Opinion piece: Cloud computing gains momentum in the local market

Paul McKibbin explains why cloud computing is gaining momentum and popularity in the South African market

August 22, 2011

By Paul McKibbin, Divisional CEO – Jasco Carrier Networks

Cloud computing is gaining ground in South Africa for a number of reasons.

This includes vastly improved bandwidth capability, both in terms of quantity and quality, greater affordability of bandwidth and improved security technology that addresses many of the concerns businesses have had around the concept of the cloud in the past.

The reality is that there has never been a better time to get into the cloud in South Africa. While there may not be “enough bandwidth” for everything that could be done, there is certainly sufficient availability for many applications already and the price is coming down fast.

As the advantages of the cloud have begun to outweigh previous security risks, so too have security measures improved.  Encryption capabilities now extend up to 2048 bit encryption and a move towards three-phase authentication, such as seen in financial institutions, with usernames, passwords and one-time pins, is now available to secure the cloud.  Using multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) can also help to vastly enhance security measures, in effect extending a private LAN into the cloud and removing the risk of running the cloud through public Internet domains.

Cloud computing and the cloud have become a much hyped buzzwords in modern IT circles and it is often put on the table for discussion in many organisations of all sizes.  However, the cloud is not just hype.  There is in fact justification for the mass discussion around the topic. The reason the technology has come to the fore now in South Africa, is that there has been a sustained downward trend on broadband prices and an exponential growth of fibre connectivity from multiple service providers.  This removes previous barriers to entry and allows local enterprises to take advantage of the technology to improve their business.

There are many benefits to embracing cloud computing technology for local as well as African businesses. By effectively outsourcing IT services to expert providers, organisations are better able to focus on their core business and areas of expertise, without having the added burden of IT administration, which may not be an area of high competency. This will in turn enable them to become more profitable as a result of tighter business focus. Using such a provider also guarantees uptime of the LAN, as the cloud equipment is hosted in highly resilient data centres and service level agreements can be put into place at the outset to ensure acceptable service levels.

Cloud computing also reduces capital expenses related to IT investments, since this is leased as a service so equipment does not need to be purchased up front to access new applications and features. End-of-life and the need for upgrading of legacy equipment also becomes less of an issue, since it is the onus of the cloud service provider to ensure that IT equipment is upgraded when necessary.

Another benefit is the ability to deliver a truly mobile workforce, since cloud computing gives users the ability to access the organisation’s LAN securely from anywhere in the world. Using cloud services can also turn multi-branch organisations into virtual ‘single branch’ enterprises, simplifying maintenance and administration and allowing organisations to take advantage of cost saving applications such an inter-branch VoIP hosted in the cloud.

However, while the cloud offers many benefits, a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to succeed in the majority of cases. In order for the technology to succeed in delivering on anticipated benefits and provide required return on investments, enterprises need to evaluate their requirements and work with a provider to tailor a cloud solution which fits their specific needs.

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