[Column] Harish Chib: Seven best practices for securing the public cloud

The simplicity and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud have led more and more organizations to take advantage of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). You can spin up a new instance in minutes, scale resources up and down whenever you need while only paying for what you use, and avoid high upfront hardware costs. 

While the public cloud solves many traditional IT resourcing challenges, it does introduce new headaches. The rapid growth of cloud usage has resulted in a fractured distribution of data, with workloads spread across disparate instances and, for some organizations, platforms. As a result, keeping track of the data, workloads, and architecture changes in those environments to keep everything secure is often a highly challenging task.

Public cloud providers are responsible for the security of the cloud (the physical datacenters, and the separation of customer environments and data). However, the responsibility for securing the workloads and data placed in the cloud lies firmly with the customer. Just as organisations need to secure the data stored in their on-premises networks, so they need to secure their cloud environment. Misunderstandings around this distribution of ownership is widespread and the resulting security gaps have made cloud-based workloads the new pot of gold for today’s savvy hackers. 

Seven Steps to Securing the Public Cloud

The secret to effective cybersecurity in the cloud is improving your overall security posture: ensuring your architecture is secure and configured correctly, that you have the necessary visibility into your architecture, and importantly, into who is accessing it.

Step 1: Learn your responsibilities

This may sound obvious, but security is handled a little differently in the cloud. Public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform run a shared responsibility model – meaning they ensure the security of the cloud, while you are responsible for anything you place in the cloud.

Step 2: Plan for multi-cloud

Multi-cloud is no longer a nice-to-have strategy.  Rather, it’s become a must have strategy. There are many reasons why you may want to use multiple clouds, such as availability, improved agility, or functionality. When planning your security strategy start with the assumption that you’ll run multi-cloud – if not now, at some point in the future. In this way you can future-proof your approach.

Step 3: See everything

If you can’t see it, you can’t secure it. That’s why one of the biggest requirements to getting your security posture right is getting accurate visibility of all your cloud-based infrastructure, configuration settings, API calls, and user access.

Step 4: Integrate compliance into daily processes

The dynamic nature of the public cloud means that continuous monitoring is the only way to ensure compliance with many regulations. The best way to achieve this is to integrate compliance into daily activities, with real-time snapshots of your network topology and real-time alerts to any changes.

Step 5: Automate your security controls

Cybercriminals increasingly take advantage of automation in their attacks. Stay ahead of the hackers by automating your defenses, including remediation of vulnerabilities and anomaly reporting.

Step 6: Secure ALL your environments (including dev and QA)

You need a solution that can secure your all environments (production, development, and QA) both reactively and proactively

Step 7: Apply your on-premises security learnings

On-premises security is the result of decades of experience and research. Use firewalls and server protection to secure your cloud assets against infection and data loss, and keep your endpoint and email security up to date on your devices to prevent unauthorized access to cloud accounts.

Moving from traditional to cloud-based workloads offers huge opportunities for organizations of all sizes. Yet securing the public cloud is imperative if you are to protect your infrastructure and organization from cyberattacks. By following the seven steps you can maximize the security of your public clouds, while also simplifying management and compliance reporting.

Harish Chib is the Vice President, Middle East & Africa of Sophos.

[Column] Kree Govender: Why cloud hasn’t had a big impact on Business Intelligence

Although the notion of network-based computing stems right back to the 1960s, the modern term “cloud computing” arose in the 2000s. Yet, almost two decades later, South Africa still lags in both its adoption, and its use for critical functions like business intelligence (BI). 

While many believe that this is largely due to a lack of local data centre infrastructure, the landing of the Azure data centres in Africa will drastically change the Cloud landscape across the continent. “This effectively eradicates the fear of shifting massive datasets offshore to global data centres,” confirms Kree Govender, Managing Director of South Africa Qlik Master Reseller (SAQMR). 

The current hesitance towards Cloud adoption in Africa is illustrated by the Qlik implementations across the continent. Statistics show that as much as 95% of Qlik’s customers in Africa are on premise. 

“Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will migrate entirely away from on-premises data centres with the current trend of moving workloads to colocation, hosting and the cloud leading them to shut down their traditional data centre,” adds Govender. “If these predictions prove accurate, the new data centres will mean there’s no longer anything holding Africa back from catching up with the rest of the world.” 

Adam Barrie-Smith, Chief Technology Officer at SAQMR, believes that the Qlik platform is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the benefits that these data centres will offer. “This will complement extensive mobile analysis testing using Qlik’s SaaS and Cloud business, leveraging Qlik Senses’ multi-Cloud capabilities. The first advantage is the data centre, the next will be the containerised cloud environment which is set to follow soon.”  

To Barrie-Smith, one of the greatest benefits of local data centres is enhanced identity management. “Let’s consider the impact on the banking industry, for example. Most African banks still hold on-premise hardware, which is now reaching retirement age. The question now becomes, should they invest in more hardware or virutalise? With the new data centres, our banking customers will find it much simpler and more cost-effective to embrace the Cloud, through a hosted layer within Azure.” 

While making Cloud adoption easier, the new data centres also offer rich integration capabilities, enhanced virtualisation opportunities, a more elastic environment and greater security. “With the local Azure data centres, African organisations will be empowered to embrace hybrid cloud, and we predict a much greater cloud drive,” concludes Govender.  

 Kree Govender is the Managing Director of South Africa Qlik Master Reseller (SAQMR). 

[Column] Andrew Cruise: Two years until Infrastructure as a Service boom hits South Africa

Routed, a leading vendor neutral provider of cloud infrastructure, says that the predicted growth of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is in line with the increasing growth forecasts for cloud computing. Andrew Cruise, managing director, Routed, says that while IaaS is seen as an emerging opportunity in Africa, the work has already started locally with demand increasing as awareness of cloud capabilities increase.

“Since launching three years ago, we have seen a steady increase in both interest and deployment of cloud infrastructure services. As cloud computing grows, so too does the need for cloud-based infrastructure resources,” says Cruise. “Without IaaS there is no Cloud: IaaS is the foundation for all Cloud services. Now that connectivity is fast, cheap and reliable we have reached the tipping point in South Africa where general interest in Cloud has switched into action.”

According to The Xalam Rise of Cloud Report 2019, South Africa is the largest cloud market on the continent. The country accounts for 75% of Africa’s total cloud revenue and Xalam says that this is unsurprising as around 60% of the continent’s enterprise ICT services revenues are generated in South Africa. Routed, which featured in the report as a leading provider of cloud infrastructure resources, says that IaaS is the fastest growing category in the African cloud space, averaging around 120% annually over the three years at 2018.

The report also estimated that around 80% of Africa’s public cloud revenue is generated from SaaS applications. To a large extent this reflects the embryonic nature of this market; SaaS is a cloud starting platform for most businesses according to Xalam.

Guy Zibi, managing director, Xalam Analytics, says IaaS is seen as more of a long-term player, estimating that South Africa is two years away from a true boom: “From a low base – IaaS is the fastest-growing cloud services segment across our cloud value chain.”

Cruise says that one factor influencing the growth and potential of IaaS is what Xalam refers to as the VMWare factor. The availability of VMWare virtualisation solutions is providing African MSPs with a platform to compete with hyperscale providers on IaaS; while they can’t match the capabilities of AWS or Azure, MSPs have increasingly been able to offer local-centric IaaS services, with support and other benefits not offered by global cloud providers.

“For more than a decade, VMware’s solutions have been the go-to virtualisation and management platform for enterprises requiring uptime, security and performance on-premise. Now enterprises can be reassured that the same outcome can be delivered using specialist, certified VMware Cloud Providers, without internalising risk, or investing in facilities, hardware, software and engineering resources,” says Cruise.

Andrew Cruise is the managing director at Routed.

Ooredoo Algeria deploys Nokia Cloud Mobile Gateway to transform its network for next-generation broadband services

This is a crucial step for the migration of core network elements to the cloud and paves the way for the transformation of the core network to support next generation mobile network technology.

Nokia is helping Ooredoo Algeria take the first step towards next-generation networks and reinforce its technology leadership in the region with the successful deployment of North Africa’s first virtualized Mobile Gateway. This is a crucial step for the migration of core network elements to the cloud and paves the way for the transformation of the core network to support next generation mobile network technology.

The deployment allows Ooredoo Algeria to meet growing data demand in the region, and provide new and innovative services like Internet of Things (IoT), in addition to enhanced broadband to its subscribers. Once deployed, Ooredoo Algeria’s subscribers will be able to enjoy high bandwidth-consuming services, delivering the best possible performance and reliability.

Nokia’s Cloud Mobile Gateway has been installed and placed into commercial service. Nokia will be deploying more gateways in the near future.

Next Generation Core (NGC) is a service-based architecture that calls for the evolution of the core network. Deployment of the Cloud Mobile Gateway is one of the most important steps in this transformation. It will help Ooredoo Algeria deliver a seamless network experience across fixed and wireless access technologies. With the help of the Nokia AirFrame data center solution, Ooredoo Algeria will be able to deliver telco applications that demand low latency.

 “Collaboration with Nokia for this initiative will help us in transforming our networks for next generation mobile broadband services and reinforcing our technology leadership. Nokia’s field-proven, end-to-end solution will enable us to enhance packet core capacity and to start the process of cloudification for telco applications. With this solution, we will be able to support more users, devices and services over wireless and fixed access. We are proud to continue our pioneering technology deployments with the implementation of this first virtualized network application in North Africa. We look forward to working with Nokia for future projects as well.” Mr. Abdullatif Hamad Dafallah, Chief Executive Officer at Ooredoo Algeria, said.

 Pierre Chaume, Head of the North and West Africa Market Unit at Nokia, added that “The consumption of data is increasing across the world and telcos are grappling with ever-increasing demand for capacity. The deployment of the Cloud Mobile Gateway will help Ooredoo Algeria in the evolution of the core network to enable its customers to enjoy high-bandwidth services, delivered with the highest possible performance and reliability.”

www.nokia.com

www.ooredoo.dz

[Column] Nixon Kanali: Cloud, an essential component for every African business

Cloud computing has been in existence for almost two decades now helping businesses stay secure from cyber threats. The technology points to business efficiencies, cost benefits and holds a very competitive advantage.

Currently, a large portion of the African business community continues to operate in the cloud. In fact, according to a study by International Data Group, 69% of businesses around the globe are already using cloud technology in one capacity or another, and 18% say they plan to implement cloud-computing solutions at some point.

A previous report by Dell also revealed that companies that invest in big data, cloud, mobility and even security enjoy up to 53% revenue growth than their competitors.

The African cloud has arrived

Why therefore should businesses in Africa take cloud computing seriously? Well, Africa’s cloud and data centre ecosystem will soon become a land of serious opportunity. Bottom line, the African cloud has arrived and more African businesses need to take advantage of this.  The cloud services sector might still be in its early stages of development, but the impact is already far-reaching.

According to The “The Rise of the African Cloud: Azure, AWS, Vmware and the Battle to Transform African Enterprise Markets” report African banks for example are making investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to improve the customer experience and credit risk; new “digital banks” are emerging, that are, at least in part, cloud-based. Governments are also using cloud and virtualized infrastructure to enhance public service delivery. Large retail firms are using compute capabilities and AWS databases to transform how they reach a predominantly mobile and digital customer base – and scores of African cloud-native startups are leveraging the cloud to disrupt entire industry sectors.

‘’The African cloud may be small, but it is already here indeed, and it is growing fast.’’ the report notes.

CEOs and CIOs in Africa should now have cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies if they want to stay in business. The ability to harvest, store and sort big data is a critical element of business competitiveness and according to a recent column by Avinash Ramtohul, the Managing Director, Mauritius and Cloud Architect Leader, Sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle published on African Business Communities, the higher the use of autonomous technologies, the more the competitive edge!

A recent report by Xalam Analytics predicted that top line annual cloud services revenue in Africa is set to double between now and 2023, and public cloud services revenue to triple in that time.

“Few other segments in the African ICT space are as likely to generate an incremental $2bn in top-line revenue over the next five years, and at least as much in adjacent enabling ecosystem revenue,” the report noted. “But the broader upside is unmistakable, and the battle for the African cloud is only beginning.”

Cloud computing leads to faster development and quicker learning within organisations, therefore accelerates innovation as it drastically removes costly overheads when it comes to maintenance and updates. It should, therefore, become an essential component of every African business transformation.

Nixon Kanali is the Tech Editor for the Africa Business Communities

[Column] Andrew Sordam: The huge opportunity for consolidation and cloud in Africa

It is only 100 days since I took up the post of VP for Africa at Oracle, but already it is clear why the continent is such a priority for the company, and why it is considered a land of opportunity in the tech space.

Consolidation of modernisation

Africa is seeing huge population growth, and a marked increase in consumer spending, resulting in a big demand for 24/7 service. The much-discussed leapfrogging effect, which we have seen in areas like power and telecommunications, has helped the continent develop at speed, but it has also placed huge demands on modern businesses.

Companies of various shapes and sizes are taking advantage of the newest tech to improve the way they do business, but a major, more recent trend is that many are now looking at the consolidation of this modernisation. These are companies that are growing very quickly, and they want seamless and complete integration between the front and back office.

This is happening across the board – major corporates, SMEs, financial services companies, those in retail, in financial services, for example, East and West African banks are beginning to merge, with such mergers requiring new strategies.

Adoption of technology is not just for the commercial sector, however. In the public sector, greater efficiencies are also being sought. Each government department used to have its own IT department, but that is now changing, and we are seeing convergence into one service centre. This is a big trend across the continent. The public sector, like the private sector, is looking for integrated technologies to help it become more effective and keep up with demand.

Vertical strategies

Herein lies the opportunity for a company like Oracle. We help private, public sector organisations develop and improve processes and more, and more we are looking at complete solutions.

The opportunity is massive in Africa in this regard. We see the impact of our organisation in every line of business. We are able to give customers choice to either go in with the entire stack – from apps, to infrastructure, to vertical solutions or multiple modular journeys to the cloud. In each instance, this is based on business needs and can be either private or public cloud. And that impact is set to be further scaled with our new approach on the continent.

Our CEO Mark Hurd spoke recently about our plans for leveraging our leading Software-as-a-service (SaaS) business to seize business-to-business (B2B) market share. Africa is no different to anywhere else in this regard, though we see a particular opportunity in increasing our cloud business here, and will focus on this more and more.

Oracle’s model encourages the adoption of cloud particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, giving businesses the benefit of flexibility. Because we invest so much in innovation, it is easy for customers to manage, and we embed more optimisation than anyone else. Apps and databases are embedded with artificial intelligence (AI), making our services easy to adopt – a major benefit. Our solutions can basically run your business, saving you money on human capital.

Yet where we truly stand out at Oracle is our cloud autonomous play. We have an advantage here, with the autonomous category being our own invention, and believe customers in Africa will adopt this technology and improve their businesses as a result.

The Oracle Autonomous Database, for example, completely reshapes our customer’s approach to IT, helping them free their budgets and resources to focus on business growth while reducing risk.

Using machine learning and AI-driven technology, our cloud services can be upgraded, optimised, secured, patched and tuned automatically, without human intervention. Easy management encourages adoption, which speeds business growth, vital to economic development in emerging economies such as those in Africa.

A full ecosystem

For all the exciting trends and opportunities I have spotted in my first 100 days, however, there are also a myriad of challenges.

At the heart of it all are skills. The tech may be there, but you still need the knowledge from within each industry and within each country to maintain a certain level of service. That is why Oracle does not just sell products but also invests in capacity. The growth of Africa as a business hub – and therefore the success of our business on the continent – depends on building a self-sustaining ecosystem.

That is why we focus on developing digital skills across the continent. Our open platform for developers works with local coding communities to build developer skills, while we also partner with development agencies, NGOs, NPOs, and educational institutions, among others, to address ICT skills shortages.

That is also why we look at accelerating startups and entrepreneurs, and building skill sets across many countries. We recently announced, for example, the Ghana-Oracle Digital Enterprise Programme, a collaborative effort that will support 500 technology-enabled startups and entrepreneurs across Ghana through access to Oracle Cloud technology, mentoring and workshops, and business-enablement and support resources. SMEs are the backbone of emerging market economies, and it is vital we support them.

We want to run initiatives like this in other countries too. Tech is key, but we feel knowledge needs to be nurtured as well.

A bright future

Oracle has been present in Africa for nearly three decades, but never before have we been as excited for the future here as we are now. This is demonstrated by the launch of our first Oracle Innovation Hub on the continent, located in South Africa, to help drive the implementation of emerging technologies across the country’s businesses, public sector and academia.

Andrew Sordam is the Vice President for sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle

[South Africa] CMC Networks solve African cross-border cloud connectivity issues

CMC Networks, a global telecommunications carrier, says Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange will play an important role in its recently launched Multi Cloud Connect solution.

CMC Networks, a global telecommunications carrier, says Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange will play an important role in its recently launched Multi Cloud Connect solution. This will enable its customers direct connection to AWS Direct Connect and Microsoft Azure Express Route cloud platforms across multiple countries in Africa. 

Marisa Trisolino, CEO, CMC Networks, says that as the largest Pan-African provider of connectivity, the collaboration with Teraco is crucial to Multi Cloud Connects success: “By providing the essential building blocks, the Africa Cloud Exchange greatly assists us to provide our customers with the most direct and best possible cloud experience across the continent with stringent service levels to suit.”

Multi Cloud Connect will enable much sought-after connectivity for African countries trying to connect to cloud regions located in South Africa: “This is a significant offering that enables African ISP’s and carriers to connect directly without having to route to Europe and back to Africa. Leveraging CMC’s extensive African footprint Multi Cloud Connect will also drastically reduce latency through the African Cloud Exchange,” says Trisolino.

Having first engaged with Teraco over ten years ago through its carrier neutral data centre offering and NAPAfrica, Africa’s largest Internet eXchange point, Trisolino says CMC Networks has offered hosting services and peering diversity to a multitude of its customers.

The acceleration of cloud adoption, she says, spurred the company on to develop a cloud offering utilising its existing relationships: “We believe the nature of the Africa Cloud Exchange will encourage and lead to increased cloud innovation. It is an outstanding platform and will support us to achieve our strategic cloud objective, which centres on solving cross-border cloud connectivity problems throughout Africa.”

Andrew Owens, Teraco peering and interconnection specialist, says that Africa Cloud Exchange improves hybrid and multi-cloud performance through direct interconnection: “We empower our carrier communities to do more in the cloud by providing secure, direct, flexible network connections to a wide range of local and global cloud service providers.” By using an interconnected network architecture approach, Owens says that Africa Cloud Exchange will improve cloud application performance, reduce latency, scale on demand, lower network costs, and visibly deliver a better cloud experience to end users.

Trisolino is excited about the burgeoning cloud prospects across Africa. Having established itself close to 30 years ago, CMC Networks built and manages the most extensive network across Africa with 80+ Points of Presence servicing 51 African countries and in excess of 108 Points of Presence globally across USA, Europe, UAE, India, Asia, and Australia.

“The cloud era is a very exciting one for us. With our significant Africa network, Cloud Connect will undoubtedly play a vital role in the growth and improvement of cloud adoption across the African continent,” says Trisolino.

Countries that can expect sub 100ms RTD include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

www.cmcnetworks.net

www.teraco.co.za

[Column] Avinash Ramtohul: 5 key considerations for your journey to cloud

CEOs and CIOs on the continent have cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies, knowing fully well that without automation they will either be out of business or be steering an organisation towards undesired directions.

According to the IDC’s Kenya Enterprise ICT Market 2019 Outlook, 1,9 million USD is predicted to be spent on ICT in Kenya this year alone. The Kenyan government is prioritising it’s Big Four Agenda; which spans investment and development in manufacturing, food security, healthcare and housing. In order to achieve these objectives, the Government will focus on emerging technologies such as blockchain, IoT, cloud and data analytics.

CEOs and CIOs on the continent have cloud at the centre of their digital transformation strategies, knowing fully well that without automation they will either be out of business or be steering an organisation towards undesired directions. The ability to harvest, store and sort big data is a critical element of business competitiveness. The higher the use of autonomous technologies, the more the competitive edge!

In the process of devising a cloud adoption strategy, most companies realise that they can’t transition all workloads or business processes at once; considerations span Service Level Agreements, Data sensitivity and security, business continuity, cost and legislations/regulations. The challenge, then, is to carve out a transition plan that supports co-existence of on-premise and cloud based applications – hence ensuring minimal disruption when migrating pieces of software to the cloud in a chronological fashion.

There are 5 key considerations to take into account when carving out this transition plan; we explore these below.

Mapping your cloud-ready journey

Understanding how to achieve results that impact, not only the organisation, but the greater economy is crucial. Building a pathway to becoming cloud-ready should be an integrated approach, one driven by cloud strategy, policy and an innovative culture. Planning and preparation with the right cloud strategy are imperative to achieve the desired success

The path forward will vary, depending on where the organisation is starting. Each organisation will take a unique journey, following its own timeline. That said, most organisations could follow one or more of five use cases that describe the requirements they face on their journey:

  1. Streamline and modernise

If your enterprise does not have immediate plans to move to the cloud in a big way but does want to streamline its infrastructure. This kind of enterprise should work towards reducing technological complexity by replacing older servers, storage and backup systems with modern systems that are architecturally compatible with systems powering private and public cloud services.

  1. Accelerate time to value

With the aim of maintaining and growing its competitive edge, most innovative organisations need to do more with less, and faster – a necessary ingredient to live up to the rising expectations of both, the shareholders and customers, alike. In such a situation, an appliance strategy can provide great benefit. Today’s modern appliances come preconfigured to serve different purposes, such as to support a database, a private cloud environment, UNIX, or big-data applications. Because appliances are easy to deploy and operate, requiring less time and fewer specialised skills, IT departments are able to implement and manage them quickly, with a reduced learning curve, avoiding the hassles of testing and integration.

  1. Optimise and extend private cloud

Many organisations first implement private cloud to achieve lower costs and greater agility for generic, non-critical workloads. Most self-assembled generic private clouds take months to build out, resulting in decreased agility and expensive personnel to build, tune and manage. They typically require expensive licenses and support contract to run generic workloads. The recommended way forward therefore, is to adopt platforms that are optimised for cost and/or performance. Generic workloads can run on the Oracle Private Cloud Appliance, optimised to deliver low-cost computing for Linux, Solaris, and Windows applications while more-demanding applications operate better on purpose-built engineered systems. 

This provides an easy path to public or hybrid cloud, with unified management across environments.

  1. Optimise and secure critical applications

Business-critical applications require peak performance and security. However, in many organisations, the infrastructure supporting these applications has been built over time and is lagging in modernisation, and is now inconsistent with currently available mix of platforms. The result is an overly complex environment that does not always deliver the required performance or security.

Enterprises, here, would be better off identifying applications that manage data of low sensitivity to move them to the cloud. Back-ups, learning and test & dev environments would easily fit into Oracle’s IaaS offerings with a reduction in cost (eradicating cost of hardware, cooling, data centre space, labour). For the residual applications, high-end SPARC-based servers will optimise performance while improving efficiency with the highest security, whether implemented on-premises or on the cloud. Moving to a single platform will also bring cost savings and unified and simplified infrastructure management.

  1. Consolidate and protect data with advanced storage solutions

Every company is facing data storage and protection challenges. With the ever-increasing explosion of data volumes, simply adding to an existing storage infrastructure is no longer affordable nor effective. The better approach is to implement modern storage solutions that are built to eliminate data loss and cut recovery times. Voluminous data can be off-loaded to the cloud which offers ample security and ease of access management. Same data can be accessed from any authentic IP source, rendering the data loading and access process more streamlined and less costly.  

Take control of your future

For each of the considerations, Oracle delivers cloud-ready systems that have precise equivalents in Oracle’s own public cloud. In this way, the public cloud appears as a compatible extension of what already runs in your data centre, making it easier to move when you are ready. Even if you have no immediate plans to move to the cloud, it is a nice option to have. In the meantime, you are able to bring many benefits of the public cloud into your on-premises infrastructure and accelerate the process of innovation.

Avinash Ramtohul is the Managing Director, Mauritius and Cloud Architect Leader, Sub-Saharan Africa at Oracle.

[Column] Nixon Kanali: Moving to the cloud can help African business stay secure from cyber threats

A few years back I got the chance to attend the East African Cloud Summit organized by the University of Nairobi’s C4DLab in collaboration with Microsoft. The summit was on Cloud Computing and how it can be used to improve societal growth and transformation.

One of the panellists present during the summit was Dr.Bitange Ndemo, a former Permanent Secretary in the ministry of ICT who is currently heading a 10-member taskforce on blockchain and artificial intelligence in Kenya. Dr. Ndemo spoke widely on Cloud and why most African organisations and even SMEs are still scared of moving into Cloud. He said most of these companies feel unsafe with their data being in the Cloud since they believe that with the data being in the Cloud they will be sharing it with other people.

Dr.Ndemo also noted that most of these organizations lack information about the importance of moving to the cloud. I remember asking the panel what needs to be done to convince these organizations or SMEs that the cloud is an indeed a safe place store their data, and Dr.Ndemo joked that the only thing that can be done is pray for them. Well, one thing was clear though, more awareness and facts need to be given to these organisations. One thing they emphasized on is that moving into the Cloud is not about sharing, it’s about accessibility.

Moving to the cloud can help businesses secure from cybercrime threats. In an interview I once had with Kaspersky Lab Channel Sales Manager for East Africa, Bethwel Opil, on the State of cybersecurity in the country, it was evident that there were so many gaps to be filled. Most organizations are not investing in this sector. Its either they don’t have the personnel or don’t even care at all. The cloud could help them fill these gaps and stay secure from online threats.

With the threat of cyber-crime and insider fraud on the rise, Kenyan companies should be looking towards cloud applications as one means of improving the security of their IT environments. In their experience, Bethwel Opil said CIOs and/or CISOs are starting to understand how serious cybercrime is becoming in Kenya, and the realities around cybercrime and the impact it can have on a business – not only from a data loss point of view but also from a reputational one. Kenyan organizations are wrestling with the growing danger posed by threats such as malware, hackers, and theft of computing devices.

The cost of cybercrimes is mounting, Cloud computing improves IT security and security professionals and African organisations need as much help as possible. Cloud helps security operations respond quicker to threats helping organisations to focus on business risk as opposed to spending thousands of hours researching threats.

Cybercriminals are becoming very skilled and are placing a strong focus on the business market, given the financial gain it can offer them. Ransomware that targets businesses, for example, is becoming more widespread and more sophisticated. Cybersecurity is therefore not an issue that only IT people should take into consideration. The reality is that it concerns everyone – consumers, home users and their families, small businesses and large organisations, including governments.

Moving to the cloud should, therefore, be a top priority for African organisations.

Nixon Kanali is the Tech Editor for the African Business Communities

[Column] Ade Famoti: Autonomous IT, empowering business to be its best

In Kenya, cloud is no longer just a possibility, it is the fundamental tool igniting innovation

Cloud computing is rapidly becoming an essential component of business transformation. In Kenya, cloud is no longer just a possibility, it is the fundamental tool igniting innovation. At a high level, cloud is an economiser, requiring no massive start-up costs before results can be realised. Cloud is also an enabler: the very best technologies, ready to be put to work to help organisations innovate and differentiate.

But as technology has become essential to the operation of modern business, and complex, organisations such as banks, retailers and many others have found that to be leaders within their chosen fields, they have also had to become exceptional in terms of their understanding and use of technology.

Take banking as an example. A bank’s core purpose is to be the best bank it can possibly be, not to run the best ‘tech-shop’. The thing is, over time, banks have become ever more reliant on technology to enable that purpose.

And as that dependency has grown, so their requirement for staff to manage that technology has grown. This has resulted in the creation of sizeable groups of staff who are dedicated to servicing technology in the back end, rather than servicing customers. But customers don’t choose a bank because it has the best possible back-end technology. They come because it offers the best products combined with the best customer service.

That vision of being the best possible bank might be powered by technology, but it is the technology at the front end that makes the biggest impact in the eyes of the customer – and you can’t invest in front-end systems if most of your resources are devoted to maintaining systems at the back-end.

New wave of technology

Perhaps it is time that we let organisations get back to focusing on what they are best at – be that retailing, banking, or whatever their core mission is – and leave technology to look after itself.

It sounds like a fantasy, but it is the promise made by the newest wave of business technology innovation – autonomous technology. Combining the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous technology delivers the capability for IT systems to self-manage, self-repair and self-secure across a wide range of functions and applications.

Let’s take a step back to understand the concept of machine learning. While machine learning itself can be unduly complex, the basic ideas are easy to grasp. Let’s use the example of a business process both familiar and highly important to most organisations: selecting and on-boarding job candidates.

The basic components would start with a training data set: a complete history of all candidates selected and hired, their key attributes, how they were on-boarded, and their eventual performance in the organisation. Next, an analysis engine would extract key features that contributed to candidates’ success and create a recommendation engine that would rate new applicants and their likelihood to thrive at the organisation.

So far, this scenario is somewhat similar to data analytics, except that the algorithms decide which factors matter and which ones do not. Machine learning goes one step further. It processes ongoing results of those candidates, and continually updates its recommendation engine rules over time.

It learns from actual experience, and thus it makes better decisions over time. Think of adaptive intelligence as data-driven learning at vastly increased speeds compared with humans.

When applied in a database, autonomous technology can not only automate the process of cleansing and organising data, it can also ensure patches are applied and the data is secured. And when applied in a data warehouse, autonomous technology can interrogate data to find correlations and patterns across structured and unstructured data, and then present these as insights back to business users.

This is not a vision of the future, it is a capability that Oracle is making available to the market now. And it can do all of this with minimal human intervention.

Remove complexity, add value

The key difference with autonomous technology is that it eliminates complexity.

This frees people from performing many of the tedious tasks associated with managing backend technology, allowing them to focus on tasks that will make a real difference to their organisation and their customers.

As technologies such as AI, machine learning and intelligent process automation become more widely available, finance leaders want to know: How can these technologies help me in my business?

At Oracle, we are embedding intelligent digital assistants into our products and applications. In finance departments, digital assistants can perform similar functions to automate repetitive processes that consume employee hours – time that could be better spent on higher-level tasks such as faster decision-making and architecting a new financial strategy. Soon you’re going to see digital assistants help your organisation speed up financial year end, manage budgets, and perform financial forecasting. When viewed from an organisation-wide perspective, autonomous technology means getting back to focusing on what the organisation does best, safe in the knowledge that the technology is taking care of itself. So we can finally let organisations get back to doing what they do best. Ade Famoti is the Director, Sales Strategy & Business Development – Africa at Oracle