DURING the dotcom boom, ZONE Telecom (ZONE) gave the local telco giants a run for their money when it introduced its innovative ZONE 1511 overseas calling service. ZONE took advantage of the Internet to provide services in real time. Today, ZONE has not only maintained its profitable voice business but has become a full service info-communications provider in its own right.
It is both an Internet service provider (ISP) and cloud solutions provider (CSP) focused on providing small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a one-stop service for all their business connectivity and solutions needs. ZONE provides high-quality voice, ultra-performance fibre broadband, secured data connectivity, robust hosting and scalable cloud services.
"We aim to be relevant to our customers," says ZONE managing director Peter Ong. "We understand what our customers need, what they want and we constantly enhance our service offerings and tailor our services to help them with their needs."
What distinguishes the firm from its rivals is its focus on serving its customers well, he says. "The moment you incorporate a company, we can give you a domain name for your e-mail and a website. We provide you a contact number and link it to your smartphone so that your customers can start to reach you. So in a flash, we offer you a complete solution for your business needs."
Bringing SMEs to cloud nine
What holds the most promise is ZONE's new cloud computing offerings, he says. In 2012, ZONE acquired a hosting business, established Cybersite Services Pte Ltd, and entered the cloud business. "When companies adopt cloud solutions, the Internet is a critical component. As we provide Internet connectivity, we will be most able to provide SMEs end-to-end solutions to connect them from their office to their cloud services for the best performance," says Mr Ong.
Cloud computing refers to a new business model where customers pay monthly fees for using computer resources and business applications like payroll, sales or accounting software hosted on the Web by a third party. This is contrasted to buying computer servers and business software licenses which may run into tens of thousands of dollars, on top of hiring IT professionals to maintain the infrastructure. With Cybersite as part of the ZONE family, substantial investment into its infrastructure has been put in to better serve its customers, Mr Ong says.
This April, ZONE became an authorised partner of Microsoft and Alibaba Cloud, bringing wider direct access to business and productivity-related cloud applications offered by the two giants. "Today, ZONE and Cybersite offer the most comprehensive cloud hosting and communication service that's second to none in the hosting industry, giving it the edge to provide a truly one-stop solution for businesses to kick-start their online presence."
Matching service offerings to SME needs
As an SME, ZONE understands SME needs and is the best position to help them, Mr Ong says. "We have transformed and adapted to the rapid technological changes and ever-changing customer needs. Thus, we are in the best position to help SMEs manage the technological needs and gain a competitive edge while they focus on their core capabilities," Mr Ong says.
ZONE has done well because its business philosophy focuses on serving businesses, business requirements and building long-term partnerships. It sees itself as a solution partner rather than a provider.
For example, at the request of a customer, ZONE built an application to prevent unauthorised or fraudulent IDD calls to overseas destinations. "The 'blacklist' or 'whitelist' functions to disable or enable calls to certain destinations have since become one of ZONE's most popular value-added services," he says.
Businesses also require a higher grade of voice and Internet connectivity, which ZONE provides. This is superior to the mass market standards which telcos provide consumers for home and entertainment use, Mr Ong says. ZONE's broadband services offer a "mission-critical" grade of connectivity that guarantees lower packet loss, as well as lower jitter and latency levels. ZONE is able to do so because it optimises the routes taken through various carriers to get to the customer's required destinations around the world.
SMEs also tend not to have the technical knowledge on connectivity and IT-related deployment. Here, ZONE comes in. "We're saying, if you need computing resources, why buy a server? It will cost S$4,000 to S$5,000, and takes weeks to be delivered. And you need to install it in an air-conditioned, dust-free server room. Instead, you go to our website, select a Virtual Private Server (VPS) that meets your needs, click, and immediately you have the computing resource on the cloud, which is fully reliable and does not go down," Mr Ong says. Looking ahead, being a cloud solution provider is exciting because ZONE's business is no longer restricted to just Singapore. ZONE has customers in Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, even in as far as South Africa. In the next four to five years, ZONE will focus on expanding its business into the region, taking advantage of the potential growth of cloud services where adoption rate is still slow.
It will keep on putting customers first, investing in the latest state-of-the-art infrastructure, while tailoring cost-effective solutions to the entire spectrum of their connectivity needs. "We provide solutions to meet any company's essential info-communication needs. These are basic utilities. And with our partnership with Microsoft and Alibaba Cloud, we are well positioned to serve all our customers, SMEs or even large enterprises. When our customers expand overseas, our cloud services will allow them to set up these essential services very quickly," says Mr Ong.
Behind the success of this business philosophy is having experienced and loyal employees, where almost half have been with the company for more than 10 years. They remain steadfast in executing their duties and are committed to go the extra mile to help customers with their personalised needs, Mr Ong says with pride. "I am very fortunate to have a team of dedicated staff who are always prepared to live up to our motto of 'We Give You More' to ensure that our customers are well served."