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HongKongEcho: Up in the clouds

“Data is the new oil,” says Luc Moulin, CEO of Linkbynet. Moving to the cloud, he explains, is essential if you want to refine the way you use today’s hottest commodity.


Only a handful of years ago, most of us could be forgiven for thinking ‘cloud strategy’ was the first line of defence for an incoming typhoon. Today, cloud computing has become a catch-all term tipped to revolutionise the way we store data and – ultimately – the way we work.

Luc Moulin puts it into more practical terms. “Companies are shifting to a pay-as-you go model, instead of investing up-front in capital that may or may not be used.” The Asia Pacific CEO of IT transformation specialists Linkbynet says this shift from a ‘CapEx’ to an ‘OpEx’ model is only part of the attraction for moving a company’s operations to the cloud.

Recently acquired by professional services powerhouse Accenture, the French technology firm runs its APAC headquarters from Central in Hong Kong. “Basically, we help companies to transform, secure, modernise, and manage their IT infrastructure,” he says. Most of his 250 employees are based in Vietnam, where the bulk of their physical cloud operations are located, while outposts in Shanghai and Singapore round up their Asia Pacific presence.



New ways of working


The COVID-19 pandemic is an obvious conversation starter in any industry, but that’s particularly true for those selling the virtues of virtual solutions.

“Without a doubt the pandemic has highlighted the need for more agility, more security, and more digitalised business processes. All of which the cloud is able to deliver,” he says. As millions across the globe swapped office desks for home dining table, remote access to company data – and programs – became an almost overnight priority for companies of all sizes.

“Any move to the cloud represents an opportunity to rethink the way an organisation works,” explains Moulin, who says companies have traditionally invested in on-premises data storage or in costly off-site data centres. “Shifting to the cloud is not just about where your data is stored, it also opens you up to a suite of new applications which affect the way your organisation works.”

In Asia Pacific, the enthusiasm is reflected in a projected 29% spike in spending on public cloud services (which includes the regular suspects: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Alibaba Cloud, among others) year-on-year in 2021 according to the International Data Centre (IDC), a market intelligence firm.



From security to green gigabytes


But it’s security, Moulin says, where the biggest benefits can be reaped. “There is a tendency to think that keeping your data on site, in your own locker so to speak, is the safest option. The reality is quite the opposite. Today you have the biggest tech firms in the world investing in the security of their cloud products, which is not to say that they are perfect. But if Microsoft isn’t safe, then who is?”

By their very nature, cloud-based services are able to be patched easily to counter any newly-discovered vulnerabilities, while the Cloud providers’ security services offered on cloud storage make it easier to detect and isolate threats.

“SMEs in particular are vulnerable, precisely because many of them operate on outdated systems,” he says. Cybersecurity has come into even sharper focus as organisations embrace working-from-home practices, with sensitive data needed to be accessed outside the walls of the companies, exposing them to various kind of attacks.

Hong Kong still has some catching up to do. Moulin pinpoints financial services, a major pillar of the city’s economy, as one industry that has been slow on the uptake. “There is a lot of caution as it’s a highly regulated industry. Many have weighed up the costs and have deemed it too troublesome.”

Technical skills and a human resources shortage can be a hurdle too, notably for smaller organisations. “If you don’t have someone in your team who has the right cloud expertise, then it’s unlikely you will want to make that transition,” he says.

For Linkbynet’s clients, who tend to be international corporations with a global footprint, geographical considerations must be taken into account. “There is no such thing as one worldwide cloud,” he adds.

In particular, the introduction of a new data privacy law implemented in mainland China from 1 September 2021 is further evidence of the need for a tailored strategy for companies operating within the mega market. In short, the law restricts cross-border data flows and enforces data localisation, making it harder for Chinese data to find its way overseas.

As for environmental concerns, Moulin says clients are increasingly interested in a cleaner cloud. Although not uniquely operated for cloud purposes, data centres account for around 15% of the IT sector’s global digital footprint according to The Shift Project, a French think-tank. “At the end of the day, we’re still talking about machines. Corporations are under the spotlight and they want better visibility on the impact their cloud operations have on the environment. Knowing that being greener often goes with consuming smarter, the calls will only grow louder.”