Online technology services help aspiring SMEs enter the big leagues
The right technology is important for any business to leapfrog its competition and boost productivity and innovation. However, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have traditionally been limited in their ability to access the right systems – mainly due to high technology costs, lack of IT support, and changing usage models.
All this has changed with Software as a Service (SaaS) – also known as cloud computing. SaaS lets SMEs access business applications over the Internet, as and when they need it. These applications and data are hosted from the service provider’s data centre, meaning that SMEs incur zero upfront investment costs, with access to advanced IT services on a subscription basis.
Many consumers are familiar with hosted, online email services, one of the earlier forms of SaaS. This model has since been extended to the delivery of robust business applications including secure and reliable accounting, web content management, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. And with fibre broadband connectivity, various kinds of applications are now readily accessible to businesses. With the number of SMEs in Singapore at around 154,000 (about 99 per cent of all companies in Singapore), adopting a SaaS model can greatly improve their potential for growth.
Faced with this attractive option, local logistics provider – THT Logistics Pte Ltd – decided to adopt SingTel ONEOffice: an all-in-one business SaaS productivity solution, powered by Google that provides email, calendaring, real-time file sharing, eSMS, and eFax capabilities. This has allowed the company to improve its staff productivity and boost team collaboration.
Affordable IT for the next lap
Previously limited by access to technology, THT Logistics jumped on the chance to adopt a game-changing technology tool. “With ONEOffice, our sales team, administrative support, and operations crew are able to save time and become more effective and productive in their daily work process,” said Mr. Marcus Chang, Managing Director of THT Logistics.
“Compared to an onsite IT deployment, this one-stop service helps us fulfill our communication and collaboration requirements without worrying about ongoing maintenance and software updates. This saves us time from having to deal with different systems and vendors,” said Mr. Marcus Chang. This was not always the case. “In the past, we had to deploy multiple standalone software from various IT companies and this also involved dedicated IT staff who had to troubleshoot issues and maintain the system.”
According to Mr. Bill Chang, Executive Vice President of SingTel’s Business Group, this service allows companies to save up to 91 per cent of IT costs, reducing their large capital expenditure in new IT systems and ongoing maintenance. It also increases business agility by enabling SMEs to focus on their core businesses.
THT Logistics switched to ONEOffice in September 2010. Before adoption, the company had a long laundry list of requirements that included utmost reliability, good technical support, and sound crisis management in the event of a disaster; and the company felt that SingTel, with its well-established and trusted reputation, could effectively address these requirements.
An office on the go
ONEOffice gives businesses a comprehensive suite of applications to connect and collaborate online including website management, email, file sharing, calendaring, and survey form generation. As users can access the service from any Internet-connected location, they now have up to 25GB of email storage per user as well as secure file sharing capabilities from almost anywhere, proving to be a great boon for THT Logistics.
To meet its customer expectations, the company must ensure operations are efficient and effective, while it supports a wide variety of logistics activities from warehousing, storage and inventory management, and international freight management.
“Using a hosted service, we can enable rapid communications. For example our sales and marketing team is now able to very quickly execute its marketing plan. From designing forms, websites, and marketing flyers, the team can immediately get feedback and make changes with access to common files from anywhere and at anytime,” said Mr. Marcus Chang.
Secure as an SME should be
Although the notion of hosted software is not new, it is only recently that SaaS adoption started picking up. Findings from an August 2010 Springboard study of 74 companies in Singapore show that 55 per cent of respondents indicated they were currently on the cloud or had plans to do so. However, some SMEs are hesitant because they are unsure if information passing through the cloud is secure.
With Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology, many providers say it is difficult for data in the cloud to be intercepted as the technology ensures secure communications for web browsing, email, instant messaging, and other data transfers.
Customer information stored in the cloud is also more robust. According to Mr. Bill Chang, this is because data is replicated across multiple servers for redundancy − something that may be too costly for SMEs to implement within themselves. In the event of a disaster, the same information can be recovered from a mirrored site almost seamlessly − thus ensuring better uptime for businesses.
With a robust, hosted IT service, SMEs no longer have to worry about managing backup systems. Instead, they can focus on their core activities to boost their market performance and move up the business value chain.