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Malaysia’s Supahands finds agility with the cloud

Regional workforce crowdsourcing startup relies on the cloud to keep its infrastructure agile enough to scale up and down, according to customer demand

As a startup company that was born in the cloud, Malaysia-based Supahands took to cloud computing like a duck to water.

Originally conceived in 2014 as a virtual assistant app targeted at consumers, the workforce crowdsourcing platform is now used by companies in diverse industries to recruit remote workers known as “SupaAgents” for tasks such as moderating user-generated content and training keyword-tagging algorithms in machine-learning applications.

In many cases, the platform has helped companies save hundreds of hours a month, freeing up time for organisations to focus on core activities and innovation projects.

Today, Supahands boasts more than 2,000 remote agents in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. In 2016, it decided to focus on serving companies rather than consumers, according to Greg Meehan, head of sales at Supahands.

Supahands’ cloud journey started with using Heroku, a cloud application platform acquired by Salesforce.com in 2011, to power its service. “Our developers found it to be too rigid and was not flexible enough for us to scale cost-effectively,” said Meehan.

It did not take too long before Supahands decided to turn to Amazon Web Services (AWS), which helped it maintain a high level of availability. “We manage a lot of remote agents, so resilience is key for us,” said Meehan. “We use Amazon Elastic Container Service to decouple our microservices, so that any failed instances won’t affect the entire infrastructure.”

And because the traffic to Supahands’ platform is erratic, Meehan said the company’s infrastructure has to be agile enough to scale up and down accordingly, on a per-pay-use basis. For that, it leverages Amazon’s load balancing and auto-scaling capabilities.

“Cloud computing enables startups like Supahands to operate without having to worry about exorbitant fixed costs from setting up an on-premise system,” he said. “To put it simply, if we were to compare the costs of on-premise versus cloud, we have saved around 95% in IT investment. Without a doubt, the cloud has made our business viable.”

As a cloud-first startup, Supahands already had the skills to take advantage of cloud technologies from the outset. Still, Meehan revealed that his development team has benefited from the expertise at AWS, which has provided advice on systems architecture through white-boarding sessions.

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Moving forward, Supahands is exploring the use of machine learning to enhance its services, following the development of an artificial intelligence-based recommendation engine that automatically matches remote agents with tasks based on user ratings and other criteria.

Citing security reasons, Meehan declined to reveal which AWS region and availability zone Supahands is using to host its data. In Southeast Asia, AWS recently opened its third availability zone in Singapore, underscoring the region’s growing appetite for cloud infrastructure services.

Nick Walton, managing director of AWS in Southeast Asia, said the new availability zone is a response to demand from local customers and partners.

“For many years, an enthusiastic base of customers across Southeast Asia have chosen to build their businesses on AWS because it offers more functionality than other cloud platforms, including a wide array of database, internet of things and machine learning technologies,” he said.

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