Among the many lessons driven home by the pandemic, has been the value – in fact necessity – of agility. It is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s now a business imperative in a world where changes are coming faster than ever before – and more abruptly too as new restrictions and plans are introduced to grapple with Covid.
Edgar Lun Pum, DirectAsia Infrastructure and Solution Manager says the Singapore-based insurance services company’s IT infrastructure was an old, on-premise design back in 2019.
The company, an offshoot of London Stock Exchange specialist insurancegroup Hiscox, launched in Singapore in 2010 with a goal of changing the face of insurance in Asia by offering customers quick, convenient, jargon-free online travel, car and home insurance and providing direct access to enable them to manage their policies.
Back in 2019, DirectAsia’s IT infrastructure was, in Edgar’s words, ‘too traditional’. “We had about 185 servers – which is a lot for a small setup.” Most of the servers were virtual machines, with around 40 physical servers.
Some of the legacy on-premises Windows servers, including Microsoft Exchange 201x servers, were nearing end of life, and there was a complex array of legacy licensing.
“Over the last three years we have been revamping the company to make it more agile and more approachable to customers and we need technology to help us with that,” Edgar says.
He wanted technology which would be more agile, easier and faster to redeploy enabling DirectAsia itself, to be all those things. For DirectAsia, as for many companies, that means a hybrid platform combining both cloud services with some on-premise servers.
Edgar called on Insight’s services, in what was the start of an ongoing partnership and a critical part of the company’s digital transformation to cloud.
With Insight’s help, DirectAsia deployed resources into Microsoft Azure, using Active Directory on cloud to help eliminate costly server purchases.
Insight helped DirectAsia get Microsoft credits, enabling the company to deploy resources in Azure for the first couple of months to test the water, before diving in fully.
A move to Office 365 including Teams and SharePoint for collaboration andWord, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote for productivity, quickly followed. The old Microsoft Exchange Servers were decommissioned, and mailboxes moved to Office 365 Outlook.
It wasn’t just the technology though, with license consultation a critical part of the project.
Edgar says the move to cloud and Office 365 has been ‘brilliant’ for DirectAsia’s staff.
With Covid forcing staff to work from home, technology like Office 365 and Dynamics 365, which has since been deployed along with other SaaS products, have enabled DirectAsia’s teams to remain efficient and effective no matter where they’re working.
“Nowadays, this approach is very welcome for most of the staff and department managers, and they prefer to have the hybrid environment where some come into the office, some work at home – wherever they feel they are more effective.”
But perhaps above all else, the company now has the agility it was seeking. Edgar says it is launching new pure-cloud offerings, including customer portals currently in quality assurance and user acceptance testing, which will enable the company to remove another five or six physical servers from its datacenter.
The move to cloud has reduced the maintenance fees as well as removing the cost of hardware upgrades.
DirectAsia is now embarking on further projects as it continues its digital transformation. First up is enabling Enterprise Voice in Microsoft Teams which will be deployed across Singapore and Thailand.
“If we are deploying a new website, for example, with the new services we can do it in a matter of hours, rather than weeks, because it’s in cloud.”
He notes Insight is ‘more of a business partner than a sales partner’.
“They have the knowledge and the services offering to back up the products, and we really appreciate their collaboration because it helps us balance the process of learning the technology, while getting advice from them as well.
“They’ve been vital in helping us with decision making and guiding us, and they’ve been very proactive in arranging product presentations from vendors or partners and following up everything,” Edgar says.
Edgar is open that DirectAsia, like any company, wants to be efficient with its money and carefully analyses and compares options before making any technology decisions, comparing several vendors and options before selecting the best.