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Tuesday, 26 November 2013 11:11

Bursting through the Cloud barriers

Bursting through the Cloud barriers

Four of the biggest concerns hindering the adoption of Cloud Computing in SA can be easily dispelled, says Vodacom Business


Cloud Computing offers a wide array of benefits – including cost efficiency, faster time-to-market, greater innovation and more agile technology deployment. It also helps improve alignment between customers, employees and partners. Essentially, through the effective use of Cloud computing, Chief Information Officers can focus more on strategic goals, and less on the day-to-day operations. But for Cloud to become a concrete reality for corporate South Africa, a number of perceived drawbacks need to be understood and debunked. This is according to Vodacom Business’ Executive Head of Cloud and Hosted Services, Nkosi Kumalo.

Published in Mobile
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 12:05

The changing role of resellers

The changing role of resellers

Educating customers on backup is critical for data protection

Data has become the lifeblood of any organisation, and with an increasing shift away from hardware towards a more service-oriented market, the role of the reseller when it comes to backup has changed dramatically.  A ‘box drop’ approach is no longer sufficient, given the critical nature of data. Resellers of data protection solutions now have a responsibility to their customers to educate them on backup solutions and practices and ensure business continuity by making certain that their customers can recover effectively in the event of a data issue.


While most large organisations have realised the critical nature of effective backup and recovery solutions, the Small to Medium Business (SMB) market still relies heavily on memory sticks, external hard drives and other ad-hoc backup processes, if they have any such processes in place at all. However, these backups are often not regularly checked, and only when a data issue occurs and a restore is necessary do the problems with this method become evident. In addition, when backups are recovered from such devices, it is usually difficult or impossible to recover just the missing data, and only the data from the last backup can be restored. This usually results in work since the last backup being lost.


Irregular or infrequent backups often go hand-in–hand with users not checking their backed-up data for integrity and the ability to recover it as and when necessary, which can cripple the business in the event of data not being recoverable. Without this critical data, many SMB organisations simply cannot recover, leading to lost income and even the closure of the business itself. With approximately 97% of all data restores necessitated due to hardware failure, hard drive malfunctions or data corruption, the need for end users from all sizes of business to move to automated backup environments is clear.


Resellers of these solutions are in a favourable position to educate their end user customers on the benefits of automated backup and the repercussions of not having a plan or process in place. Many businesses, particularly in the SMB space, do not have the expertise or capacity to adequately manage backup and recovery on their own. Added to this, the research required to find a solution that is ‘fit for purpose’ has proved onerous in the past, leading to poor backup practices that can cause problems further down the line.


As providers of backup solutions, these resellers understand the market, the challenges, and the needs of their customers, and are also able to offer a managed service that delivers more comprehensive backup and recovery. With the evolution of technology, there is also a wider range of solutions on offer to deliver fast, efficient and above all automated backup to protect vital data.


There are now a host of best-of-breed solutions available for businesses of all sizes, addressing backup from the level of individual PCs right up to servers and entire data centres. The growth of the cloud, and increased trust in cloud solutions, has also provided another avenue for resellers to offer remote backup solutions, which store data securely offsite in the cloud, meeting best practice guidelines and ensuring always-available data recovery.


In order to take advantage of new opportunities and provide better customer services, resellers need to make the leap from selling products to providing solutions and services that deliver value to their customers. The onus is now on resellers to take this proactive step, do their research and find the right products, including cloud or hosted platforms, to adopt and sell on to their customers. This not only opens up new revenue streams, but delivers immense satisfaction in knowing that customers’ data is secure and properly backed up. Resellers have the opportunity to become trusted partners and reinforce relationships, strengthening their own business while helping their customers at the same time.


By taking on this new role, not only are resellers able to take on a more strategic position in an IT world dominated by the cloud, they are also able to benefit from improved credibility and annuity revenue that results from selling solutions and advice rather than simply products.

Published in Storage & Data Centres

Today's CIOs have to deal with the potential challenges of bring your own device (BYOD), mobile applications, software-defined networks (SDN), cloud sprawl, and usability demands, all on a static or shrinking budget.


Riverbed Successful Consolidation Infographic EMEAAs such, organisations are increasingly pursuing enterprise-wide virtualisation and consolidation as a means of improving the cost efficiency, manageability, security, resiliency and flexibility of the business. This is leading to a fundamental transformation in the modern data centre.


In fact, according to research conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of the application performance company, Riverbed Technology, 70% of IT decision makers across Europe and the Middle East are planning consolidation projects during 2013.


Virtualisation is now being extended to production and line-of-business applications. With this broader adoption, customers have begun to look for similar cost savings from broader consolidation efforts. They’re relocating servers from branch offices to consolidated data centres and even consolidating entire data centres and operating IT out of fewer locations, as well as moving certain workloads and data to the cloud.


The study questioned 400 CIOs across France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and the United Kingdom. It revealed several major drivers and barriers that CIOs are considering when looking at consolidation.



By consolidating and transforming the architecture of underutilised and distributed assets, a business can reduce infrastructure, administration, and power and cooling costs. At the same time it can reduce the volume of hardware to manage, and more easily apply automation policies, improve security, and streamline data protection procedures for disaster recovery and business continuity.


The study found that 68% of those planning a consolidation project report data security as the key driver for their programmes. Reducing the cost of managing distributed servers at the branch office layer (58%) and greater control of application and server upgrades (49%) were also reasons to consolidate. Although these drivers varied in importance across regions, these were all consistently high factors for every business, regardless of location or industry.


Organisations consolidate infrastructure and adopt virtualised deployment paradigms, provision new services and locations, and add scale to existing applications, all with minimal cost overhead and administration.


However, many still harbour concerns about the negative impact that projects like these may have on the business.



While transforming the data centre through consolidation holds the potential for improving cost efficiency and mitigating risk, the reality is that IT needs to play a part in supporting productivity and revenue growth. This generally involves supporting users outside the data centre, at the far edges of the network and so post-consolidation performance is a major concern.


The research showed that, of those questioned, over half cited complexity as the biggest obstacle to consolidation efforts. The cost of initial set-up, as well as application performance over the WAN, was also reported as concerns by 45% and 38% of the respondents, respectively.


IT often questions the feasibility of sustaining performance after consolidation, but with the right support and solutions, all these issues can be overcome.



Consolidation and data centre transformation can fundamentally change a business’s application delivery environment, making it more reliant than ever on the network. As the network becomes critical for centralised applications, changes that used to affect a single location can now impact an entire region.


Another key consideration is that, once applications have been centralised within the data centre and started delivering proven cost savings and efficiencies, there is the potential for performance blind spots amidst the layers of virtualisation in the data centre. 


The cost of change is sometimes high, but when an organisation considers the overall savings that can be achieved, the true value of consolidation can be accurately ascertained. This requires an assessment of other recent IT investments and the cost of migrating to cloud services, for instance.


Regardless of whether a business is seeking to improve performance after consolidation or at the start of such a project, performance and simplicity need to be at the heart of the network infrastructure.


In particular, boosting sluggish business applications and slow websites can be dealt with through a combination of WAN optimisation, QoS, and web content optimisation (WCO). Combined, these technologies can help ensure that the increased distance between workers and the data and applications they use don’t slow things down.


Of course, not every application should be moved out of branch offices, but the risks and complications of a distributed application infrastructure can be mitigated. Those few applications that do remain can be virtualised directly on a WAN optimisation appliance and managed remotely with industry standard tools.


Even when reducing the number of data centres, a company’s services and applications will be spread across several locations. Virtual application delivery controllers (ADCs) make it possible to accelerate user and replication traffic between data centres as well as ensure high availability of critical services.


To effectively manage such modernized data centres requires monitoring of the traffic between virtual machines to keep tabs on the performance of virtualised services. With such monitoring tools in place, CIOs can rest assured that their investment is paying dividends and that any potential problems are fixed before they adversely impact the business.



The tools exist to enable a business to successfully consolidate and transform its entire data centre infrastructure. With the right partner, an organisation can easily ensure that network performance is maintained during the consolidation and transformation process. As such, enterprises can successfully and intelligently implement strategic initiatives such as virtualisation, consolidation, cloud computing and disaster recovery, without fear of compromising performance.


The benefits of a well-planned and executed data centre transformation approach can extend beyond merely cost savings, with companies improving the way they mitigate risk and grow. While many organisations have achieved some level of consolidation, beginning with server virtualisation, enterprise-wide consolidation efforts require overcoming greater complexity, latency, and traditional IT organisational silos.


The Vanson Bourne study highlights how CIOs are recognising the importance of centralising technology and data to gain these efficiencies. But some must overcome barriers before they can consolidate their applications or remove branch office servers.

By ensuring that performance challenges are identified, addressed, and managed, organisations can realise greater flexibility in where they locate IT resources. Doing so can mean greater economies of scale, control, and security.

Published in Storage & Data Centres
Salesforce Logo

A few months ago, Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com invited the founders of Rypple, a start-up he had hoped to buy, for lunch. Soon thereafter, Salesforce bought Rypple for $60 million – turning down a much larger offer from a company with mega-vendor backing. The decision, as one of the founders said, was made “not because of deal terms, but corporate culture”.

Published in Software
Preparing for the mobile workforce: Bring Your Own Device and beyond

The days where employees were confined to desks in front of a company-owned-and-controlled personal computer are long gone. Workers are increasingly mobile, jetting off to different locations around the country (and the globe), and they no longer keep office hours, preferring to fire off emails and complete tasks on the road and from home.


This was when we first saw the concept of BYOD (or Bring Your Own Device), and with it, Mobile Device Management, enter the market. The premise behind Mobile Device Management was, initially, the need to control the data employees were accessing – mainly for security purposes and to curb the abuse of company Wi-Fi. The first phase of MDM was concerned with restricting information – and with good reason. If a CEO’s IPad, containing the latest pricing strategy, was stolen, the IT department had to be able to remotely shut down the device to prevent a competitor from accessing it. Likewise, if an employee left the company’s service, so would their smartphone - with all the potentially sensitive emails contained on it.

Published in Mobile
Thursday, 20 June 2013 11:00

The Shift to ‘Disposable’ IT

The Shift to ‘Disposable’ IT

With the prices of our most treasured gadgets falling every year, coupled with the increasing sophistication of ‘cloud’ solutions, IT is fast becoming highly ‘disposable.’ Essentially, consumers become more attached to the content that their hardware houses – more so than the actual hardware – so replacing technology when it becomes outdated (or is rendered unusable, for some reason) is becoming less painful – provided that the content is securely stored and backed up somewhere.


Indeed, in recent years, we have noticed a significant shift in our customers’ approach to technology. In the past, customers used to look at their PC as an asset that required maintenance to conserve its value and that could be upgraded – now, upgrades are hardly considered because the cost of labour and parts to upgrade a PC is often greater than the cost of a better, newer model.


For example, with regards to popular electronics like DVD players, you can buy a basic player for around R400. Should it break, however, you would need to look for a repair shop, wait for repairs, retrieve it and perhaps spend R400 for the repair (and have an old DVD player as opposed to getting a brand new one delivered to your door for the same price).


Another important aspect to consider is how cumbersome the process of transferring your data to a new machine used to be. This acted as a deterrent against buying new tech, and encouraged people to repair what they had…yet these days, if you know how to go about it, it is very easy to be up and running with a new computer/tablet/smartphone if your data is in the cloud.


The gadgets people use are also important status symbols: no one is interested in your old, upgraded PC, but you can definitely show off the latest smartphone and do almost exactly the same things you can do with a PC (view photos, open documents, send and receive emails, etc).


Up in the Cloud

The technology that is driving the shift to ‘disposable IT’ is the widespread move to the cloud; i.e. to storing and backing up information on outside servers. There are numerous platforms that have sprung up to make the move to the cloud as smooth as possible. Evernote is a fantastic, free tool to keep your notes, web clips or even voice memos synchronized across all your devices. The new Outlook 365 subscription, as well as Gmail or icloud are all great ways to access your email from anywhere and make sure it is never lost. In addition, you can store documents and pictures on sites like dropbox.com where you have a certain amount of storage space available for free (if you need more you can purchase subscriptions). A similar service is provided by - and both platforms will keep your files safe and accessible from most devices.


In the business environment, SharePoint and Office 365 have enabled many small businesses to make do without costly hardware like servers that require maintenance and regular upgrades. Coupled with a reliable support company that ensures that your network is safe and functional, the cloud can take care of most of your IT requirements at an affordable price.


A Word of Advice…
I would definitely encourage people to make use of the cloud. I personally don’t need to back up anything anymore. Even if a big fire destroys all my gadgets (and I have quite a few) all I need to do is get a new one, log in (to where my info is stored) and get all my data back… however, don’t forget to be safe on the Internet and run antivirus software. The danger of synchronization across devices is that if one file becomes corrupted/infected, it can easily spread across all your devices – so always be cautious.


Defining ‘the Cloud’

At its root, cloud computing is a service that provides IT solutions via the Internet. The "cloud" provides services that vary in capability - from basic e-mail service to enterprise software applications such as customer relationship management (CRM), and of course, storage. The main objective of cloud computing is to provide companies and consumers with an accessible and seamless platform to build and host applications and keep their data secure.

Published in Hardware
Friday, 07 June 2013 12:15

What your IT manager could be doing instead of managing a server room

What your IT manager could be doing instead of managing a server room

4 non-negotiable areas of focus for IT Managers

We all recognise the stereotypical IT manager sitting behind a desk in the company dungeon, wearing a t-shirt sporting an obscure geek reference, and sighing into the phone as he tries to convince the marketing manager to use a password other than 'God'. 

Published in Storage & Data Centres
Monday, 11 February 2013 15:56

Building Long-Term Cloud Cover

Building Long-Term Cloud Cover

Why moving your contact centre operation into the cloud isn’t a decision to be undertaken in a hurry


For a number of years now, the cloud has been the buzzword in the contact centre industry. Research suggests that a large number of local companies are starting to shift their operations into this virtual environment, citing cost saving and increased operational efficiency as primary drivers.


With legacy systems beginning to age, and companies being faced with complex and costly upgrade scenarios, the cloud represents a logical choice for those looking to stay relevant in a swiftly evolving technological landscape.


Yet with this rapid uptake of new technology, many companies have made the mistake of embarking on cloud-based upgrades without any sort of long-term vision, electing instead to embrace the latest trends without casting an eye to sustainability.


The problems companies experience when upgrading their contact centre technologies usually stem from poor on-going support and management, rather than issues arising during the initial installation process. While transferring from one system to another generally brings about a number of minor speed bumps, these are insignificant when compared to the problems that can arise when entering into an agreement with a cloud vendor unable to meet a contact centre’s specific long-term requirements.


As such, companies considering potential cloud suppliers would be well advised to take into account a number of elements that might seem insignificant at the start, but could end up causing severe headaches further down the road.



With customer expectations escalating rapidly, contact centres can no longer afford to experience any significant downtime.  Maintaining system functionality irrespective of mitigating external factors is increasingly critical to a contact centre’s success. As a result, it’s important to partner with a supplier that offers built-in disaster recovery support, with multiple data centres ensuring fail-over capacity in the event of adverse weather or power outages.


In order to accurately assess a potential vendor’s ability to support business continuity, it’s vital that you establish a thorough understanding of their system’s architecture. Interrogate switchover times, gauge their proposed handling of planned outages for upgrades, and ascertain their ability to deal with emergency downtime. By ensuring that your vendor has the necessary resources to keep your system online and stable, you’ll be afforded increased peace of mind, and be better able to allocate resources to the day-to-day running of your contact centre.  


System Ownership

A cloud-based system’s resiliency is also dependent on its capacity to be kept up to date with the latest versions and releases of software. Solutions developed and managed by vendors are likely to offer you a more seamless experience, given the fact that these suppliers have all their resources housed within a single company structure.


Whilst vendors offering third party products are certainly able to deliver high levels of service, their inability to access the teams responsible for a solution’s evolving development certainly impacts their capacity to offer the required levels of support.


Companies proffering their own bespoke solutions are likely to boast a more inherent understanding of your chosen system, enabling them to easily ensure that your software remains current, and to provide comprehensive trouble-shooting support.


On-going Support

While a vendor’s expert knowledge of your product is undeniably important, it is of very little consequence should you be unable to access appropriate and efficient support channels.


Before entering into a service agreement with a vendor, it’s important to make sure from the outset that proper systems and processes are implemented with respect to reporting and resolution, with sufficient resources dedicated to, and accountable for, results.


Rapid patching and issue resolution represent two of the most significant benefits of the cloud as opposed to premises-based solutions, so it’s important that you identify a supplier that is able to meet expectations in this regard.


Building a Stable Home in the Cloud

Moving your contact centre operation to the virtual environment certainly has the potential to boost overall efficiency, as well as your bottom line, but it is a journey that needs to be undertaken with a partner you can trust, and whose vision is appropriately aligned with your own.


Achieving success in the cloud is not simply about doing something fast, but about implementing solutions that are practical, reliable, stable, resilient and safe. By working with a trusted and reputable vendor, your odds of success are high, so make sure to perform due diligence before signing on the dotted line.

Published in Technology
Thursday, 24 January 2013 09:37

The changing channel – seeing the cloud as an opportunity, not a threat

The changing channel – seeing the cloud as an opportunity, not a threat

A depressed economic climate, coupled with the ever-present challenges of shrinking IT budgets, reduced spend and lower margins, are issues which have plagued the channel for many years. More recently the traditional channel has come under threat from the growth of cloud computing, which enables users to gain access to services from service providers rather than purchasing product from resellers. However, the cloud does not necessarily spell the end for the channel. A slight adjustment to the business model can see channel partners take advantage of the opportunities offered by the cloud, accessing new markets and enabling more businesses of all sizes to gain access to advanced enterprise-grade technology.


As bandwidth has become increasingly available, stable and affordable in South Africa, cloud computing has become more of a viable option, leading more and more technologies to be offered as services. This benefits businesses of all sizes, particularly the burgeoning Small Medium Enterprise (SME) market in South Africa, by enabling them to access technologies they could not before due to the cost of infrastructure required. However, the growth of cloud services is seen as infringing upon the traditional channel of vendor-distributor-reseller, as many service providers now act as a middleman and cut the reseller out of the chain. In order to keep the channel alive, business models need to adapt and both distributors and resellers need to change their offerings slightly, catering for demand for services while maintaining traditional distribution channels.


The key to the survival of the channel is a change of mind-set. Currently, distributors take their products to market through the channel. The distributor distributes products, which are then resold by the reseller. As products become services, this does not mean that the channel needs to collapse, because effectively the model remains the same. Distributors are still buying products from vendors, but instead of moving boxes, the cloud model means that the distributor then takes these products and builds solutions, which can still be resold to the end customer. In this model, it does not pay the distributor to take services directly to the market, as this will require a sales force and greater focus on customer service. Nor does it pay for the reseller to attempt to buy products and resell services straight from the vendor, as this will require the building of substantial infrastructure at a high cost.


With the expected growth of cloud and hosted services, the channel needs to change to more of a service model if it is to remain competitive, which opens up multiple opportunities and allows for access to a far broader market than previously. Many technologies, including video conferencing and video collaboration, have typically been the domain of the large enterprise exclusively. The channel however, has a large market base that falls outside of the large enterprise space. By offering technology such as video as a service, distributors can effectively create a new market for resellers, enabling them to offer enterprise-grade services to SMEs and small corporates.


The shift of the channel however, is not just about new markets and selling services instead of products. In the new channel, resellers will focus on offering on-site customer services focused on optimising the functions and capabilities of the solutions offered, user training and adoption services as well as the traditional repair services for on-site equipment, rather than physical product sales. The emphasis on system integration will fall away in favour of end user and customer support. Integration will happen at vendor level however, as much as end users are able to purchase products directly from vendors in many instances, customer service and after-sales support remains an issue. When things go wrong, the end user wants to be able to talk to a person for support, not a faceless website. This means that the role of the channel will become more people and support oriented, focusing on configuration and user support, amongst other roles.


The year 2013 is set to be the year of services, as the cloud gains popularity and more service providers deliver their offerings into the market. Moving towards a hosted model can create opportunities for the channel bringing in a new portfolio of services for them to resell. The key to keeping the channel alive is for distributors and vendors to work with channel partners rather than undermining them or cutting them out. If this can be successfully achieved, the cloud will not erode the channel’s business but rather change the business model, offering opportunities and new markets to be explored.

Published in Storage & Data Centres
Friday, 18 January 2013 10:30

Ten reasons to move your backup to the cloud

Ten reasons to move your backup to the cloud

The data explosion is increasing demand for data storage, driving up costs, amplifying the risk of data loss or exposure and complicating disaster recovery plans and strategies. Furthermore, organisations are increasingly moving away from cumbersome, error-prone, tape-based backup solutions. As a result of these factors, cloud-based data protection and backup solutions are becoming increasingly attractive.

Published in Storage & Data Centres
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Cyber Security is an ‘Invisible War’ that needs attention


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