As the Head of Information Technology at Balmain, the region’s leading non-bank commercial loan manager, Vik Sharma has a lot on his mind as he steers the company through a period of IT transformation. Keenly aware of how technology is impacting business models and strategy, Vik discusses how Balmain’s data centre strategy is helping them gain maximum value from the company’s IT investments.

In-house or outsourced solutions?

Balmain requires increasingly more efficiency from their IT service so they have been developing new strategies to overcome storage and scalability issues in order to free-up internal IT resources and concentrate on business product creativity and innovation.

Vik reveals that one of the ways they have achieved efficiency is to outsource their infrastructure to colocation facilities; shifting the responsibility to people who are experts in managing data centres and reducing the overhead costs and stress of managing an in-house facility.

"[We benefit from] the redundancy and high availability of the data centre, which would otherwise cost Balmain a lot of money, time and effort to implement and maintain."

Partnerships, not relationships

With responsibility for a sizeable IT budget, Vik is clear on what businesses like Balmain want from their IT service providers. He focusses on building partnerships rather than business relationships. He expects great customer service from a pro-active account manager, as well as competitive rates, quotes and pricing, but he places high value on the honesty and reliability of the vendor, the ease-of-use of their service, and ongoing enhancements and improvements to those services.

When selecting their colocation partner, Vik looked for proximity of the data centre facilities to their office locations and 24/7 access. He also wanted features such as [remote] monitoring and redundant infrastructure for power, cooling and connectivity. High availability was essential, as was energy-efficiency.

Weighing the pros and cons of hybrid cloud

One important factor in data centre selection was the ability for Balmain to connect seamlessly to external services such as their cloud providers and telecommunications networks, and develop hybrid cloud solutions.

Vik believes that hybrid cloud would be the best solution for most businesses today, although they have to consider their unique business needs to find the right hybrid solution, in the same manner they would weigh up the pros and cons for private, public or community cloud services.

Hybrid cloud can provide a back-up, DR and scalability solution to most existing inhouse systems, says Vik. The majority of solution providers already provide a mix of private and public cloud, so hybrid cloud is easy to achieve.

Support for mission-critical services

Telstra is Balmain’s major IT service provider, suppling phone services, a managed WAN, as well as cloud-based e-mail replication and firewall management. It was Telstra’s partnership and experience with NEXTDC that led to Balmain’s cloud services being hosted at NEXTDC’s S1 Sydney data centre.

Balmain also hosts some client-facing systems, their DR and backup at NEXTDC S1 along with continuous replication of data and virtual machines. This enables Balmain to have a warm backup site, ready to go live in the event of a disaster or if any of the branch office sites are down.

The next stage of Balmain’s transformation is pursuing mobile and web-based applications for its staff and customers. Utilising NEXTDC and their direct connectivity to Microsoft Azure and Office365 through ExpressRoute, Balmain is looking to leverage the capacity and scalability of these applications off-site and release the resources at HQ and branch offices to service mission critical business objectives.


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