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TM ONE Strengthens Enterprises and Public Sectors’ Digital Resilience with end-to-end Cloud Infrastructure

September 21, 2020
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"We are focused on taking transformation forward for every one of our customers, buoyed by our digital solutions", says TM ONE EVP & CEO Ahmad Taufek Omar

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.

We have been caught off-guard by the unprecedented pandemic. However, Covid-19 can be looked at as a game-changer to accelerate the digital transformation of our nation. Until two months ago, the actual transformation has been rather slow for many. Now, companies are speeding up the adoption — which was either in discussions for years or put on hold — as they see digital readiness is no longer a choice, but a must.

Both organisations, in the private or public sectors, must rethink their strategies to invest in more integrated digital infrastructure to manage current disruptions and stay relevant in the future.

Viewing it in a wider context, the use of technology has seen a rapid uptick during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Many digital solutions have been innovated and are energising an ecosystem which were in a transitional stage of transformation. We have seen business behaviours reshaped, consumer activities shifted to online platforms, social and conducting business done across online conferencing tools.

By using robust connectivity, complemented by the most effective digital infrastructure, TM ONE is playing the role in providing the most effective platform to help drive Malaysia’s digital strategy forward.

Equipped with newly launched comprehensive digital solutions, TM ONE, the enterprise and public sector business solutions arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad is determined to help businesses rapidly adapt and continue operations in these challenging times. As an enabler of the Digital Malaysia, TM ONE is well-positioned to enable the ecosystem for digital society, digital business, and digital government.

In an exclusive interview with Ahmad Taufek Omar, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of TM ONE, the leader explains why with every crisis there comes an opportunity.

Without a doubt, technology played a key role during the MCO in keeping us connected and safe, Ahmad Taufek points out. We have witnessed an increase in cloud adoption as businesses leverage the power of the cloud to stay in operation and connected.

At TM ONE, we aspire to spearhead the digital transformation for the nation but as it turns out, the pandemic has accelerated many of our initiatives,” Ahmad Taufek says. When the government enforced the first MCO in March, I threw a challenge to the team to come up with a digital solution to help businesses during the pandemic.

Hence, towards the end of March, they launched TM ONE Cloud α (Cloud Alpha), the key enabler of the digital transformation for Malaysian businesses and public sectors. Its objective is to help organisations to reduce information technology infrastructure complexities towards cloud adoption and particularly to boost their resilience amidst the challenging times.

Ahmad Taufek Omar
Ahmad Taufek Omar, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of TM ONE

Forging resilience through optimisation and technology-driven strategies is crucial across industries”

Cloud Alpha’s robust and resilient infrastructure is hosted in our highly secured, Tier III certified, and global standards-compliant data centres within Malaysia.

“We want to ensure our customers are able to fulfil their data residency requirements, and ultimately, data sovereignty,” Ahmad Taufek explains, adding that customers then will have peace of mind, allowing them to focus on their business.

In a response to a question, the CEO also points out the key factor that differentiates Cloud α from other cloud services is the comprehensive offerings and multi-cloud offerings that provide flexibility to complement multiple deployment models customer’s cloud adoption strategy and business objectives.

Case in point was when our valued customer needed a scalable solution as a stop-gap measure for the temporary surge on their website. Cloud α was deployed as the solution and within one week, from capacity planning to deployment to testing, the government’s backend system was put in place to support the wave.

As with the recent collaboration with Huawei, it will enable TM ONE to offer an additional array of cloud computing services under the umbrella of Cloud α. With the additional of Huawei and existing collaborations with other hyper-scale cloud providers such as Microsoft, AWS and VMware will further strengthen TM ONE’s position as Cloud Aggregator and to become the leading Cloud Services Provider in the country.

“It is another testament of TM’s promise and prominent role as the enabler of Digital Malaysia aspirations.”

According to Ahmad Taufek this partnership will enable them to accelerate the digital services and solutions to the nation, forging ahead as the only Malaysian-owned end-to-end cloud infrastructure service provider.

This adds another milestone for TM ONE as they now have full cloud capability as a core offering to capture growth in Malaysia, which is expected to grow at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27 per cent in the next five years.

In May, when the government announced the extension of the conditional movement control order (CMCO), it meant that more Malaysians are beginning to return to work. This has raised its own set of questions, primarily on how businesses can ensure a safe work environment for its employees.

One such solution has presented itself. TM ONE, unveiled their smart digital health screening solution – TM ONE Predictive Analytics Screening Solution, or ONE PASS. It works by screening the body temperature of individuals as they enter business premises.

It is a purely local product developed by their own software designers, software architects and coders.

ONE PASS is aimed at providing business continuity for organisations to declare their building as a ‘safe zone’ to work by implementing state-of-the-art health screening solutions, Ahmad Taufek elaborates.

ONE PASS is a non-contact connected solution with three main digital service features such as visitor management, thermal sensors, and monitoring and contact tracing. The real-time digital solution includes an employee and visitor management app for self-declaration assessment and deployment of thermal cameras and sensors to check body temperatures prior to entering a building.

“We leveraged on the opportunity to launch two key products which are beneficial to the nation while working at home, Ahmad Taufek remarks proudly.

“In essence, this is congruent to TM ONE’s actual plans, where our role is towards the nation’s digitalisation process.”

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS KEY TO SURVIVAL

In this Covid-19 period, a digital transformation is no longer an option for businesses. It has become a necessity for operational efficiency and business survival.

International Data Corporation (IDC) reported that by 2020, cloud-based IT spending will reach up to 60 per cent on IT infrastructure and 60 to 70 per cent on all software, services and technology, whereas Global Data estimated Malaysia’s spending on cloud computing is RM10 billion.

The CEO is optimistic and remains committed. “TM ONE’s role as part of TM Group is to deliver a Digital Malaysia, hence the pandemic has allowed us to really show our support for the country and its entire ecosystem.”

“Malaysia is on the right track towards digital transformation, and Digital Malaysia sums up what we are as a developed nation,” Ahmad Taufek says positively.

On another note, the CEO tells Business Today that some businesses are not able to embrace the transformation coherently. Previously, digitalisation was largely seen as IT-driven and required high investment. Technology moves so fast but not all companies are able to keep up in terms of financial capability. Hence, because of this, they become irrelevant very quickly.

And, digital transformation requires agility and speed. There is a saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If the culture of the organisation does not embrace agility, business leaders will find that their digital transformation strategy will falter.

Ahmad Taufek explains that for businesses to embrace a coherent transformation, firstly they must be customer-centric. It is always customers first – creating the best experience for them. It applies to all business strategies as well as digitalisation.

Secondly, business leaders must ensure that people strategy evolves to support their business transformation. When the whole team has a common objective, the journey will be smoother, and things will fall into the right places.

And finally, you must have strong collaborative partners, Ahmad Taufek emphasises. Trusted partnerships with other players in the technology ecosystem will help your customers achieve their digital journey.

Nevertheless, TM ONE is part of TM Group, and each line of business within the Group has its very own part to play in driving transformation and helping Malaysian companies transform digitally.

data centre

“We remain committed to playing our part in improving the ecosystem. TM ONE is the only local player with its own state-of-the-art core Data Centres and Cloud infrastructure with full data residency, locality and sovereignty in Malaysia. Our twin-core data centres are located in Cyberjaya and Iskandar Puteri respectively,” Ahmad Taufek says with conviction.

With these digital infrastructures and services, TM ONE offers a comprehensive data residency and locality in Malaysia. Holistically, they are an ideal cloud services provider for the nation.

Regarding why businesses should no longer be hesitant about their transformation journey, the CEO says it is the only means of staying relevant in these trying times.

“We have the capabilities to support them,” Ahmad Taufek affirms. If they turn to us from an infrastructure standpoint, TM ONE has the network, software, and platform and most importantly, full data sovereignty, but if it is from an advisory perspective, we have the expertise from top solution consultants.

“Our role as a responsible organisation is to support businesses to elevate to an era of digitalisation”

Furthermore, TM ONE, also working is with the Government to support local small and medium businesses (SMEs) so that they #stayinbusiness in these challenging times.

“We are offering some free services for businesses to leverage, according to their specific needs. Hopefully, they will get a perspective of where they want to head towards by adopting the necessary applications for digitalisation in their business,” Ahmad Taufek says.

WEATHERING THE COVID-19 STORM

To some extent, during the MCO, the use of technology has already been proven to enable many business operations and social connectivity to remain in place. However, the increased deployment of technologies will also speed our path in the post-COVID world.

Undoubtedly, Ahmad Taufek stresses that during any crisis, telecommunication is one of the critical sectors, and at TM ONE their role is to ensure business continuity for their customers to stay in operation.

“It is business as usual. We are committed and ever ready to serve our customers in these trying times,” he states. The team’s responsiveness to address the demands of our customers and our scalable offerings have helped many businesses and public sectors to stay connected, stay in business and stay served.

Understandably during this time, businesses are pulling the handbrakes and accessing the overall expenditure of their business for survival. Hence, to convince the market to spend, Ahmad Taufek says they must ensure the services they offer are well managed and serviced.

“We are here for the long-term.”

THE ADVENT OF IR4.0

This is the biggest objective for the TM Group, according to Ahmad Taufek. “We fully support TM in the Group’s role as a national telecommunications infrastructure provider of Malaysia’s Digital Nation aspirations.”

TM Group will continue to lay the foundation for Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) and roll out 5G nationwide if it is awarded to us – serving a more digital society and lifestyle, digital businesses and industry verticals, as well as digital Government – to enable a Digital Malaysia.

“We fully engage ourselves around key industry verticals, and with the team and industry experts to enable us to gain a deep understanding of industry needs to exploit the market quicker,” Ahmad Taufek points out.

“We believe in long term partnerships and customer-centricity.”

Ahmad Taufek also shares that TM ONE will continuously develop and deliver digital solutions enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“Through our end-to-end digital solutions, we will fulfil the dynamic needs of the various industries in today’s hyper-connected ecosystem,” he says.

STEERING AHEAD

Now, acceleration is key. “We are focused on taking transformation forward for every one of our customers, buoyed by our digital solutions, Ahmad Taufek says with commitment.

“Our role is to enable a reliable hyperconnected ecosystem, one which will empower Malaysia’s enterprise and public sectors to realise the the full potential of their digital opportunities through our end-to-end digital solutions and industry experts, he adds.

“We are fully committed to combating this pandemic, to help industries, and the nation move forward – stronger than ever before!”

The digital enabler’s approach opens the avenue for growth in a post-MCO landscape and helps to build resilience for future upheavals.

“At TM ONE, we want to provide technologies which will further assist businesses and organisations to bounce back safely and responsibly to revive our economy,” Ahmad Taufek concludes.

Demystifying Technology: Debunking the Misconception of Cloud Security

April 28, 2021
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Cloud and cybersecurity must come hand in hand for any enterprises which are considering or in the midst of digital transformation.

Despite the enormous values Cloud brings to enterprises globally, it is undeniable that Cloud security has been the biggest barrier preventing technology teams from adopting Cloud at a rapid scale.

According to a recent survey by Cybersecurity Insiders, 75 per cent of respondents stated they were ‘very concerned’ or ‘extremely concerned’ about public Cloud security.

Their concerns are largely driven by data residency and security reasonings, as sensitive data will be stored off-shore due to the absence of local region. Data residency refers to where a business, industry body or government specifies that their data is stored in a geographical location of their choice, usually for regulatory or policy reasons. Data Sovereignty refers to the laws of the country in which the data is stored. Data residency and sovereignty are extremely important when considering Cloud services. Malaysian key/strategic data resides on Malaysian soil safeguarded by a national provider.

However, over recent years, cloud security is getting debunked. Many are now realising that perhaps Cloud, especially the public model, provides the best and most innovative security solution any enterprises can obtain. With such knowledge, the adoption of public Cloud has increased globally across legacy enterprises and this trend is forecasted to continue within the next 36-48 months.

By 2025, the digital economy will contribute 22.6% of the Malaysian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the recently announced MyDIGITAL Digital Economy Blueprint, the Prime Minister provided the assurance that “the Government will monitor the information security of data management to avoid any future cyber threats. He also mentioned that “cybersecurity and data security will be one of the main focus of the Government in realising the vision of a digitally technological nation. The data of the citizens will be managed based on the security policy provided by National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) as the implementation agency”.

Why is Cloud often times more secure?

With reference to the previous article, Cloud can be divided into three (3) models – private, public and hybrid Cloud. Private Cloud stores data in a private environment exclusive to the enterprise and allows them to fully manage their Cloud security. Public Cloud, on the other hand, stores data in a shared environment, where enterprises surrender Cloud security management to the Cloud provider. Hybrid Cloud falls in between both models, allowing flexibility in storage and management.

Although private Cloud ensures data locality and sovereignty, there remain to be pitfalls from migrating data to this model. Three (3) of the key reasons are as follows:

  1. Limited security budget

Private Cloud is the most expensive model. The use of private Cloud requires enterprises to maintain a considerable budget for comparable personnel, administration and technology infrastructure on top of security. Often times, due to varying costs and a self-governance model, enterprises are able to only allocated a limited budget to secure their Cloud; denying their access to top-notch innovative solutions. Although private Cloud maintains the exclusivity for enterprises, it can result in poorer protection, as a result of higher cost with a limited budget which can be detrimental to the business.

  1. Lesser check and balances

The use of private Cloud is largely dependent on dedicated in-house resources to ensure frequent testing and maintenance. However, this can lead to inefficiency due to common roadblocks such as bandwidth issues, redundant testing or narrowed coverage and the need to have the right personnel with the right skills in place to keep up with evolving technology and cyber threats. As a result, the security of the Cloud is at risk despite a private infrastructure.

  1. Vendor lock-in

Although enterprises are given the option to outsource hardware and infrastructure in a private Cloud model, the biggest issue is the high reliance on a service provider. Private Cloud is a service delivery technique where enterprises are forced to continue with the same service provider, thus preventing them to migrate to another vendor. On the security front, it can be a challenge as options to improve Cloud security such as multi-Cloud adoption and new solutions integration become more rigid as enterprises would need to seek permission from the service provider and ensure compatibility of solution.

Contrary to private Cloud, public Cloud operates in a shared infrastructure model – which means data from various enterprises are stored in the same stack. However, it does not account for data being accessed by unauthorised personnel. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Public Cloud, though widely misconstrued as unsafe, offers one of the best security options to its users. Below are the key reasons:

  1. Crowdfunded security budget

In the public Cloud model, enterprises big and small pool together billions of dollars in security budgets for public Cloud providers to constantly discover and deliver best in class innovative solutions. Through this, enterprises’ data are well protected and secured by solutions that are often times beyond their range of affordability, if done in solitary.

  1. Constant surveillance by public Cloud providers

Public Cloud providers’ top priority is to ensure data security. With that in mind, renowned global providers conduct round-the-clock surveillance on their hardware and software to ensure any malicious attempts is addressed and eliminated.

  1. Attract and retain top security talent

In Southeast Asia, talent crunch is the huge barrier barring enterprises from securing their Cloud. Most of these top security talents have an unspoken preference to build their career with leading public Cloud hyperscalers. This preference could be driven by the learning opportunities and global access public Cloud providers offer. Henceforth, new security solutions are constantly being created, further securing their Cloud technology.

Why is Cloud perceived as unsecure?

How did Cloud gain negative sentiments? Unfortunately, due to notable incidents of cyberattacks and security breach in the region, it led to a sense of doubt in Cloud security amongst enterprises and governments. For instance, back in February 2021, Singtel, Singapore’s biggest telecom provider, reported a data breach resulting in 130,000 of customer data stolen by hackers.

However, security in Cloud, especially public, is often underestimated and misunderstood. Despite a data centre sharing model, leading global providers have made it a point to invest billions to secure the data of their customers with innovative automation. These providers often set a much higher bar than most enterprises when it comes to this. That said, the vulnerability to attacks sometimes lies in the migration to the Cloud process, which is managed by service partners, but it is not at the processing and storage end. A notable example is the cyber-attack on SingHealth, where IHIS was faulted for mishandling of the data causing security breaches. While on the Cloud itself, there are often limited security mishaps especially with mature providers. Therefore, Cloud security is more secure than many have perceived.

Key takeaways for business decision makers

Cloud and cybersecurity must come hand in hand for any enterprises which are considering or in the midst of digital transformation.

The selection of partners and providers is important. Enterprises should value the service vendors who practice a rigorous protocol and invest in innovative security solutions. They should place security at the centre stage of their infrastructure, to ensure the same is delivered to the customers.

How can TM ONE help?

TM ONE, the enterprise and public sector business solutions arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) offers a comprehensive suite of solutions covering connectivity, Cloud, data centres and cybersecurity where TM ONE’s Cloud & Cybersecurity ecosystem is portrayed in the establishment of its Klang Valley Core Data Centre (KVDC) in Cyberjaya.

Meanwhile, TM ONE CYDEC Professional Services offers a complete set of cybersecurity posture assessment, consulting and advisory services that transform and enhances an organisation’s risk management capabilities by analysing and identifying the existing cyber risks in different environments (IT, OT, Cloud, IoT, etc.) and offers the solution to mitigate that risks, which best meets the customers’ needs.

A key factor that differentiates TM ONE’s full cloud capabilities delivered through TM ONE Cloud α from other Cloud services is the comprehensive offerings and multiple deployment models that align with its customer’s Cloud adoption strategy and business objectives. The innovative digital solutions are set to accelerate the digital transformation journey of our enterprise and public sector customers, and this perfectly fits our role as part of TM Group as the enabler of Digital Malaysia.

Find out how to build digital trust and cybersecurity resilience for Malaysian businesses operating in a digital ecosystem. Detect, protect and respond to your business cost-effectively, easily and flexibly. Click here to download the IDC Managed Security – Building Trust for Digital Business Success.

Trends & Digital Strategy: A Business Leader’s Guide to Cloud

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Unlike traditional infrastructure, the flexibility, accessibility and scalability of Cloud prepare enterprises and governments to stand resilient against any given circumstances and gives them competitive advantage in the market

Cloud solution has been a trending boardroom topic amongst leadership in Southeast Asia long before COVID-19.  Now with business continuity and remote working become the agenda to survive the pandemic, many have accelerated their cloud adoption and migration strategy. These proactive approaches to transform digitally can be witnessed across legacy enterprises from manufacturing to logistics.

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Southeast Asian Governments, Malaysia included, are shifting to a more favourable stance on cloud by amending national policies, creating frameworks and launching digital transformation (DX) initiatives. The Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, MyDIGITAL, for instance, is Malaysia’s national response to drive digitalisation amongst businesses and government agencies while bridging the digital divide across the country. To realise this ambition, in the first phase of the blueprint (2021-2022), the Government aims to move towards a paperless environment and migrate 80% of public data to hybrid Cloud systems by the end of 2022, but why?

Debunking Cloud

Although Cloud is well spoken of, the concept of how it is imperative to digital transformation remains vague to many. Hence, to understand its synonymity, it is important to debunk the technology.

Foremost, the technology can be differentiated into three (3) models:

  1. Public Cloud
    • On-demand services with instant deployments and pay-as-you-go pricing
    • Data hosted on a shared data centre, which is known as region, managed by Cloud providers
    • Businesses are able to select the location of data stored

Top three (3) advantages:

  • Highly agile and scalable – usage can be switched up or down depending on need/situation
  • Access to the top of the line and innovative security solutions invested by Cloud providers
  • Fastest deployment amongst all Cloud models
  1. Private Cloud
    • Data located in an organisation’s local data centre or hosted by third parties from certain Cloud services
    • Requires administrative, maintenance and infrastructure investment

Top three (3) advantages:

  • Highly secure – data stored in a private environment
  • High control – Ability to manage servers end-to-end
  • Adaptability – organisation customises the Cloud environment based on specific business needs
  1. Hybrid Cloud
    • Combines the private and public Cloud into one (1) Cloud model
    • A portion of data hosted in own local data centre, the remainder to be hosted on shared data centre
    • Users allowed to switch between Cloud types at any time

Top three (3) advantages:

  • Enjoys security advantages of both Cloud models
  • Middle ground pricing – selection of Cloud environment depending on data sensitivity
  • Flexibility of deployment – provides the ability to choose and decide

Within each model, Cloud is further defined by its service types with differing level of responsibilities between the user and service providers.

Unlike traditional infrastructure, the flexibility, accessibility and scalability of Cloud prepare enterprises and governments to stand resilient against any given circumstances and allow them to act quickly to ensure competitive advantage in the market.

Cloud in action – how Cloud is used in Southeast Asia?

  1. Data backup and disaster recovery

All enterprises, across industries and sizes, experience data loss caused by unintentional events such as system failures and natural disasters. While there are methods to prevent data-loss events, the most effective data-protection method is having an enterprise-wide backup solution.

However, with the exponential growth of data worldwide, backup solutions are required to be comprehensive. Traditional backup methods such as tape libraries are unable to quickly scale to this growth and maintaining them can be extremely cost-intensive.

Thus, a growing number of organisations are moving on-premises backup capabilities to the Cloud in order to accommodate this data growth. Some of the benefits include:

  • Data durability and resiliency
    • Public Cloud providers copy and distribute every object across a few geographically separated regions.
  • Cost efficacy
    • Varied storage options at wide-range pricing offered by Cloud providers allows enterprises to reduce spending on archivable data and pay for what they use without compromising performance.
  1. Data analytics

In today’s data-driven environment, enterprises are required to overcome data silo challenges and find efficient and innovative ways to uncover hidden insights within their data to remain competitive. However, to build constantly evolving capabilities in-house is no easy task, hence leading digital companies e.g. Netflix, or regional favourites e.g. Grab, look towards Cloud providers and their partners for such solutions. They provide real-time analytics, big data processing and more which enable enterprises to streamline its business intelligence process of gathering, integrating and presenting insights to enhance business decision making.

What are the values for enterprises?

  • Ability to understand the trend and consumer behaviour on demand
  • Fast access to necessary data, regardless of type and sources, to find strategic insights
  • Fully managed infrastructure – allow cost saving in maintenance and administration front
  1. Research and development for innovation

In Southeast Asia, more and more enterprises are using Cloud for innovation projects. Those that do not look lean on Cloud for R&D, seem to lack behind their counterparts who do. This is simply because upfront technology investment into on-premise infrastructure is heavy and procurement periods are long, barring them from constant innovation to address consumer needs. On the contrary, Cloud is readily available, can be scaled down or up, and is armed with various tools and software to support innovation. Thus in terms of cost, timeframe and manpower, Cloud is an indisputable option for R&D.

Cloud optimisation demands for partners

One of the biggest challenges for Cloud adoption in Southeast Asia remains to be the talent crunch. This challenge is extremely prevalent in Indonesia as they house only about 75,000 IT engineers in the country, while they require at least 10x the number to fully sustain a digital economy.

Furthermore, digital talent often aims to work in digital companies, which impedes the digital journey of legacy enterprises. Hence, Cloud service providers play a vital role in the region as they have the people, experience and capability and they provide end-to-end support to ensure true Cloud optimisation.

Celebrating Success: Delivering educational excellence through Cloud Services

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The restrictions imposed in 2020 on in-person classes resulted in a large-scale shift towards online-based classes. E-learning platforms existed long before the pandemic; however, recently, these platforms took centre stage in delivering educational content.

Every major service sector is under pressure to adapt to the current circumstances, and the education sector is no exception. Significant adjustments were needed across educational institutions to move onto the reality of having minimal face-to-face interaction. This case is especially true with the tertiary education sector, which has to provide its services across international borders.

The restrictions imposed in 2020 on in-person classes resulted in a large-scale shift towards online-based classes. E-learning platforms existed long before the pandemic; however, recently, these platforms took centre stage in delivering educational content. Consequently, it resulted in an upsurge in virtual classrooms, as well as a suite of remote services, including teaching, workshops and examinations.

These options provide support for students disrupted by the closure of universities. However, these e-learning platforms require a scalable yet flexible and reliable IT infrastructure. Hence, this situation requires institutions to re-evaluate the said infrastructure to manage the demands of their staff and students.

Here, we share some success stories from the education institues that have embraced digital transformation as an opportunity to bring better learning experiences for its students.

Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah (USAS), adapting to circumstances

USAS was granted full university status on 15 June 2016. The institution offers a variety of courses from foundational studies to PhDs. Its campus, located at Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar,was completed in 2008. USAS currently offers 47 courses in Islamic Studies and multiple subjects under Management and Information Technology. Currently, USAS has the support of 198 lecturers and serves nearly 5600 students.While it still has traditional systems in place, USAS is a key example on how educational institutions can adapt to changing circumstances. The upgrades implemented by the university enables effective online leaning for students and lecturers too.

Breaking free from traditional systems and their limitations

To manage the demand for remote learning, USAS transformed to a cloud-based IT infrastructure from a traditional on-premise setting. The former on-premise system required high amounts of capital investments, labour, and maintenance. For example, on-premise systems typically require higher investments in hardware,including logistics and setup processes. During the lockdown periods, the response time to scale was severely affected by supply chain disruptions. Moreover, in terms of maintenance, IT teams must be on-site to respond to any system glitches encountered.

Such limitations often result in higher costs to support the IT infrastructure. These experiences limit the ability of USAS to scale efficiently and match the demand for remote learning.  Due to these limitations, USAS considered engaging TM ONE to adopt a cloud-based learning management system.

“The decision to engage TM ONE was due to its capabilities of providing end-to-end technological solutions inclusive of connectivity, cloud services and cybersecurity, catered specifically for the education sector,” said a USAS C-Level representative.

Reaping the benefits from cloud migration

  1. Tackling limited scalability with cloud-based solutions

The success of cloud and its effects on universities’ performance is spoken of widely in the education industry globally.The surge of users using online platforms, which posed a scalability challenge with on-premise servers, was addressed with cloud solutions. Using cloud platforms, educational institutions can scale depending on the activity and user base in a cost-efficient manner.

In this very manner, USAS could efficiently scale up or down based on its usage. This ability allowed USAS to tap into the readily available capacity from TM ONE on a scalable pay-as-you-go basis. USAS reported that it could have 800 students sit for exam sessions concurrently on the renewed cloud-based system, compared to 200 students on the legacy platform.

  1. Cost-benefits on upgrades and maintenance

Other than scalability, USAS was also able to capture significant cost-saving benefits by migrating onto cloud platforms. For example, leveraging cloud technology allows USAS to have lower hardware dependency. Therefore, USAS can focus more on operational expenses, resulting in higher flexibility on its expenses. Unlike on-premise systems where universities were responsible for upgrades and maintenance – cloud-based systems are primarily managed by the cloud provider. This shift in responsibility significantly reduces the financial burden on universities to manage their data storage systems and infrastructures.

These benefits also extend to the IT department, which can now focus on higher-value services rather than on maintenance work. Moreover, the IT Department has the added advantage of being able to conduct support work online safely. As a result, the IT team of USAS noted improvements in their Mean Time to Restore (MTR). In the case of upgrades, the USAS IT team can activate upgrades within 48-hours, allowing them to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Improving user experience for both students and staff

Ultimately, these benefits aims towards enhancing the services for students and lecturers. By leveraging the power of the cloud, USAS can now provide higher-quality content to its students. This leverage is crucial to compensate for the difficulties faced by lecturers due to the loss of physical interaction.

Feedback from the students noted that the performances of past on-premise servers made it difficult for them to learn through digital platforms. The students claimed that they were affected by long loading times and lags. The alternative at that point was to use the platform during off-peak periods, which was inconvenient.

The scalability, efficiency and performance of the cloud provide the robust infrastructure for a conducive learning environment. For example, during crucial exam periods, the cloud reduces system glitches by providing the needed scale.  Students can now enjoy a smoother delivery of classes and have real-time responses with their lecturers, leading to an augmented learning experience.

Local counterpart leveraging cloud beyond the classroom

Apart from delivering in-classroom benefits, education institutions are also able to utilise the cloud to enhance customer servicing. A local counterpart, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), teamed up with TM ONE in 2018 by adopting a Unified Customer Service (UCS) powered by cloud. The service provided has a consumption-based business model to manage customer interactions for customer experience.

This solution offers an effective way of managing customers by having a one-stop-centre approach. Post-adoption, UTP had expanded its contact centre services from 5 departments in 2018 to 25 departments in 2020. TM assisted UTP by handling more than 1000 interactions monthly, achieving an average of 95% in performance levels. Along with other improvements, these efforts were recognised regionally, with UTP awarded the CXP Best Customer Experience Award in 2020.

The success UTP experienced with the power of cloud technology is not foreign to their peers. UTP was amongst the first educational institution in Malaysia to drive a cloud transformation strategy. After signing a three-year MOU with Microsoft back in 2017, UTP has been a transformative player by integrating tools such as Azure, Power BI, and Machine Learning to future-proof its students and staff. These initiatives were part of a wider goal of improving its capabilities for its educational services and drive operational efficiency.

Learning from global leaders in the education industry

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, leading universities are using this period as an opportunity to further drive the adoption of cloud services. For example, The London School of Economics (LSE)  followed through with complementary changes to streamline its financial and business management systems. By engaging with a technology partner, LSE now uses a cloud SaaS solution to manage its finances, budgeting and procurements. This enhancement frees up the staff to focus on providing higher levels of service to their students.

On the other hand, Standford University (SU) shows that adequate training must supplement cloud adoption strategies. Observing its cloud transformation journey, the university made clear communication plans to prepare its staff for the upcoming changes.  SU deployed several training programs and communication channels to prepare its staff technically in handling the changes. These steps are crucial to provide confidence for lecturers and supporting staff to embrace the cloud’s capabilities.

As cloud technology continues to grow into a necessity in the education sector, adopters need to have the right information and expertise. Whilst the benefits are clear, misconfigurations can often lead to cybersecurity concerns. Hence,a technology partner is often regarded as a preferred option for institutions to integrate cloud-based solutions. Similar to USAS and UTP, cloud services work best with collaboration. This way, institutions can rest at ease knowing that their cloud strategy is backed by reputable expertise, bringing the full potential of the cloud to the forefront.

Why Malaysia’s Cloud-First Strategy is Imperative for Business Leaders in 2021

March 17, 2021
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From digital identity and predictive public services to multichannel citizen engagements – these Cloud-native applications and platforms are set to usher in a new era for digital government and digital nation.

Even before our world was impacted by Covid-19 pandemic, business leaders were becoming vitally aware of the multiple benefits that well-planned digitalisation initiatives could deliver to their organisations in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) era.

Multiple analyst studies highlight that digital transformation acts as a positive disruptor that brings concrete returns – including cost reductions, enhanced processes and ways of working, and the innovation of new growth opportunities – all vital to proactive recovery as we move further into 2021

In today’s digital age, our everyday routines – such as going for a morning exercise, navigating our way as drivers, arranging our children’s schooling, to more complex activities such as banking or leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to remotely operate a factory floor – rely on the fundamental power of Cloud computing, which is now universally acknowledged as the main backbone of a digital nation.

Cloud together with the intelligent handling of big data equates to smarter ways of managing routine tasks and operations. According to the World Economic Forum, 4IR-inspired automation is expected to free up human resources for higher-value roles and new employment opportunities and predicts that automation will result in a net increase of 58 million jobs.

Cloud as the Heart of Digital Malaysia

The Malaysian government has long acknowledged the importance of Cloud computing services as a key component of manifesting Malaysia’s digital aspirations –  both as a digital economy and digital lifestyle enabler –  and as a catalyst to enhance public service delivery and to build digital government services.

This was apparent  by the recent unveiling on MyDIGITAL – the Malaysian Digital Economy blueprint, which puts Cloud as the heart of the policy, in tandem with digital connectivity (fibre and 5G), digital infrastructure (including cybersecurity) together with growing digital skillsets and talent – all within a  holistic framework.

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Ahmad Taufek Omar, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of TM ONE commented: “We are honoured to be entrusted by the Government as the only Malaysian-own Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to serve our public sector together with the Managed Service Provider (MSP) as our partner. We’re especially humbled by the confidence in our cloud capabilities at par with other global CSPs.”

Included in the measures to strengthen public sector Cloud infrastructure, the government further announced its intention to migrate 80% of public data to hybrid cloud systems by the end of 2022 with its Cloud-First strategy.

“Cloud is the technology foundation that will enable the Government to roll out new innovations, achieve cost efficiency and enhance its public service delivery to all Malaysians. TM, via TM ONE is well primed to accelerate the public sector’s digital transformation with our comprehensive suite of smart solutions covering connectivity, cloud, data centres and cybersecurity. We are committed to complement and enhance the Government’s existing Cloud infrastructure with TM ONE Cloud α (pronounced Cloud Alpha). It is ideally suited to provide the technology and services needed to realise the MyDIGITAL aspirations and propel our country towards a full-fledged Digital Nation by 2030 – befitting our role as the enabler of Digital Malaysia,” Ahmad Taufek further commented.

Building sovereign and secure Cloud services

The key factor which differentiates the Government’s Cloud computing needs from the private sector’s is digital sovereignty. Governments are mindful of the risks of migrating national data to the cloud, and of the need to protect critical cyber infrastructure from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats and mitigating potential fallouts from geopolitical instabilities.

Previously, all Government data was hosted using on-premise infrastructure; however, the benefits delivered through Cloud computing can no longer remain untapped. Locally hosted Cloud infrastructure with in-country data centres significantly eliminates such risks, which allows the government to secure citizen data as well as critical national infrastructures.

Today, TM is established as a leading end-to-end Cloud and data centre service provider that delivers data residency, data locality and data sovereignty to both public sector and enterprise customers in Malaysia. “As the enabler of Malaysia’s digital government, our Cloud platform, Cloud Alpha promises top-of-the-game cybersecurity and data sovereignty, so government agencies can rest assured that citizen data will be protected,” Ahmad Taufek added.

“We are currently developing a strong cybersecurity foundation towards positioning Malaysia as a cybersecurity leader regionally. This includes building cyber resilience to protect Malaysian cyberspace and developing a proactive cyber defence strategy. A heightened approach is needed – which encapsulates a better protected digital infrastructure, cleaner data in the Cloud, and through every end-point,” he added.

TM ONE has invested in technology, resources and people to ensure the security of Critical Network and Information Infrastructure (CNII) in the country. Starting from local and global network infrastructure to Internet Services Provider (ISP), CSP and MSP, security has always been part of the services provided by TM ONE.

TM ONE’s Cyber Defence Centre (CYDEC) is its cybersecurity solution specially designed to help Malaysian enterprises and public sector institutions build digital trust and cybersecurity resilience.

The people challenge

Underpinning the challenges facing many Malaysian organisations is the adage that data protection and compliance are only as strong as its weakest link. Admittedly, the people component remains a major challenge for the country in our quest to build a sustainable digital nation.

Based on a report by analyst firm Global Data, the digital competency of employees in Malaysia is low – largely because more than 80% of Malaysian enterprises have yet to reach a mature milestone in their respective digital transformation journeys.

There is a need to shift to a higher speed in building up local digital expertise and capabilities. The condition set by the Government that multinational companies (MNCs) must tie-up with local partners bodes well for the country as we encourage the knowledge and technology transfer at a much faster pace.

“We are lucky that Malaysia has a relatively young and tech-savvy population that can be guided to become future-ready. At TM Group, we play our role not only by building a digital workforce within the company but also through our business school at our education arm, Multimedia University (MMU),” said Ahmad Taufek

For example, we had collaborated in the Digital Government Competency and Capability Readiness (DGCCR) Project under the Public Service Department to upskill and reskill the civil service in digital capabilities and competencies. This will enable the civil service in leading the digitalisation efforts of the government towards providing high impact and citizen-centric services,” he further said.

Taking Malaysia’s transformation forward

As technology advances, and our reliance on Cloud technology increases, measures to ensure data protection are continually updated and to address current needs. All organisations in Malaysia’s enterprise and public sectors – are becoming vitally aware of the benefits of a data-driven economy. Together with the community, we are seeing steady public-private-people partnership progress for the nation heading towards 4IR. In tandem with this, growing a future-ready digital talent pool remains paramount.

Reaffirming Cloud computing’s role at the heart of Malaysia’s digital advancement, Ahmad Taufek also emphasised that TM ONE’s strengths include its comprehensive suite of digital solutions to digitally enable both the enterprises and the public sector.

“Not only are we the sole home-based CSP, we are also the only operator with the end-to-end digital infrastructure from Connectivity, Data Centre, Cloud, Cybersecurity and Smart Services. We will continue our national role in supporting the Nation’s digital journey and taking Malaysia’s transformation forward, befitting TM Group’s unique role as the enabler of Digital Malaysia.”

This article was published in The Edge on 15 March 2021.

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