MOHAMAD REJAB SULAIMAN
Head of Internet, Data Centre and Cloud
MOHAMAD REJAB SULAIMAN
Head of Internet, Data Centre and Cloud
It is no exaggeration to say the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered an extreme spike of digital technology adoption, both at work and at home.
As physical distancing becomes unavoidable, two (2) aspects of digital adoption have now become highly prioritised.
We rely increasingly on digital tools. From paying our bills to buying our groceries and even to staying connected with loved ones. Just look at how video calls have overtaken voice calls these days.
At the same time, digital tools are more sophisticated, as much of office work has become mobile. Instances such as high-speed cloud storage and high-definition multi-channel video conferencing are now widely accessible.
As another definite sign of change, customer service software outfit Zendesk recently reported a spike in usage of between 150% and 230% among new adopters who were previously reliant on brick and mortar outlets, such as restaurants and grocery brands.
Global internet exchange operator DE-CIX saw data traffic rise 20% for its internet nodes worldwide since March — comprising 50% rise in video conferencing traffic, and a 25% increase in cloud gaming.
At Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), we have seen more than 30% increase in usage trend during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period. Fortunately, our extensive, and diverse network connectivity both nationwide and worldwide have comfortably supported sudden spikes in internet bandwidth demands.
Recently, the Malaysia Internet Exchange, MyIX, reported the highest-ever peak of internet traffic at 532Gbps after the start of the MCO on 18 March 2020 – an increase of 6.4% from 2019’s highest traffic peak point record of 500Gbps.
Essentially, the pre-COVID scenario, which was already seeing a steady rise of digital adoption across multiple sectors, has transformed into what is virtually a digital revolution of sorts. Today, we are seeing a major uptick of organisations embracing all things digital to solidify their business survival and build growth for a new normal. All sectors in Malaysia need to take full advantage of digital means to secure success in the new era.
Using Cloud to power through a crisis
Many companies have enhanced their adoption of cloud services to bolster their digital infrastructure backbone to support remote working more efficiently - as well as to deliver digital services to their customers.
However, we have heard some cases of organisations experiencing IT infrastructure failure during the MCO, arising from unforeseen spikes in traffic. These are critical organisations, which serve and support the nation, especially during our ongoing battle with the global pandemic.
Such disruptions necessitate an overnight infrastructure upgrade, which demands careful and intelligent handling.
The current challenge for many enterprises and public sector bodies lies in whether their IT infrastructure is robust enough to accommodate any temporary increase in traffic. The upsurge working from home has led to frequent spikes in demand for bandwidth, and we can expect this trend to stay.
The obvious answer rests in an all-cloud approach for organisations. Cloud is accessible from anywhere, at any time, and is immediately scalable, which addresses the challenge of network spikes.
Cloud is the backbone of future growth
Moving forward, many companies face challenges arising from different forces, which include shifts in consumer behaviour, technical disruptions and global uncertainties, among others. We see the cloud as an inevitable trajectory to power future growth. Cloud computing, in its myriad formats, offers the agility, flexibility, scalability and security to meet corporate needs rapidly.
Currently, many organisations remain highly reliant on internal IT environments to host and run their business-critical applications. As we move forward, on-premise networks no longer sufficient to guarantee the availability, reliability and quality of service required to meet the challenges of a digitalised world of demanding customers.
Some organisations will, of course, choose to retain certain functions and information in house on internal servers. However, these organisations will still be able to enjoy the benefit of speed and efficiency from the public cloud, by adopting an increasingly popular hybrid approach whereby any non-mission-critical workloads may be implemented externally, while retaining certain workloads on-premise or in a private cloud.
In Malaysia, we find that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) accounts for about 50% of enterprise expenditure on cloud computing, while spending in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is expected to rise due to increasing demand from enterprises looking for more cloud storage, compute capacity, cloud-based database, application development software, and analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities.
Taking steps to ensure cybersecurity
Even with a global uptick in digital adoption, some companies may delay digitalisation due to cybersecurity concerns.
However, putting a secured framework into place requires some straightforward steps: a practical blend of people training, processes in addition to the tech tools. Simply put, security concerns should no longer delay the inevitable process of digital adoption!
According to a recent EY Global Information Security Survey, less than 43% of organisations in South East Asia involve cybersecurity function at the planning stage of a new business initiative.
Malaysia’s National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA), and Malaysia Computer Emergency Response Team (MyCERT) have also released warnings of the increase of scam campaigns and phishing attacks that target personal identifiable information (PII) by using Covid-19 fears as bait.
Today, security steps are simply part of the critical planning and implementation that businesses must utilise when scaling up their IT capabilities. This is especially true considering that digital identity is expected to become a foundation layer for all things that we do online and will be another aspect of multiple levels of security measures.
In addition to scaling up layers of cybersecurity provisions, education has proven to be key. Increasing our people’s awareness about today’s highly sophisticated attacks, such as personalised spoofing, is a must.
One positive sign is that multiple cybersecurity technologies are currently being tested in the market. Blockchain authentication, for example, holds some potential to address password issues as well as to provide a more secure and advanced login method.
Digitalising work is a necessity, not discretionary
As many analysts and industry leaders have pointed out, one silver lining of Covid-19 pandemic is the sudden surge in digitalisation. Once a new technology has taken root, it is here to stay. The future of how we work and play has dawned in a matter of months.
Digital lifestyle has permeated into every layer of society. This trend has been accelerated by various factors. These include remote working, continuing digitalisation of the workplace, Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0), eGovernment, and of course eCommerce: underlying all these is the shift to the reality of the digital customer and the digital citizen. This poses an ongoing challenge to every company, whatever the size, as well as to public sectors all over the world.
Today, we see that even the most conservative businesses are embracing digitalisation merely to survive. We have seen how other digital-centric businesses have experienced dramatic growth in this era - thanks to early adoption.
PwC’s 2019 Global Crisis Survey highlighted that companies are able to not only survive in times of crisis but are able to emerge even stronger in the aftermath; as a result of being prepared and maintaining effective stakeholder communications.
Other analyst firms such as Omdia (formerly Ovum) expect Malaysian businesses will conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic plays a significant catalytic role; one that will help to sharpen business continuity measures, and transform the way they do business.
As the enterprise and public sector business solutions arm of TM, at TM ONE, we serve as a digital enabler for enterprises and the public sector, enabling a complete ecosystem for digital society, digital business and digital government. Part of our role is helping our Nation become stronger in the post-pandemic era, building Malaysia’s resilience towards further transformation and progress.
The key is that we ensure people’s mindsets are primed and ready for the digital journey.
This article was published in The Edge Weekly, 24 August 2020.