Capacity within a company is arguably one of the three most important things for a company, the others being Management and Sales. Capacity is not just having employees or equipment, but a combination of the team, the equipment, the structure, the access to resources and the management of them.
So I will start off with the one that is often overlooked in this industry and by many companies both in Vietnam and globally, but which gives a major advantage if done correctly, which is IT.
As an example of our compute needs, one project in June 2021 took 88 GB of raw data for 6 scan stations at a high resolution for both point cloud and images. Our largest single project to date took more than 25 TB of storage. This is without considering backups, redundancy and handover. This amount of data requires a substantial amount of storage, processing capacity and network infrastructure.
In a time when our competitors are still using slow and unreliable portable hard drives to move data around, often with no backups, we focused on having the best infrastructure possible and in 2021 we made some major improvements.
So what did we do?
- Internet – Our clients are global, we might have a contract with a Germany company and the data captured in Vietnam is being sent to Bangladesh for processing, as such, connectivity is a key pillar in our IT infrastructure. In 2021, we upgraded to 1 Gbps FTTP Internet Connection with an additional 500 Mbps FTTP Internet backup connection and LTE / 5G backup on top of this. Since we have implemented this, we have had zero downtime and our customers have been impressed with the speed of our delivery.
- Local Network – We have focused on developing the fastest internal network possible, this has included for all servers and network equipment being on a minimum of 2x 10 GbE Fibre connections, with workstations being on a 10 GbE Copper connection. In addition, we have implemented Wi-Fi 6 and WPA3 security at both offices offering multiple Gigabit wireless transfer speeds, improved security and service. On a side note, we have started preparing for our new 100 GbE Core with new 100 GbE Server NICs, testing of RDMA for file transfers and GPU accelerated compute!
- 5G Connectivity – GeoInstinct has been one of the first companies to adopt 5G networks in Vietnam and now all corporate SIM cards are activated for 5G connections, along with VoLTE and IPv6 – this helps us to embrace the benefits of better connectivity and be a leader in the industry. We have already upgraded all of our company phones to 5G compatible models.
Security & Productivity
- Network Management – We have implemented strong computer and network management software, allowing computers to be rapidly patched, updated and secured centrally. This has helped to resolve our concerns about out-of-date devices bringing security holes, significantly improved our risk awareness of devices on the network and also allowed us to develop a software portal where users can install applications from.
- Endpoint Security – Increasingly GeoInstinct is working with clients which have strict requirements about how their data is handled, we have implemented many ways to detect, mitigate and prevent security threats, one of the more notable ones is the use of Windows 11 Enterprise across all computers within the company.
- Data Security – Over the last year, we transitioned to a Zero Trust Security model, this has been a major transition for us, but the result is now clear: smoother user experience, better options for securely transferring data and more insight into our network. We also have setup more network security features including data encryption (both in-transit and at-rest), granular permissions and even Secured-Core features.
- Data Backups – GeoInstinct has long followed the 3-2-1 data backup model (3 copies, 2 locations, 1 bottle of vodka when it all goes wrong!), and we have invested even more into this approach (more vodka!), this has included dedicated server room with specific security and fire suppression features; improved versioning for off-site and offline backups; and workstations not having a lot of local storage, instead with SMB and iSCSI being used to make sure data is correctly stored.
- Age of Computers – We have replaced all computers older than 3 years (desktops) and the average age of our computers is less than 6 months for desktops and ~1 year for workstations. We have implemented lifecycle management on these with retirement ages being laptops (2 years), desktops (3 years) and workstations (5 years). This is to ensure good efficiency and good security.
- Servers – We invested into new servers starting in Q1 2021 upgrading from a weak tower server to rack servers using the latest in AMD Epyc CPUs, giving us a fantastic roadmap for the future and an ability to scale which none of our competitors are even close to.
- Hybrid Cloud – This year marks the first time that our entire infrastructure is a full cloud, this means that we have developed the infrastructure whereby in our case, ~50% of our operations is internal (Private Cloud) and ~50% of our operations is hosted with our service provider (SaaS). This gives us the ability to scale a lot quicker than before and our network architecture is designed to help us take on any project whatever the size. All of our servers are virtualised instances and can be migrated should a server fail, the time to deploy a new server is only minutes and multiple levels of redundancy are built-in.
- Close Relationships – A lot of the time, it is easy to consider a relationship with suppliers as being a 1 way matter, but GeoInstinct works closely with its suppliers, this has included: testing of infrastructure prior to deployment to Vietnam customers, routing and CDN improvements and network path optimisations, these have been directly with NOCs of some of the biggest companies in Vietnam, India and the US. The results have spoken for themselves, latency reduced from seconds to less than 45 ms, improved user experiences and also allowing us to get much faster support for our own issues (compared with a typical customer). We also discovered and reported a critical security vulnerability which was exposing the data of millions of users globally.
Simply put, IT has been of major importance to our growth strategy and we have many things on the roadmap for 2022 onwards. We see this as a key factor to our strategy to develop key customers and have long-term trust that we will keep data safe.
This focus has been noticed by our partners and customers which are increasingly looking to us for guidance and solutions to their computer challenges, we will have more to announce on this in the future.