realize from its acquisitions should pay off in the future.

With the acquisition of Vitalstream (including Eonstreams) they have an outstanding position to outpace their competitors like Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM) and Equinix (NASDAQ:EQIX) especially now video online is taking off with the recently announced NBC/Newscorp deal. Target within one year: $45.

A great opportunity for you
That's the current word on InterNAP, but what are your thoughts? Are these four-star stocks still investment grade material? On Motley Fool CAPS, you can give your input and perhaps influence how they're rated. Outperform or underperform? Near-term or well into the future? Your opinion counts.

Signing up for Motley Fool CAPS is completely free, so why wait? Let us hear what you have to say about the great and almost great companies that interest you.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.