While we are still grappling with many uncertainties in businesses and lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear – organizations large and small have crossed the Cloud Rubicon. Retail brands with purely physical play have moved online to keep up with the digital consumer, and F&B stalls and hawkers are embracing online channels to maintain their already razor-thin margins. 

In Singapore alone, Alibaba Cloud registered a 50 percent surge in demand for Cloud-based technologies at the height of the pandemic. In our increasingly digital world, it will only become more critical for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to keep their momentum going into hybrid cloud to recover and grow.

Why not both?

Beyond the immediate concern to continue business-as-usual with a remote workforce, SMEs now have focused on enhancing their employees’ digital experience. Hybrid cloud is a major building block in these digital infrastructures and IT decision makers (ITDMs) are quickly realizing this, with nearly three quarters (71%) of ITDMs in a recent survey saying they want to move more IT functions to the cloud and two-thirds hoping to accomplish this within the next 12 months.

We discuss the future of cloud in Southeast Asia with Versent Asia

On top of providing staff with the necessary digital tools to access company apps and services outside of the office’s network, Southeast Asian SMEs have to strategize how to deploy business-critical information to make timely decisions, manage supply chains and serve the changing needs of customers. Underlying this is security, with 57 percent of respondents highlighting this as their top concern when choosing a cloud vendor, according to Alibaba Cloud’s findings.

As a single, central touchpoint to manage data how and where they want it, hybrid cloud allows SMEs to house and scale their workloads based on compliance, policy, and security requirement and replicate business-critical data to the cloud. This not only helps them backup key data but also accommodate fluctuating computing demands – whether to meet surging workload in online platforms or maintain a seamless and secure digital employee experience.

Keeping costs low

Keeping overheads low is always a priority for SMEs in Southeast Asia in a pre and post-pandemic world. Requiring lower capital expenditure upfront, but arming SMEs with the option of buying IT resources when they need to, hybrid cloud keeps SMEs nimble and responsive while dancing around roadblocks that they cannot just stride over like bigger companies can. An IDC study notes that organizations reported a 69 percent lower migration cost in hybrid cloud compared to the public cloud from its ability to consume resources on-demand and when needed. 

Where scalability and performance may come at the expense of higher capital and operating expenditures in other cloud models, hybrid cloud is the best option to protect and preserve SMEs’ bottom lines, while providing the flexibility to migrate data and apps at any given time.

Establishing certainty in business

Modernizing and moving legacy, monolith systems can be a major roadblock in any SME’s cloud journey. Yet another key advantage of the hybrid cloud approach is that it saves time and resources needed to adapt to new architectures and frameworks. With hybrid cloud models that are capable of seamlessly integrating local software to public cloud, enterprises can enjoy the advantages of public cloud without rearchitecting their familiar on-premise work environment and succumbing to disruptions on network and security. 

For SMEs embarking and pivoting their journeys – instead of building another layer of complexity to slow down their transition – the jump to hybrid cloud should be as speedy and as painless as possible. This is particularly critical as going online becomes a make or break situation. 

As employees adapt to new efficiencies in remote working, hybrid cloud fundamentally protects their time in having to cope with IT changes or even learn a new digital workspace system from scratch. This also gives employees a peace of mind in not having to struggle with yet another uncertainty, resulting in a happier and more productive workforce.

The perfect union

At the end of the day, Southeast Asian SMEs not only need a hybrid cloud infrastructure but also a proper hybrid cloud strategy to truly recover and grow – one that can deliver high performance, secure cloud workloads, provide consistent operations and access to vibrant business ecosystems like that of Equinix’s, and to support business innovation and growth without the worry of costs and an incompatible existing infrastructure.

SMEs should also understand that businesses are on their own personal cloud journeys and no journey is identical. They need to select the right public cloud service provider that is able to bridge their business operation needs, without sacrificing security.

As SMEs bound forward towards an increasingly digital world, they should look to hybrid cloud to protect their business-critical applications, reduce operational expenses while seamlessly ensuring a smooth working experience for employees at home or at the office. 

Contributed by By Lancelot Guo, President, Ecosystem and Sales Operations, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence and Michael Tsang, Senior Director, Partner Account Management, Equinix Asia-Pacific

About the authors

Lancelot Guo (L) and Michael Tsang (R)

Lancelot Guo is a VP of Alibaba Group, currently leading the sales management and ecosystem services for Alibaba Cloud. In this role, Lancelot is responsible for developing enterprise-level capabilities that integrate Alibaba Cloud’s technologies to enable the digital transformation of government and enterprises.

Prior to Alibaba, he was the VP of Strategy for IBM Greater China and VP for Waston Health BU in the Greater China region. He led IBM China’s business transformation programs to bring cloud, AI and blockchain technologies to the China market. Previously Lancelot was a senior partner in the IBM GBS business responsible for telecommunication, media, energy and utility sectors. He has successfully completed a number of major transformational business and technical programs for his clients.

Before IBM, Lancelot worked at Accenture, Portal Software, and Microsoft in the US, Japan, and China.

Lancelot graduated from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and holds a Master Degree on Computer Networking, Bachelor Degree on Computer Science, and Bachelor Degree on Industry Management.

Michael Tsang is Senior Director of Partner Account Management at Equinix Asia-Pacific. He joined Equinix in 2019 and is currently responsible for partner programs in the region, working with key partners to deliver value-added solutions to help businesses achieve success in their digital journey. Michael brings more than 20 years of ICT experience at leading technology companies, including Alibaba Cloud, Microsoft and Hulu.