Tag: cloud

By Iniel Dreyer, MD at Data Management Professionals South Africa

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), such as Microsoft 365, has changed the game for many businesses, especially those in the Small to Medium and Micro Enterprise (SMME) market. It ensures always-on access and offers cloud-based storage that means that data is available anytime and on any device.

However, this does not mean that data backup has become redundant, which is a misconception many businesses may be under – until it is too late. Ransomware and accidental deletion can still affect data stored in the cloud, and data loss events can be catastrophic for business no matter where the data is stored. It is essential to apply best practices around data management, including backing up Microsoft 365 data.

Shared responsibility

The big cloud providers like Microsoft operate on a shared responsibility model, which means that, while they are responsible for the availability of their applications, the data that these applications contain and the people that have access to this data, remains the responsibility of the customer. As long as the provider can deliver the functionality of their product, they are fulfilling their responsibility, and while they will give their best effort to assist in the event of ransomware, data loss or corruption, it is not their ultimate responsibility.

The easiest way to understand is to think of cloud storage as a data centre, or even as an external hard drive for smaller businesses. These are simply storage devices, no matter where they are located, and businesses need to take steps to protect the data that is contained in them. Whether data loss occurs through accidental deletion, malicious action or encryption via malware such as ransomware, once it is gone, it is gone, unless there is a third-party solution in place to protect data and provide a recovery mechanism.

Hidden dangers

When files are accidentally (or purposely) deleted from cloud storage, there is only a limited time period in which they will be available to recover. For example, with Microsoft 365, users have 93 days to restore deleted files from the recycle bin before they are permanently removed. After this period, unless there is some sort of backup and recovery system in place, the files are gone.

There is also the growing problem of ransomware, which does not necessarily immediately activate once it has infected data. This means that ransomware could easily be synced to cloud storage and lie in wait, sometimes even for months, before activating and encrypting data – including all of the data stored in the cloud, such as in OneDrive, as well as email, SharePoint, Teams data and more. If your native cloud storage keeps data for 90 days, and the ransomware infection occurred six months before it was activated, the only way to remove the infection would be to roll back to a copy of data prior to infection.

Holistic solutions are needed

The risk of data loss is well known – businesses cannot operate when their data is encrypted or unavailable, it is expensive and time consuming to recover, and there is significant reputational risk attached to a data breach. The trouble is that most businesses only realise how significant the impact is once something happens and it is too late.

It is imperative to have some sort of mitigation plans in place, whether this is as simple as an external storage device, or whether it is a full backup and recovery solution from a third-party provider. The key is to maintain a backup copy in a separate location to production data to enable recovery in the event of data loss.

Learn from the experience of others

The reality is that the principles and best practices around data management remain the same, no matter where data is stored. The basic steps are to make sure you are protected and can recover, and then to continually test that recovery ability. However, the reality is often more complicated, because not all data is of equal value, and most businesses are not data management experts.

There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ approach to data management, protection and recovery, but the truth is that prevention is always better than cure, so some sort of system needs to be in place. Waiting for things to go wrong before trying to fix them will inevitably result in unforeseen repercussions and challenges. An experienced service provider partner can help businesses to implement the best solution for their needs based on industry, legal requirements, budgetary constraints, the value of data and more.

SA cloud market to grow to R23.6bn by 2023

Source: MyBroadband

BMIT has published its SA Cloud Computing Overview and Market Sizing 2019 report, which shows that the growing adoption of cloud computing in South Africa has democratised IT resources and made technology available that traditionally would have been out of reach of the smaller player.

For businesses considering moving to the cloud, first mover advantage is more important than ever – while supporting innovation is a key success factor in today’s highly-competitive industries.

Analytics and artificial intelligence, along with other emerging technologies, are available to businesses at a fraction of the investment that would have been required before the transition to cloud computing.

IT modernisation, cost optimisation, and digital transformation are factors which motivate all companies to implement cloud computing.

The ability to scale is more important to medium and large companies than small companies, whose primary motivation is to transform digitally.

There is significantly less resistance to moving to the cloud in general – however, the question the market is grappling with is the “when and how” to move.

That being said, the conservative mindset of some in the IT market along with aversion to change is still challenging the industry and slowing adoption as more traditional-minded IT personnel often want full ownership and control over their IT resources – rather than the pay-per-use model that cloud has ushered in.

The cloud services market in South Africa is estimated to have grown at 31% in 2018 and is expected to grow another 35% in 2019 as the multinational hyperscale (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) local data centres go live over the next two years.

Looking further into the future, BMIT forecasts the cloud services market growing at a CAGR of 28% over the next five years to R23.6 billion in 2023.

Google poured billions into its business in 2018

By Julie Bort for Business Insider US

Google doubled its capital expenditure spending in 2018 to R344-billion, which included spending on offices and tech infrastructure.

Its cloud unit also got the lion’s share of new hires in the quarter, the CFO of parent company Alphabet said.

Google’s cloud computing efforts were a mixed bag in 2018 but the company on Monday said that it invested heavily in 2018, and will continue do so in 2019, albeit maybe not at the same pace.

During its year-end earnings report on Monday, Google revealed that it doubled its capital expenditures in 2018, to R344-billion, up from R168-billion in 2017. The hefty spending went towards everything from new office facilities to accommodate Google’s growing workforce to bolstering its infrastructure such as datacenters and servers.

It’s tough to say exactly who much of that capex went towards Google’s cloud business specifically, but the company has made it clear that investing in the cloud is a priority. Google said it launched its 18th Google Cloud region in the fourth quarter and pointed to plans for continued expansion in the US and abroad.

In comparison, Amazon spent R151-billion cash on capex in 2018, split between fulfillment operations (like warehouses) and AWS, it said. And Microsoft said it spent R214-billion.

Google also hired madly for its cloud unit, with more than 4 000 new hires in the final three months of the year. “The most sizeable increases were in cloud, for both technical and sales roles,” Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said during the conference call.

Porat noted that spending on talent and equipment will continue in 2029, though the pace will cool off compared to 2018. Capex, she said, will “moderate quite significantly.”

How does Google’s cloud business compare?
Google is spending to catch up. Revenue from its cloud business lags Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, although Google does likely have a multibillion cloud business. It’s a bit tough to tell because Google doesn’t break out cloud revenue. It lumps it in its “other” category which also includes the revenue it makes from its Google play app store and its hardware devices like Google Home.

That “other revenue” category was R8-billion in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from just under R66=billion for the year-ago quarter and a sizeable portion of that is generated by its app store. Google noted on Monday that the number of Google Cloud Platform deals worth more than R13 million more than doubled in 2018 and that it ended the year with more than 5 million paying customers of its cloud productivity tools, but otherwise offered little new information by which to measure the size of its Cloud business.

For comparison, AWS generated R99 billion in net cloud sales for Amazon in the fourth quarter.

Microsoft also doesn’t disclose specific revenue figures for its cloud, Azure, so a direct comparison here is even harder to noodle out. The unit that includes Azure is called “Intelligent Cloud” and it generated R125 billion in the same quarter. However, despite putting “cloud” in the unit’s name, that unit includes a lot of classic software products, including Microsoft’s popular database and Windows Server, its operating system for servers. Those are both older, massive businesses compared to Azure and are not what anyone would consider a cloud service.

Most market experts believe that AWS is way ahead. One researcher, Synergy, puts AWS at 40% market share in cloud.

Keep an eye on the new boss
Of course the big news for Google’s cloud efforts in 2018 was its change of leadership. Near the end of 2018, Google board member Diane Greene left. Google hired Thomas Kurian to replace her. He left Oracle where he helped build Oracle into a database and applications giant during his decades there, and then lead Oracle’s cloud efforts. Oracle’s cloud is growing quickly by internal metrics as it moves its customers from buying its software to renting its software on its cloud. But Oracle’s cloud is not exactly taking the tech industry’s breath away, so his performance at Google Cloud will be a test for him and the company.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Kurian will embark on an acquisition spree to help Google’s Cloud catch up with the competition. Google CEO Sundar Pichai kept mum on Monday when asked about any potential big deals or changes in strategy under Kurian. Pichai spoke of “continuity” and focusing on the parts of the business where the company is seeing good returns.

Even with all the shrouding of investment and financial results, the cloud industry is often considered a three-player race, with Amazon in the lead, Microsoft on its heels, Google in third and a variety of players, from Alibaba to IBM to Oracle, in the chase pack.

Dimension Data has released its latest digital workplace report, highlighting which technologies South African companies are currently developing and working with.

In South Africa, Dimension Data spoke to 73 respondents of companies with at least 1 000 employees, from large businesses with headquarters in the region.

The companies surveyed reported that mobility was still the most important area for supporting broader digital workplace initiatives.

27% of organisations said that embracing multiple-device-ownership models (BYOD, COPE, company-liable) is the most important technology trend, and 89% identify mobile devices and business applications as being technologies that support business process improvement.

This was followed by an embracing of the consumerisation of IT (25%) as well as an increasing demand to make video communication more pervasive (21%), said the report.

“Ensuring that employees are well-connected and empowered with mobile technologies and applications has resulted in enterprise mobility becoming a key theme of broader digital transformation efforts,” said Dimension Data.

“Those leading on enterprise mobility strategy development and implementation should therefore ensure that mobility initiatives map well against broader digital transformation business objectives.”


South African organisations are also turning to the cloud as an alternative to traditional on-premise deployments of workplace technologies.

For communications tools, such as WebEx and desktop video conferencing, 34% of South African organisations have deployed these in their own private cloud environments.
For collaboration applications, such as SharePoint and enterprise social, 22% of South African organisations have deployed these in their own private cloud environments.
For business applications, such as ERP, 18% of South African organisations have deployed these in their own private cloud environments.
“A better cost model is the top reason South African organisations are moving to cloud applications,” said Dimension Data.

“In time, organisations will rely more on fully hosted services for a wide range of digital workplace technology. The opex model is attractive to companies trying to rein in capital expenses, and cloud-based applications are considerably easier to keep up to date.”

However, it noted that many cloud-based applications do not yet meet the security and compliance requirements of many organisations.

Organisations also have existing assets that they own, that work well, and that do not need to be retired, it said.

“For example, 62% of South African organisations host business telephony applications on-premise, with only 5% being deployed in a private cloud environment. For this reason, managed services remain attractive for large organisations, which rely on them heavily as a way of keeping IT costs to a minimum.”

Enterprises are also turning to hybrid deployment models to keep one foot firmly planted in the current world of premise based technology whilst taking their first steps toward the cloud.

Hybrid deployments let organisations move some workloads to the cloud whilst retaining others on premise.

“Organisations with security or compliance concerns can keep applications on site or in private data centres under their own management whilst moving other, less sensitive applications to the cloud. Enterprises with significant investments in systems and applications deployed on premise can transition them to the cloud over a period of years, retiring legacy technology slowly as it becomes obsolete.”

Looking forward

Consumerisation and migrating to the cloud may occupy the minds of CIOs focused on here-and-now issues around digital transformation. However, those keeping an eye to the future see the dawn of a whole new set of technologies that will shape the digital workplace for years to come.

These primarily take the form of augmented reality which has practical uses for field technicians and other specialists needing instant access to information and AI/machine learning which are helping organisations derive insight from vast quantities of data and helping get the right information to the right people at the right time.

Unsurprisingly, the Internet of Things is also dovetailing with – and increasingly driving – a greater reliance on automation in the enterprise, as sensors variously monitor and control lighting, door locks, vehicles, medical equipment, manufacturing machinery, surveillance cameras, and other systems.

75% of South African organisations say they will have a practical use case for augmented reality technologies within the next two years.

The percentage of South African organisations (26%) that say they will never have a practical use for augmented reality technologies aligns quite closely with the global findings, which show that 34% of organisations see no value in this technology.

“It is still very early days for augmented reality technologies, especially in the enterprise context,” the group said.

“The focus is still very much on the hardware, as opposed to the new business outcomes that the hardware could potentially help support. The value of augmented reality technologies needs to be better communicated and in contexts that resonate with enterprises. A more enriched app ecosystem that supports the core technology will be vital to its enterprise success.”

“As this develops, and as the use cases for the technology become better contextualised, the value proposition of AR will be better understood by organisations across industries.”

21% of South African organisations are investing in intelligent agents now, and 18% are investing in IoT, but investment will increase significantly in those
areas over the next 24 months.

“Undoubtedly, however, it is analytics tools that interest South African organisations the most. Strong investment is planned in the area of workplace analytics, with 94% identifying that some form of investment will be made in this area over the next two years.”

“The most important use case for these analytics tools will be in managing the employee lifecycle and improving the customers experience.”

Source: Business Tech

Five years ago, industry leaders questioned whether payroll, accounting or any other business software service could be delivered in the cloud. Questions raised at the time were around security and efficacy benefits.

Based on an article by Louis Columbus on Forbes.com however, PwC is predicting that by 2016, investment in SaaS (software as a service) solutions will more than double to around the $78-billion while traditional HCM (human capital management) systems will decline over 30% to less than $15-billion. So what does a cloud based HCM solution look like versus the traditional HCM model?

Let’s first take a look at what an effective HCM business solution can do – among other things, it needs to run your monthly Payroll and Human Capital Management, including Leave Applications, Succession and Talent Planning, Training and Skills Management, Business Process Workflow and Performance Management. The resource efforts, time and financial support required to manage this function without the correct solutions in place, are often the reason a business may not run efficiently.

Delivering a HCM solution that offers all of these features and more is one thing; being able to deliver this in a real time, cloud-based, operationally efficient solution is genius and will become the status quo of the future.

  Cloud Based Solution Web Enabled Solution
Design A cloud based solution is designed with scalability and usability as a key element of its architecture A web enabled solution is developed for limited access and requires PC installation which becomes available via a web browser for remote access
Installation There is no hardware or software installation required with a cloud based solution and it is accessible through a standard web browser A web enabled solution may require VPN (Virtual Private Network) or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) access which will need to be installed per client and makes access tedious and technical
Updates/Management With a cloud based solution, regular updates are rolled out instantaneously via multi-tenancy configurations that can be managed at no additional cost by the vendor Web Enabled Solutions require manual administration for each instance of the software which leads to delayed updates and upgrades
Flexibility Cloud based solutions are highly configurable due to its intended purpose of serving a wide spectrum of client requirements Web enabled solutions require customisation in order to cater for certain requirements. This is costly and makes upgrades technical and tedious
Accessibility As Cloud based solutions are built on an open API platform, it allows for any 3rd party product to integrate with ease Web enabled solutions do not lend themselves to integration options which results in complex projects to extract people related data
Security Reliable SSL Connections and data encryption at rest (protecting data which is not moving through the networks) ensure security across Cloud based solutions ‘Installed’ solutions cannot easily satisfy global security best practice requirements
Business Continuity Cloud based solutions ensure that disaster recovery is part of their delivered solution Web enabled solutions do not provide disaster recovery options and need to be manually designed

The effects these differences can have on business HCM solutions are obviously huge. Clients can work from a single instance, multi-tenant, real time platform that offers consolidated payrolls and HR data – in PaySpace’s example – across 37 countries. Support for a cloud based solution is instantaneous without the time and resource requirements which mean quicker product and feature dissemination, regular updates and solution enhancements and lower operational costs. All-in-all, cloud based solutions offer a far quicker turnaround time end-to-end without the financial burdens traditional models may incur. Features also grow organically based on the consistent client interaction, so like with the African tax example, opinions and regular updates improve tax attitudes and interpretations.

A cloud solution should be able to give you instant updates with no annual license fees (as software nor hardware needs to be purchased therefore alleviating the need for exorbitant up-front set up fees), automatic system enhancements, in this case, specifically around legislative updates, be cost effective and offer real time solutions that are accessible from any mobile device (smartphone or tablet) that is backed up. cloud based solutions can attract and improve staff retention, improving business output, encourage better resource usage by focusing on more advanced areas of business growth and of course, increase the bottom line.

PaySpace, a Frost & Sullivan 2015 South Africa award winner in Product Leadership of the Year for Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, says their cloud based application has benefited their customers by being scalable, meaning their multi-tenant infrastructure makes is easy to increase computing capacity for the entire environment. The performance or nature of the multi-tenant architecture of the PaySpace solution makes it easier to maximise the performance of different elements built into the technology that ensures optimum and reliable output at all times. PaySpace’s upgrades are simple and instantaneous as they are disseminated from a centralised location and because cloud based service providers have a vested interest in ensuring successful usage; accountability becomes an attractive product feature. These updates ensure PaySpace customers are always fully tax compliant, with all legislative checking processes stipulated by the 37 countries in which they operate.

“PaySpace has positioned itself as a leading end-to-end human capital management (HCM) software developer and provider. Owing to a pay-as-you-use model, its customers have the flexibility to readily change their payroll and HCM as the need arises,” says Frost & Sullivan best practices analyst, Fadzai Deda.

“With the increase in spending budget on HCM solutions forecasted by Frost & Sullivan to increase at a compounded rate of 11,6% between 2013 and 2017, slow adoption and understanding of cloud solutions by business entities due to information security concerns will continually be a challenge industry participants will need to face despite positive growth prediction,” says Warren van Wyk, Director of PaySpace. “It is imperative that businesses understand cloud based vs web enabled HCM solutions so business decisions today can positively influence the technology need of tomorrow,” concludes van Wyk.

V for virtualisation

Two recent IT innovations – cloud computing and virtualisation – are slowly but inexorably reshaping service provider and enterprise networking and business models. One measure of this growing influence: nearly half of the 287 network operator respondents to Arbor Network’s 2014 Worldwide Infrastructure Security report offer a wide range of cloud and hosting services.

“These large network operators are quickly realising new operational efficiencies and monetisation opportunities from virtualising (‘cloudifying’) their infrastructure and services. The ability to add capacity dynamically when and where it is needed, so service velocity keeps pace with the needs of 21st century Internet users, is no doubt a key technical and economic driver behind these initiatives,” states Talbit Hack, manager for DDoS and ISP Visibility Product Management at Arbor Networks, a leading provider of DDoS and advanced threat protection solutions for enterprise and service provider networks.

Hack points out that network virtualisation, in particular, is taking multiple forms, including abstraction of software from dedicated service delivery infrastructure, software-defined networking (SDN), and virtualisation of network functions (NFV) that were previously performed by discrete devices.

“Virtualisation of service delivery infrastructure is already implemented or well underway in most service providers’ data centres and hosting environments; transformation is still lagging in the transport and access parts of the network. They see virtualisation as a way to abstract software from the underlying physical infrastructure, lower their equipment costs and separate network control from traffic forwarding. Their ultimate aim is to simplify and ‘flatten’ the network and allow for more dynamic, scalable associations of network processes with service activities; in other words, to create a framework for deploying services in a more agile way from a pool of virtualised resources,” he says.

In light of ambitious technical and business goals, virtualisation represents a significant enabler and disrupter. As traditional network architectures come under increasing strain and operational demands, virtualisation in its various forms holds the promise of making them more open, predictable, flexible, user- and service-friendly and lower cost to operate. But it will also almost certainly make networks more complex to integrate, manage, support and secure on a large scale, requiring a radical shift in operational assumptions and best practices.
“Virtualisation clearly has value wherever services need to be deployed in an agile, dynamic way and to help absorb episodic and unpredictable traffic, however there are still cost and performance benefits to purpose-built networking systems in certain applications and at large scale. Rapid price/ performance improvements in commodity server architectures are closing the gap, yet these platforms do not yet scale for complex, high-capacity network applications such as core routing and threat protection,” explains Hack.

Virtualisation also introduces new challenges from a security perspective. For example, how do you provide traffic visibility into these dynamic, complex new virtual networking environments when traditional telemetry protocols such as NetFlow, SNMP, BGP, and more, may not be present? And how do you protect virtualised network and security functions – including the API services that underpin these functions – from protocol misuse and other unsanctioned inter-functional communication resulting from malicious acts as well as simple misconfigurations? “These and other as-yet-undiscovered architectural vulnerabilities will no doubt be addressed over time, but they nevertheless highlight the complexities inherent in major technology migrations,” adds Hack.

Network operators have traditionally designed networks to be cheap to buy. Managing cost has been of paramount concern due to the complexity and enormous fixed costs to build and operate a network. But in the Internet age, rolling out compelling services demands far greater flexibility and speed than is possible with the static, manually intensive networks of today. So now operators must design them to be cheap to buy as well as fast and flexible to operate.

According to Hack, Arbor’s efforts are focused in the three areas where the greatest benefits for its customers is identified: redirecting traffic via SDN control; leveraging the power of the network (that is, to provide overall visibility as well as to detect and block security threats as data centre forwarding fabrics evolve); and, virtualising Arbor’s platforms and services for seamless integration with both legacy and next-generation networks.

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