Both physical and cybersecurity for your network is key to surviving and thriving in the new reality brought on by COVID-19.

While the digital revolution has undoubtedly improved our daily lives and work – from bringing to us vast amounts of information at our very fingertips to communicating easily with co-workers across physical borders – the accelerated digital transformation taking place in response to COVID-19 has demonstrated how quickly the digital economy has descended upon us.

Along with this accelerated digitalization amidst a gloomy economic climate, many organizations in the region have also experienced increased cyber-threats.

Balancing costs, security and business continuity is a major challenge for everyone, especially in uncertain times like ours today. And at the core of this digital challenge is the enterprise network.

Heng Kwee Tong, Head of Engineering and Customer Solutions, SPTel

DigiconAsia connected with Heng Kwee Tong, Head of Engineering and Customer Solutions at SPTel, to discuss how businesses in the region could cope with these challenges, and rise above the storm to weather the expected economic gloom ahead.

With a gloomy economy ahead, especially for the Asia region, the ability to scale and to ensure business continuity has become critical for business survival. What are some key strategies that you believe would work for organizations in Singapore and around the region?

Heng: We are seeing businesses in the region trying to recover from the uncertainty through digitization and digitally transforming their processes and businesses. Cost is seen as a major challenge and businesses are looking at ways of reducing cost and their total cost of ownership.

It is also critical for businesses to be able to respond fast to changing user requirements. This calls for a flexible and scalable network. Businesses need to be flexible in their utilization of technology and think of ‘smarter’ ways of being more productive and efficient.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the rise of the digital economy. How critical has the enterprise network become in this ‘new normal’, and why?

Heng: The pandemic has forced businesses to go digital to remain competitive.

Businesses now need to deal with a hybrid workforce, managing segregated teams and depending on their network for bandwidth heavy applications from video conferencing to collaborative tools. In the area of operations, as businesses move towards e-services, payments and platforms, a resilient network is needed to ensure businesses are able to deal with network spikes without disrupting the customer experience and journey.

This has put the spotlight on the critical role of a business class network that ensures everyone is connected digitally. For every employee working remotely, every consumer using e-commerce for purchases, and every business accepting payments, the network is fundamental to connecting people and addressing their needs.

A business-class network that is resilient and defendable to prevent downtime as well as able to deliver ultra-low latency performance is paramount. No business wants to suffer from downtime due to network issues or cyber-attacks. This can cause major disruptions to businesses’ productivity and is essential for improved responsiveness as an element of superior customer service.

Downtime and security are also a major concern. That is why a defendable network must protect businesses from the ground up on two fronts: physical security for your network and cybersecurity.

What can organizations do to ensure resilience and reliability of their networks, without having to worry about downtime, cost and scalability to meet their growing digital business needs?

Heng: The new normal is going to be about automation and digitalization, with the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more relevant as we tackle manpower and cost issues.

Network resilience is crucial and organizations can start building resilience by choosing a network provider that has:

  • Unique fibre pathways that are physically separate from shared infrastructure.
  • Exchange diversity equipped with a Software-Defined Network that comes with Artificial Intelligence inbuilt to enable self-healing and automatic failover to the next available route to ensure maximum uptime.
  • Physically secure infrastructure that passes through owned properties and progressively being upgraded with smart facility capabilities.
  • Clean pipe network that will alert the user of DDoS attacks and enable proactive mitigation with cyber security pushed via the cloud.

Performance of connected devices, whether for process automation or service improvements will also be critical. That is why, at SPTel, we use a 2-tier network structure to reduce the number of hops data takes to travel from point to point for ultra-low latency performance of <1millisecond across Singapore.

When combined with pervasive edge computing locations, IoT device performance and cost management can be improved.

Edge computing hubs provide an alternative to on-premise and cloud computing, delivering the best of both worlds. With an edge computing resource, you get computing power closer to the source of data for improved responsiveness versus public cloud, without the hefty upfront investment of managing on premise equipment. Cost-effectiveness is further improved when considering multiple site applications.

When we look at cost and scalability in this digital age, traditional networks and contracts suffer from the following pitfalls:

  • Fixed Bandwidth – Customers must cater for extra headroom for network usage fluctuations. When not utilized, this excess capacity and expense is wasted.
  • Long lead time for bandwidth upgrades – Can take as long as a few weeks and may require you to sign on for a new contract term.

With network traffic fluctuations becoming increasingly unpredictable with increased digitalization, organizations need to have the option of managing their cost using a pay as you use model. Enterprises will then have the flexibility to control their cost and bandwidth as well as the ability to scale their business effectively.

What is SPTel’s solution to the above challenges to digital transactions, collaboration and communication, and business continuity?

Heng: In order to address these challenges, organizations need to think about modernizing their network with close attention to the following considerations: 

  • A reliable, resilient and business class network. A secure and protected network, reducing the risk of unexpected service disruptions caused by third-party activities, minimizing operational downtime and providing confidence that it will stay up and running smoothly at all times.
  • Delivering ultra-low latency performance for improved device responsiveness on a 2-tier network with edge cloud computing. A network that can provide ultra-low latency performance by reducing the number of hops needed for data to travel for a more responsive network. This coupled with Edge cloud computing, can improve application performance and the user experience of the IoT solutions deployed by companies, especially those that require efficient real-time responses.
  • Managing the total cost of ownership – by providing greater flexibility in how you plan for your network. Businesses need to be empowered with the option to cater for their day to day and scaling their network as needed, businesses no longer need to cater for extra headroom that may go underutilized. This will give businesses the edge in terms of managing their costs as well as assuring them of optimum performance at all times as they will have the option to scale up for unexpected surges as well.