Expert Interview Series: Tadas Plonis of IBB China on File-Sharing Challenges for Businesses in China
by Michael Fiorenza on March 1, 2017
Tadas Plonis is a Head of Marketing at IBB China, where he oversees the company's Digital Strategy and works on bringing new types of Cloud Storage that businesses in China can rely on.
We recently asked Tadas for his insight on file-sharing in China and the challenges businesses face. Here's what he shared:
Tell us about the mission behind IBB China. How are you hoping to impact the tech industry? IBB China has been in China for more than 20 years, but IT challenges have never been as evident as they are today. Our mission is to provide communication and cloud alternatives for international businesses so they can actually work and communicate globally as we all are used to.
Why is IT in China complicated? What are the common frustrations businesses face with their IT when doing business in China? Just recently, China announced that VPN services would be illegal in China and services such as Google and Facebook have been blocked by the Great China Firewall since 2009. Lots of companies are frustrated when it comes to International communication: sharing files, video conferencing or even receiving emails from providers like Gmail. Some services are working, but so slow it just drives people crazy.
How have these frustrations/challenges evolved? How is IT changing in China? Recently we have been seeing that censorship and control on the internet is increasing. Just recently they cracked down on the biggest cloud providers, including Qihoo 360 and Tencent. Lots of things we do like video conferencing via Google Hangouts or Skype are not working in China, making the cloud environment very different than it is in the West.
What are some of the specific challenges with file sharing in China? How do you help clients overcome these challenges? Big providers like Dropbox, Google Drive and Onedrive are simply blocked and not accessible in China. There are, or I should say "were," many Chinese providers, but none of them focused on the English-speaking market, making their software available only in Chinese and very slow from outside of China.
At IBB we have been very lucky to have very good network engineers, who are constantly finding ways to get across the Great Firewall and optimize the speed of our cloud. Just recently we had to move a whole database to another country so it keeps working as it should.
Actually, there is a lot of work in the background that our clients do not see or feel. It's a constant challenge, but also the fact that we are not a huge and well-known company from the Silicon Valley helps to stay under the radar.
What are some best practices for file sharing with Chinese colleagues? Well it really depends on the location and company's security policy. For instance, we obviously use our Seafile Cloud for file sharing. That's actually how we came up with the idea to offer our own system to the public, because we saw how everyone was complaining about file sharing difficulties between China and abroad, meanwhile, for us it was a piece of cake. But most Chinese who need to share files within China tend to use chat services like qq or WeChat.
What do businesses need to know about IT security when working in or with China? How should they approach their security strategy? Like I mentioned, many Chinese employees between each other will use services like qq and WeChat for internal communication. But these Internet giants are the eyes and ears of the China's censorship machine. Companies should not allow employees to use these channels for more sensitive information. Some time ago we wrote an article about the 6 most common mistakes SMB's make that lead to Intellectual Property loss in China.
Many businesses are either very loose on IT security or very strict. This, of course, depends on awareness and IT budget. But the shortest and simplest advice would be to take security seriously - especially in China where you can see IP theft examples every day.
Once we had a customer who came to us after being hacked through their VoIP system. Just the lack of secure passwords on the system cost millions over one night. There was nothing we could do and eventually that company had to close down and leave China. We have many other cases where past employees stole data, sold it to competitors or even blackmailed companies if they didn't get paid ridiculous amounts of money.
It's not necessary to allocate a large budget for security, but it should at least be managed by a third party that knows where the dangers are and prevent disasters before they happen.
What are must-have tools or resources businesses should be using to navigate IT in China (aside from ibbchina.com, of course)? It really depends on the scope and the nature of the business. For bigger companies that have to use their big systems like SAP or other ERP systems from back in the U.S. or the E.U., they must use MPLS lines, which is a physical internet line to Europe. There is no way around it and it might be quite costly.
For smaller businesses that have to use cloud services to access Google tools, Facebook, Gmail, Slack or even YouTube - you must have a reliable VPN provider. Even Microsoft is operating under the Chinese company 21 vianet and 70 percent of their services such as email encryption are not even available unless you use the outside version.
For marketing and sales, companies have to learn and master new platforms like WeChat and Taobao to do eCommerce sales. For significant brand awareness they have to know how to go around Weibo or get some unheard live streaming app KOL's.
What trends or headlines are you following in the world of Chinese IT today? Why do they interest you? These days we are closely following any legal changes in Cloud Censorship and VPN. It seems like China might evolve into a country where Public Cloud might not be as huge a thing as it is in the West. We also see huge potential for Hybrid Cloud adoption as the only feasible option for businesses in China.
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