Reaping the opportunities of the World Cup from your own backyard

This is a contributed post by Natalie Kong, Business Solution Analyst at PacHosting

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) remain a vibrant and important contributor to the economy in Hong Kong. As at December 2013,  there were about 310 000 SMEs in Hong Kong, which accounted for over 98 per cent of the total business.  Like many of their counterparts elsewhere in the world, local SMEs cite access to funds and technical skills as barriers to innovation and technology adoption.

Of course in recent years, conditions have changed a bit–at least when it comes to access to technology to enable better competitive positioning. Email remains the most important reason for using the Internet, followed by internet banking, and access to information. The applications considered the most essential by the majority of SMEs are paying and receiving payment for products and services and looking for suppliers.  And a high percentage of SMEs have a website, which helps improve the effectiveness of their business.

Now let’s tie this to a global event whose influence extends to all corners of the world–the current World Cup. On the opening day of the 2010 World Cup, 12.07 million visitors per minute were on the Internet worldwide, or 130 percent more people than are usually online.  Setting a new Internet audience record, the World Cup South Africa 2010 easily surpassed the U.S. presidential election that saw Barack Obama elected President, which drew 8.5 million hits per minute.

Fast forward to four years later, the business opportunities presented by the 2014 World Cup are not limited to companies physically present in Brazil or large enterprises that have signed on sponsorship of the world’s biggest global soccer event. Just how big an impact will this year’s World Cup have on the Internet?

According to Google, the World Cup is the largest, most connected global sporting event. Worldwide, it has more interest on Google Search than the big game, the Olympics, and the Tour de France combined. If you’re looking to reach an audience of sports fans–from the crazed to the casual–the opportunity doesn’t get any bigger.

For hosting service providers in Hong Kong and the rest of Asia, the World Cup presents an enormous challenge to ensure that websites are able to handle the traffic. Yes, it is true that part of the allure of creating an online presence and partnering with a third party service provider is to ensure that your business will have access to near unlimited compute and bandwidth resources. However, that “unlimited” is actually predicated by your service provider’s physical infrastructure.

Consider the example of video streaming, a live video stream can consume between 200Kbps and 1.5Mbps of WAN/internet bandwidth. A pre-recorded on-demand video can be measured in hundreds of megabytes or even in gigabytes, a massive amount of data that will transit your network, consuming 100Kbps to 1.5Mbps of bandwidth.

Traffic spikes that may come as a result of popular events need to be planned accordingly. SMEs that don’t have the proper tools and policies in place to control such content will find that video traffic will consume 30 to 60 percent of the average business-hour bandwidth. And as consumers access the website from multiple devices–desktop, laptop, home entertainment systems and smart devices, the demand may exceed original plans.

For webmasters and web hosters, having visibility and control over the website’s backend processing becomes important across several fronts. On one end is the need to provide server-to-site security. Large popular events like the World Cup are an open invitation for hackers to attack the Internet and everyone connected to it. In the case of the Brazil World Cup, the 13 hour time difference could potentially mean some businesses need to extend their Internet hours to outside of the normal business hours–and by extension, security scans/screening need to be working overtime. For the website administration, the ability to monitor and access the servers from any location becomes a must have capability.

Fortunately, solutions such as the new Parallels Plesk 12 now support management capabilities from a mobile device. As such, a web manager can be alerted to any request and support provided from any location by merely accessing the servers from his smart device. This includes running scans of incoming emails, performing security sweeps of the servers, as well as backup and restore call functions, and debugging performance from the any connected device.

With creativity, local SMEs can and will likely capitalize on the opportunity of the global phenomenon. And with the economic reach of the Internet and social media, SMEs can potentially benefit in ways previously not possible. And you don’t need to go to Brazil to sell your products–thanks to the Internet and your friendly neighbourhood hosting provider.