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Tuesday, 11 June 2013 16:21

Beyond the Kindle

Beyond the Kindle

The story of e-books, for the most part, is the story of Amazon’s Kindle.

The Kindle single-handedly overcame the increasingly high cost of print book production and distribution by digitising the value chain.

But for various reasons the Kindle is not the answer in an academic context.

Thursday, 16 August 2012 08:27

Cloud-based telephony saves Connection Telecom R400k in office move

Cloud-based telephony saves Connection Telecom R400k in office move

Hosted platform unlocks value in times of organisational change

When leading cloud-based PBX provider and telco Connection Telecom adopted cloud-based telephony for its own communications in 2009 it was more than just a show of good faith.

We were mindful of the fact that all organisations go through major changes, so it was with a view to accommodate future growth and displacement that we adopted cloud.

Nothing stays the same

Out of all telephony platforms, cloud provides the best alignment with companies' growth and change objectives:

  • Simplicity of installation – it allows companies on the move to simply unplug phones at the old office and plug them in at an adequately provisioned new residence. As phones remain registered to the same cloud-based servers, they retain their geographic numbers and extensions.
  • Simplicity of moves, adds and changes (MACs) – as more people join (or leave) a company – some remotely or with a high degree of mobility – and project-based workgroups form and disband, a cloud-based solution makes MACs a non-issue. Users can be added at will without concern for hardware or software requirements or physical location in the virtualised hosted setting of a cloud setup.
  • Ease of management – in a dynamic business environment marked by rising and falling demand for services, roving staff as well as changes in address, cloud-enabled centralised management and elastic provisioning of capacity is an elegant catch-all solution.

Case in point

The proof of the pudding came in July this year, when Connection Telecom staged a move across Cape Town.

The company had few worries or costs concerning the telephony portion of its move, other than provisioning enough bandwidth.

Minimum disruption

We literally only had to make sure we had enough bandwidth for our needs, pack up our phones on a Friday afternoon, plug them in, route the new site to our hosted servers, and we were up and running with the same numbers and extensions. The only change on our business card reprints is our physical address. Even our geographic number stayed the same.

We were able to focus more on issues like design of the office, including procuring enough air-conditioning capacity for our people, and getting our furniture and equipment across. In terms of cost and effort, those items significantly outweighed the telephony component.

Major saving

Fork-lifting analogue

As a result, the company saved around R400 000 compared to a scenario of forklifting an on-site PBX with 40 extensions to a new site, laying discreet cabling, and re-provisioning an interface into the public telephone network.

In such a scenario PRI infrastructure would have had to be installed at a cost of R30 000. Telephony cabling and installation might easily amount to another R60 000. Add various other hard and soft costs, and a moving bill of R400 000 is not unthinkable.

Schlepping an on-site IP PBX

Had the company been faced with moving an on-site IP-based PBX, the cost and effort would still be considerable.

We would have had to invest in new servers or moved the old ones across, and we'd need an exhaustive cut-over plan involving decommissioning and re-commissioning of servers after hours, using overtime resources. The plan would require much effort, involving assigning new IP ranges and ensuring everything networks to the new ranges and attains stability within the space of a weekend.

On-site IP is less challenging and costly than an analogue project, but still requires much more of an investment than cloud.

My advice is that companies considering a move to the cloud as part of a move might have too much on their hands. Rather plan the two separately. If you know you're going to move to a new address in two years, it may be wise to consider migrating to the cloud sooner rather than later. That way it's one less thing to worry about when the time comes.

Unlocking value

Our new office park – Black River Park – has excellent fibre connectivity, and access costs are expected to come down substantially in August with a 25% Diginet rate reduction from Telkom.

With the savings from the move, combined with the savings from the lower rates, Connection Telecom decided to invest in a hosted IP-based videoconferencing solution between its Cape Town and Johannesburg operations as a value-add.

With the cost of bandwidth at an all-time low, this is an option available to all cloud customers. But we find that cloud frees up value on a range of levels, which are obvious during times of organisational change. Without it, we might frankly not have been in a position to make the move.

Published in Mobile
Working in the Cloud

The annual SME Survey released in May this year has showed that only 9% of SMEs made use of the Cloud at the end of 2011, but the outlook for cloud delivery of unified communications platforms seems to be getting brighter. We’re seeing bandwidth supply restrictions lifted and high costs lowered – all of which could drive businesses to the cloud.

It’s not surprising if one considers the benefits of cloud-based computing – not only with unified communications (UC) but also for most other applications. The low upfront cost and predictability makes it easy for businesses to enter the market, giving those who didn’t have prior access to a high degree of functionality/scalability an instant tech upgrade.

Gone are the capacity issues that has been a bane to the existing of growing companies – your business can be opened like a floodgate one minute, and then slowed down to a steady trickle the next, depending on your needs. Likewise, you never have to worry about investing in technology that gets old or broken or in need of an upgrade – adoption, upgrades, support and maintenance are all in the hands of your cloud provider. Not to mention the fact that the cloud is as eco-friendly as it gets with just-enough, centralised server and electrical power and cooling. The cloud promises to transform your business instantly, at a fraction of the cost of traditional computing.

At least – that’s the theory.
Many companies who rushed to the cloud have experienced what is now being referred to as “the broken promise of the cloud”. For one thing, it is not as inexpensive as the hype has promised. The South African telecoms environment has all but overcome its history of high-priced, under-supplied bandwidth – which means that cloud solutions do not scale as well as it could. Although SMEs may be benefitting from wholesale cloud delivery of UC, larger companies aren’t in the same position, opting to run hybrid UC environments that embrace the efficiencies and functional enhancements of cloud computing without running up high incoming bandwidth costs. Others combine the best of both worlds by opting for an on-premise solution at Head Office, and cloud-delivered UC at their branches.

At the end of the day, there is still some peace of mind that goes along with knowing that your equipment and data is on hand – particularly from the point of view of data security, reliability and quality of service (QoS). If you’re willing to make the investment in solid access technology with extra-line redundancy and other means of assuring QoS and business continuity, then a remote service need not be a scary prospect. But keep in mind that data security often enjoys a high priority with enterprises, in which case the hybrid model makes sense yet again.

In terms of private cloud configurations, where the infrastructure is dedicated solely to the customer, there may be a way out of the dilemma – whether hosted on- or off-site – as it offers dedicated security and reliability while handing over the headache (and cost) of managing the solution to the service provider. On the whole, private cloud solutions are suited to top-scale enterprise clients like banks, and not everyday computing environments.

In my opinion, the cloud is a viable prospect with 30 to 50-user clients as well as corporate with branch networks. To serve these, UC technology and platform providers will increasingly adapt their business models, moving from on-site integration experts to remote delivery managed service partners and infrastructure hosts in the medium to long term. Customers should also have a good understanding of why they’re considering a cloud solution. If it is purely financial, a managed service offering from a vendor may provide the same benefits in terms of scalability, pay per use and with remote management, they same response time in terms of moves, adds and changes.

This will not only provide a solution to a market increasingly spoilt for cheap bandwidth and mature, virtualised computing applications, but to service providers will find a source of annuity revenue that safeguards their business when times are tough. And more importantly - users will have the benefit of accessing their entire computing environment from anywhere, on any device.

Businesses considering a cloud strategy should avoid the hype and take note of the trade-offs in order to be successful.

Published in Software
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