The main reason why IBM is still a huge player in the IT space is that it’s transitioned several times over the years: from mainframe manufacturer to desktop PCs, and latterly, to an open-source services company that leverages the considerable capabilities it has at hand from its one-time acquisition, Red Hat.
Companies like IBM that aren’t afraid to shift and pivot that respond to changing conditions in their market and in the world at large are the successful ones. A similar more local case is Interactive, the Australian company we featured on the Tech Means Business podcast.
Interactive has always been the go-to player for technology solutions, including business continuity, APRA-compliant services, and disaster recovery for many thousands of companies in the APAC. But it was the COVID pandemic that led to the company’s recent move into secure, serviced office provision. It’s not a common-or-garden variety commercial landlord, renting meeting rooms and draughty communal spaces to roving freelancers. Instead, it’s offering facilities directly related to its APRA compliant data centre capabilities, giving financial services companies (or any security-conscious organisation) the capability to split their staff into more localised locations while retaining the cast-iron security and best standards necessary in this highly regulated vertical.
We spoke to Brett Wilson, Chief Operating Officer Infrastructure & Risk at Interactive, about the company’s new take on providing for its customers. He told us: “Being a business continuity solutions provider means that we’ve got a unique lens on the delivery of [IT] services. We reduce risk effectively which is very much complemented by the data centre service we offer.”
Ask most serviced office providers if they can host fault-resilient, highly encrypted servers on-site, and blank looks is likely all you’ll get. But Interactive’s customers have always used the company for its expertise in technology, and the provision of physical space equipped to specialist standards is the next logical step. That includes dedicated data feeds, encryption capabilities, physical security, and data centre quality provisioning. The quality extends to the basics, too: “Every single desktop in our facility sits behind a UPS [uninterruptible power supply] and diesel generator, so that power resiliency of the site comes in addition to the security,” Brett said.
Most companies now go out of their way to ensure data security, continuity, and resilience, but the government mandates these in the financial sector. Companies in the vertical operate under APRA strictures, which, for non-Aussie readers, refers to the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority. The quango regulates financial, deposit-taking institutions – that is, any company that’s a custodian of the public’s money.
In practical terms, APRA compliance translates to a whole list of obligations regarding information and physical security, system redundancy, and resilience in the IT systems used to do business. Non-compliance ends up with financial institutions losing their license to trade.
While Interactive can’t coach companies through their individual compliance application procedures, they can lend considerable experience to key personnel to ensure internal procedures and operations are on course. “Moreover, we end up helping our customers. [The] less experienced risk managers really do lean on Interactive’s expertise from having done this thousands of times with many, many customers,” Brett said.
Without getting into the weeds of acronyms, companies must aim for APRA’s accepted level of ‘sound practice’. With regards to digital information, CPS 232 and CPS 234 [PDFs] (Business Continuity Management and Information Security, respectively).
Brett told us that Interactive’s aim is “to be a part of our customers’ accreditation process. So, it’s about our facilities being a compliant part of their complete solution.”
For general ease of use of its data centre facilities, remote office provisioning, secure IT, and governance adherence, and what are actually very specialist requirements and services, Interactive offers simplicity. Brett told us, “It’s about aggregating all the aspects required to stand up a second office for staff. That relates to leases, to our furniture, […] to the technology, to power cabling and all the niceties of video conferencing and meeting rooms and breakout areas and facilities and amenities. We turn all that complexity into a single monthly service fee that has flexibility.”
In highly regulated industries, every aspect of digital interaction is considered a potential place to compromise security and resilience. That situation isn’t particularly compatible with home working, where professionals have to share networks with – for instance – teenagers’ BitTorrent-ing, kids downloading pirated games and bandwidth needed by VPNs eaten up by streaming media.
“You have staff performing regulated functions and these aren’t jobs that can be done around the kitchen table with children running around,” Brett told us. “We’re talking about institutions transferring billion dollars of superannuation fees in a single transaction and that type of requirement necessitates a regulated and controlled environment, [one] with secure access and identity management so that we know we can report on and track who was literally in the room at the time of the transaction.”
Helping companies transition from home or remote working back to offices that may be closer, smaller, cheaper, yet still compliant is all in a day’s work.
“Over the years of providing business continuity services to this customer base [the financial services industry], you go through thousands and thousands of audits and each time there’s a new audit and a new auditor, they identify opportunities for improvement. Our service just hones and improves over time.”
The list of adjectives describing Interactive’s office spaces also includes luxurious. One client allegedly told Brett that his new office space is “like being at a resort, except I have to work.”
For some commercial landlords, luxury is the sole USP. In Interactive’s spaces, it’s an add-on. The real core of the offering is APRA-compliant levels of security, connectivity, and resilience. Although those features are in the background, they need to be at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds as the company begins to get back into the workplace.
To learn more about Interactive’s unique offerings, get in touch with a representative from the company to talk through your options.