[Column] David Bunei: Next-generation cloud eliminates pain points for Kenyan business

In addition to experiencing our new brand look in person, business leaders who attended the recent Oracle Modern Cloud Day in Nairobi had the opportunity to experience the full potential unlocked by cloud-embedded technology.

On a greater societal level, cloud technologies are at the heart of concepts like smart or green cities where available resources are optimized and systems integrated for the benefit of all citizens. Businesses too can achieve unprecedented all-round efficiency enabled by cloud services. The recent Cloud Day event in Kenya was an opportunity for us to showcase Oracle’s latest innovation across cloud applications and cloud infrastructure.

With a 30-year presence in, and commitment to, Africa, Oracle is bringing these, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) enriched innovations to Kenya as part of their global rollout. Companies that have already invested in previous generations of the technology will automatically receive the upgrades through patches. For all Kenyan organisations, though – whether already Oracle customers or not – Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud infrastructure and the new features that use it as their foundation, will help prepare an agile, secure and cost effective infrastructure that will allow the business to consistently innovate and grow in the digital economy.

Cloud can help reduce costs

One of the key challenges facing Kenyan businesses is the cost of doing business. Although cloud adoption is considered an IT strategy to reduce expenses, it has overarching repercussions for any business, especially in the digital age. A shift to cloud liberates companies from tech refresh cycles and CAPEX investment to support their on-premise systems. Whether transitioning critical or non-essential applications to the cloud, Oracle customers pay only for resources that are consumed.

More importantly, cloud-based systems are especially beneficial for companies operating in, or expanding beyond, Kenyan borders. In the case of Oracle, customers enjoy consistent pricing in all regions, so cross-border expansion does not lead to any cost increases. This way, customers can access world-class cloud services and their own fully integrated enterprise management systems no matter where their market aspirations take them. The expansion of the Oracle Universal Cloud Credits system announced at OpenWorld 2019, also enables businesses to further optimise their operational expenditure.

Organisations are often hesitant to shift to cloud given their use of business systems and technologies from various providers. Apart from the complication of wholesale data transfer, there is the cost associated with such an undertaking. Strategic partnerships are becoming more common as cloud enters its next stage, helping to streamline the process. Having already announced a cloud interoperability partnership with Microsoft in June, three months later, Oracle OpenWorld revealed a partnership with VMware, where customers can now more easily move and run VMware environments on Oracle Cloud.

Creating data-driven customer centricity

As elsewhere, data security remains a key concern for Kenyan businesses, along with the use of data to enhance the customer experience. Embedded in next-generation cloud services, automation, AI and ML can be leveraged to mine insights that will improve time to market and provide greater predictability in delivering the right customer services at the right time. Already, Oracle has partnered with the Kenya Revenue Authority to provide a more responsive and relevant service to their customers, translating into better brand reputation.

One final point to make is that cloud migration is an ongoing journey, for our customers and Oracle itself. One of the major announcements at OpenWorld was Oracle’s plans to build a cloud region in South Africa. New Oracle Cloud regions are continually being launched – one every 23 days over the next 15 months or so – and our relationship with Microsoft opens the door to interconnecting with Azure data centres in more areas too.

Change takes time. While Oracle and other global players increase their investment in Africa, business decision-makers – who have expressed their enthusiasm about cloud’s potential – should seize every refresh opportunity at their organisation to explore what cloud solutions can do to introduce immediate business value.

David Bunei is the Managing Director for Oracle Kenya.

[South Africa] Routed achieves Africa’s first VMware Cloud verified status

Routed, a vendor neutral cloud infrastructure provider has announced that it has achieved VMware Cloud Verified status. As the first company on the African continent to attain this status, Routed is proud to be among an elite group of highly skilled providers with the ability to operate at this high level of cloud certification.

The Cloud Verified badge signals to customers that Routed offers a service running on top of the complete VMware Cloud infrastructure. Through Cloud Verified partner services, customers attain access to the full set of VMware Cloud Infrastructure capabilities including integration and interoperability, cost optimisation and flexibility.

Andrew Cruise, managing director, Routed, says that being cloud verified by one of the global cloud leaders such as VMware is a career highlight: “We have watched as the cloud foundations were being built over the past four years and as we head into 2020, it is clear that the cloud-surge will continue, albeit cautiously, and Africa will continue to be a significant player within the global cloud sector. To work closely with VMware brings significant strength to the Routed offering. We are delighted to reach this milestone first and look forward to being an active participant in the developing cloud sector across the African continent.”

“Partners that are VMware Cloud Verified provide organisations with complete and advanced VMware Cloud technologies, along with interoperability across clouds for greater advantage for their customers’ businesses,” said Dave Funnell, VMware Senior Manager: Cloud Provider Business. “Cloud Verified services delivered by VMware Cloud Providers can provide the efficiency, agility, and reliability inherent in cloud computing. We look forward to supporting Routed as it empowers organisations with a simple and flexible path to the cloud.”

VMware’s global network of more than 4,000 VMware Cloud Providers leverage VMware’s consistent cloud infrastructure to offer a wide array of services, provide geographic and industry specialisation, and help customers meet complex regulatory requirements. Cloud Providers operating under the VMware Cloud Provider Program deliver individually tailored cloud solutions and services in more than 120 countries.

www.routed.co.za

[Column] Syed Asad Abbas: We need to embrace the Cloud

There’s a lot of hype about the Cloud, however what comes to mind when you hear that your software will sit in the cloud, it sounds positively intangible and  like a cloud it can fall apart anytime. Making it seem like something you have no control over, it may just disappear like smoke. Many people think this, but it is misconception. We the ICT industry should have used another word to describe as the name Cloud certainly created misunderstandings and the intangible nature of clouds created a negative perception when it came to ‘Cloud Technology, ‘however the name stuck and we’ve been playing catch-up as a sector ever since.

The Cloud is actually a set of technologies which are rented out to multiple tenants, anywhere in the world and at a low cost, hosted by a company which specialize in hosting, managing and delivering them. Keeping them operational 24/7 and 365 days a year. Some servers use computing power to run applications or “deliver a service”. Almost everyone that uses any form of tech, already uses Cloud Services, often without knowing it. If you use any services of Google or Apple, you are using and accessing Cloud technology.

With examples, implementation and case studies regarding the use of Cloud Technology, companies and organisations started to become convinced. If we take an example of data security, who will have better measures in place to secure data, you an accounting firm or any other business or a firm specialising in nothing but Information Technology and security?

Cloud as we know it is not something new, it existed as far back as the first industrial revolution. Cloud was there when people started depositing their monies in a bank instead of their personal vaults, money is valued above all else, and yet we don’t even know where exactly our money is stored, we just access it via an ATM, online, or via a speedpoint. You could call utility companies such as electricity or water companies Cloud technology. People started using electricity brought to their homes from a power station instead of using their own generators. Water pipelines to bring water to the tap from a river, a dam or a centralized water source instead of digging their own boreholes and wells. Why install an expensive infrastructure at your own premises when you can just use and pay only for the service that you need. Imagine every needing their own water company to access clean and potable water.

When it comes to selecting a cloud based solution, more often than not we think about where our data will be stored, but actually what’s important is who will have access to our data, will it be available to us whenever we need it? So it does not matter where our data sits, what matters is how secure is the access and how durable is the service availability.

Next time when you are offered a solution which sits in the Cloud, think about the more important factors, i.e. Security and Availability. Whether it is a software application, data that needs to be stored or software programmes (Software as a Service), it’s all possible and at the organisation’s fingertips with the Cloud. The services are available anywhere and anytime through any enabled devices and are totally secure and with an exponentially increased efficiency. Most organisations and companies across the globe have already embraced completely secure cloud service based solutions.

Cloud-based solutions and Software as a Service are almost without exception part of every country’s overall development plan in terms of public service infrastructure, economic outlook and investment environment. Developing ICT-infrastructure in both the public and private sectors.

If we do nothing as Namibia, but just stand by and watch this new revolution pass us by, it will cause long-term damage and will create an unbridgeable digital divide compared to other nations which are adapting to this trend proactively. It really makes sense for every business and organisation to use Cloud Services. So what do we do? There’s no need to be cautious or doubtful regarding Cloud technology, the tech is proven. We need to adopt and embrace strategies which enable us to utilize cloud computing and deliver effective and efficient e-Governance and Cloud Services and software to companies and organisations, no matter their size.

Syed Asad Abbas is the Head of Division, Software Services at Green Enterprise Solutions (Pty) Ltd.

Workonline launches Remote Cloud Connect services in Africa

Global network service provider, Workonline Communications, has launched Remote Cloud Connect, facilitating access to cloud services for Workonline customers over a dedicated Ethernet Virtual Private Line (EVPL) service. This low latency cloud solution enables customers to connect to leading cloud services such as AWS Direct Connect, Microsoft Azure Express Route, Google Cloud, Oracle and IBM cloud platforms more securely and transparently from any country where Workonline has a presence.

Benjamin Deveaux, Head of Business Development at Workonline Communications, says that the aim is to empower customers by enabling them to connect to the cloud through their use of the high performance Workonline backbone: “As a wholesale provider of IP transit services across Africa, we are continuously innovating to provide our ISP clients with more stable and reliable Internet services in Africa. By leveraging global cloud exchange platforms like Teraco’s Africa Cloud Exchange we can offer our ISP customers a more secure remote connection to a cloud provider of their choice. Through Remote Cloud Connect, clients will benefit from a low cost, high performance connection with excellent local support.”

In line with the predicted growth of cloud across the continent, Xalam Analytics recently published its report ‘The rise of the African cloud’, and says that for African markets, cloud, virtualisation and the broader evolution towards serverless computing are the most disruptive technology developments since the advent of the mobile payment revolution. 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.

Deveaux says that Workonline sees immense potential across East and West Africa within the remote connectivity to cloud services space in particular: “Initially our efforts will focus on Kenya and Ghana, where remote connectivity to cloud services is growing fast.”

Through Remote Cloud Connect, Workonline will deliver far more predictable latency connections by taking the shortest route from Kenya or Ghana back to its South African or European Points of Presence where the Cloud provider in question is present. Workonline will also provide secondary failover links for protection when possible, with transparency in terms of the paths which the traffic will take in various failure scenarios. These services can be provided at 1Mbps to multiples of 10Gbps.

Andrew Owens, Teraco peering and interconnection specialist, says that cloud growth is a reality across the continent and the ability for established networks to provide an on-ramp to cloud is essential: “The Africa Cloud Exchange not only enables networks to provide this connection, but also encourages the growth and development of cloud-based solutions. By providing a direct and secure connection, the platform provides a better cloud experience for end users and as a result, empowers the growth and success of African cloud providers.”

www.workonline.africa

[Column] Toney Wabela: Technological disruption looming for Africa’s data network market

Sometimes a disruptive technology can loiter for a while, before it changes everything. Yet change it will bring, because nothing and no one can defy gravity. So it is, I believe, with the new generation of open compute infrastructure.

For, as the world creates data, there’s an equal demand for resources to store, process and make sense from this data to drive business value. 

All the thousands of ledgers that used to be created manually now generate legions of data threads, expanded by ever more automation and cross-relationships, driving further data and data processes. Our data revolution has created new data flows, again, from our communication, seeing global hyperscale companies create hundreds of thousands of square metres of data centres to hold and process their millions of users’ data.

These data centres need power to run the servers, cooling systems and security systems, maintain an optimal ambient temperature, and keep the air dust-free. And this power has been creating a galloping electricity bill in recent years, to such an extent that hyperscalers started investing in R&D to design more energy efficient computing infrastructure. 

Two years of design engineering gave birth to the Open Compute Project (OCP), a radical and bold move by leading hyperscalers to create non-proprietary data centre hardware that achieved a significant milestone in energy efficiency and reduced total cost of ownership. This move has been well received by other players in the technology innovation space, with leading chip and switch makers joining OCP. More than 1,000 globally leading hardware engineers have since contributed to and continue to make improvements to these free, state-of-the-art blueprints for data centre infrastructure. 

And thus, in one step, hardware has been added to the open source revolution that brought the world software from Joomla to Sugar and Linux to Steam as ever-expanding communities of technical contributors.

The chase could not be more timely, with OCP evolving just as cloud computing has been moving into a new gear. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market has been rising for the last 20 years, beginning with customer relationship management services, and steadily claiming ever more software space, from mailing lists to payroll, book-keeping to word processing.

With each new SaaS offering, the cloud grows bigger, and the need for data centres greater. 

Yet as a next wave of disruptive technology, OCP has barely appeared on the radar.

Using OCP equipment, versus the kit available from the world’s top brand names, has thus far demonstrated a significant reduction in the total cost of ownership and maintenance of data centre infrastructure. We have been able to register savings of over 40 per cent in implementation as well as licensing costs. 

Now that’s a big enough difference to change equations everywhere, but for companies like ours, working to effect a technology revolution in Africa, that’s akin to a beacon in the dark. The costs of equipping data centres have almost been halved, putting these centres within the reach of many small and medium sized businesses, as well as offering our nations’ largest companies and government, an opportunity to significantly reduce their operating expenditures attributed to data centre maintenance.

At my own company, we have seized this opportunity, becoming the first Cloud services provider in Africa to introduce OCP hardware at the East Africa Data Centre, one of the largest data centres in the continent which has been set up in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. 

This OCP infrastructure is currently the backbone of our innovative SaaS solutions which includes iLearn, a learning management system for state primary schools that has been designed, developed and tested in collaboration with professional Kenyan teachers, with the digital learning content vetted and approved by the government. This interactive learner centred platform can be accessed by teachers and pupils from any part of the country through a smartphone, tablet or laptop, thereby proliferating digital literacy in the country. 

We are also using this OCP infrastructure to power our private, public and hybrid cloud services. 

Thus, by using data centre infrastructure that is cost efficient all the time as our foundation, we have created an entire pyramid of more accessible and locally relevant services and software for our African clients.

In short, from the Open Compute Project we have initiated a programme to open computing services to businesses throughout Africa, encompassing organisations that could never have stepped so quickly or so lightly into the cloud were it’s still on offer only at more than double the price.

We believe that the capacity for OCP to play its part in bridging the digital divide has been remarkably overlooked until now.

But we also see this technology as a disruptor that the hardware industry and the global cloud services providers have barely understood, as yet. For, with hundreds of our finest hardware engineers engaged in constantly upgrading OCP designs, and the resulting infrastructure out-competing proprietary infrastructure at a fraction of the price, it can only be so long before data centres make OCP the global standard, forcing proprietary brands to reassess their unique selling points.

For Africa, the move to OCP and the opening of the cloud to hundreds of thousands of companies and millions of citizens, cannot come soon enough. That’s why we have made it begin. OCP is no doubt the future in data centre infrastructure, just as SaaS became the present in software.

Toney Webala is the Co-Founder and CTO at Atlancis Technologies 

[Column] Sandra Crous: Cloud is the future of payroll

Cloud technologies are becoming more popular than ever before, with research from RightScale revealing that some 94% of organisations are using the cloud in some capacity within their businesses.

“This is seeing many businesses adopting a strategy where they consider operating a process, workflow, or similar in the cloud before looking at on-premise alternatives,” says Sandra Crous, Managing Director of cloud-based payroll and human capital management software, PaySpace.

She says they are doing this to take advantage of the many benefits that cloud offers, such as cost efficiencies, streamlined operations, and automatic updates among many others. “A cloud strategy has the potential to save a lot of time and money for businesses, and nowhere is this truer than with payroll and HR solutions.”

There are many benefits of going the cloud route, adds Crous. “Firstly, the need for less hardware. Going the cloud route means that corporates have to spend far less on maintaining legacy hardware and infrastructure, and the space needed to house it all. Maintenance costs are built into service provider contracts, eliminating the need for in-house support staff in the event that something goes wrong.”

In addition, businesses don’t need to worry about the technology, as they will automatically have access to the latest and best software, without having to physically install it, or worry about the ongoing maintenance and upgrades needed to keep it up to date, because these are done regularly and automatically, says Crous.

There is no large capital outlay, she explains. “With any ‘pay-as-you-use’ model, companies can benefit from economies of scale, as pricing is flexible, with packages to suit companies of every size. There is also far greater flexibility, as businesses can instantly scale up or down according to their needs, with no manual intervention. And with an increasingly mobile workforce, having a cloud solution enables employees to work more easily on the go. As long as they have an internet connection and a mobile device they can work from anywhere, at any time.”

Most cloud-based payroll software solutions, for example, will also calculate the correct amount each employee should be paid, and helps keep track of each staff member’s work records, including leave, benefits, taxes and overtime which not only saves a lot of payroll processing time by removing the need for manual input, it also offers real-time information for the business.

However, Crous says perhaps the most compelling benefits, are the increased security and compliance that cloud solutions can offer. “Automatic software upgrades mean that your provider takes care of installing security updates, which means that remaining secure is hassle-free.”

In terms of compliance, she says keeping up to date with staff contract changes, as well as governance can be a very onerous task because payroll and HR processing is complex and governed by numerous sets of regulations at different levels. “This complexity is  increased when a business has offices all over the world, but a good cloud solution will automatically update information concerning new regulations, and ensure your business remains compliant at all times, and in all of its offices.”

This is particularly important when you are dealing with personal data, such as payroll information, she says. “Loss or theft of this data could result in hefty fines being levied against your organisation, not to mention a loss of customer confidence which can prove to be catastrophic.”

“Take a look at PaySpace’s cloud-based payroll and HR solution. Usually, when you buy a payroll or HR package, it needs to be configured from scratch. It is like a book with blank pages, all your data needs to be captured, and all your settings configured to ensure your business remains compliant. However, PaySpace takes all the information and configures the earnings, deductions such as UIF, and handles compliance in the background, ensuring not only a seamless start but taking the hassle out of ensuring your business remains fully compliant.” 

Sandra Crous is the Managing Director of cloud-based payroll and human capital management software, PaySpace.

[Column] Flora Kangethe: Customer service to backend – How cloud-based AI enables modernisation of business

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is proving to be a key technology in delivering improved customer experience and exceeding customer expectations. It is also a highly effective way for countries to achieve their economic growth and sustainability objectives.

In Kenya, emerging digital technologies are considered a significant part of national development plans, and have enjoyed significant support from the country’s leaders. This has led to the introduction of a host of development initiatives that leverage the potential of the latest cloud technologies that are powered by machine learning.

Possibly the most notable early adopter of AI in Kenya is the Kenyan government itself, which is also one of the top performers in Africa as per the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019. According to the report, it’s estimated that AI will add US$15 trillion to the global economy by 2030. However, the report findings also reveal that governments in the Global North are still better positioned to reap the benefits of AI than their southern counterparts. This poses a risk to countries in the Global South as they may not be fully prepared to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As noted in the Readiness Index 2019 report, “AI has the power to transform the way governments around the world deliver public services. In turn, this could greatly improve citizens’ experiences of government. Governments are already implementing AI in their operations and service delivery, to improve efficiency, save time and money, and deliver better quality public services.”

As one example of their efforts to improve the local socio-economic direction of the country, the Kenyan government has committed to using AI to help assess citizens’ eligibility for affordable housing. The AI technology will assist in allocating 500,000 new affordable homes by checking applicants’ credit histories and smartphone wallet transaction history sourced through the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB).

The government is also making use of AI technology to verify and authenticate voters during election campaigns. Biometric technology was used by the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) to ensure that votes were cast only after fingerprint and photo authentication.

Oracle is the first organisation to take AI even further by embedding this technology in its cloud applications. By leveraging AI organisations can unlock significant value not only for their customers but for themselves in the form of greater operational efficiencies and cost savings.

AI in customer service

A best practise AI use case is in customer service. When used in this area of the business, chatbots can reduce the cost to serve customers, while improving the response time, consistency and quality of customer interactions. Similar benefits arise when the chatbot is customer-facing or when used by agents themselves to augment their knowledge.

Oracle recently announced the extended and evolved availability of its AI-trained Oracle Digital Assistant. Now users can use voice commands to communicate with their Oracle enterprise applications to drive desired actions and outcomes. The technology enriches the user experience with conversational AI, simplifying interactions and improving productivity.

This feature has already been of exceptional importance to the international organisation, Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI), who employ blind people for a wide range of jobs – from assembly to various customer service and office roles. Switching to Oracle Cloud Applications, the organisation aims to improve product quality and accuracy around factors such as shipment status and inventory.

Since implementing the new Oracle Cloud Applications with Oracle Digital Assistant, IBVI has been able to create new independent roles (no sighted assistance required, where one sighted person for every four blind employees was required previously) in customer service, human resources, and financial management.

It’s not just about chatbots: Automation across both sales and marketing processes can improve quote-to-cash turnaround times and reduce administrative workloads while allowing for a level of personalised messaging to customers that were previously unachievable. As these examples attest, AI-embedded cloud systems have the power to deliver value whether as the mechanism for customer interaction (as in the case of chatbots) or in support of those responsible for it.

AI in HR

For Kenya – the highest-ranked African nation on the Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019 – to stay ahead of the AI curb, the focus needs to be shifted to the adoption of cloud-based business systems that embed the technology in the application itself, unlocking automation capabilities by default.

HR is one such example, where the use of AI to understand and automate processes, can lead to significant efficiency gains. It can be used to identify staff who may be thinking about leaving or to recommend learning paths, thereby reducing employee attrition.

In the world of procurement, the use of AI within Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can identify deviations from compliance requirements in contracting, enforce approval processes, and automate requisition through invoice matching and payment. The automation of these processes allows organisations to reliably produce outcomes while enabling their employees to focus on tasks that deliver more strategic value to the organisation.

Much has been made of the abilities of AI to bring significant value to the customer – and rightly so. AI can produce repeatable, scalable, and reliable outcomes for customers, improving their overall experience. However, AI can also deliver enormous efficiency through various lines of business and across roles, creating a more streamlined organisation that is more able to focus on creating client value.

Flora Kangetheis the Applications Sales Director, Oracle Kenya

[Column] Benjamin Coetzer: 2020 – the year containerisation dominates PaaS

How will infrastructure evolve and provide the sourcing, migration and delivery of services for today’s digital migration? According to Benjamin Coetzer, Director, Routed – a vendor neutral cloud infrastructure developer, Platform as a Service in conjunction with the rising trend of containerisation, is busy delivering these answers.

As of 2019, Gartner says that the total Platform as a Service (PaaS) market contains more than 360 vendors, offering more than 550 cloud platform services in 21 categories. Gartner expects that, from 2018 to 2022, the market will double in size and that PaaS will be the prevailing platform delivery model moving forward.

Coetzer says that the adoption of PaaS has boomed leading to an increasing and subsequent uptake of containerisation: “Enterprises are embracing containers at a much faster pace than expected, giving rise to Containerisation as a Service (CaaS). The thriving open source community combined with the availability of mature commercial offerings has given much needed confidence to enterprise customers.”

He says that containers will redefine the hybrid cloud by bridging the gap between legacy and modern applications and on-premises and public cloud infrastructure.

“As software providers become more comfortable with building out containerised applications and consuming PaaS offerings, more and more responsibilities will be moved away from consumers of cloud infrastructure.  What will become vital is workload mobility, the ability to move applications between cloud infrastructure providers, to avoid vendor lock-in scenarios, which is a huge risk currently,” says Coetzer.

Migration from on-premise to cloud, or cloud-to-cloud remains fairly primitive and will become crucial for adoption in the years to come. Coetzer says that VMware is already working towards a multi-cloud management platform to enable this scenario. He expects more vendors to develop competing offerings but says that the VMWare platform is currently leading this race.

“Containers are changing the way resources and services are consumed by developers, from internal or external cloud infrastructure providers. It’s also introducing new networking and security challenges, which are being addressed by NFV solutions. There are some exciting projects that are changing the face of private cloud infrastructure hosting facilities, while the cloud giants Azure and AWS have been feverishly innovating Kubernetes-as-a-Service offerings and expanding on their already vast Platform-as-a-Service offerings,’ says Coetzer.

According to Forbes, Kubernetes has become the front and centre of enterprise container platforms. From traditional OS vendors to modern PaaS providers, every major platform vendor has a commercial Kubernetes offering making it the new operating system of the data centre. Traditional PaaS has gradually transformed into a container management platform. PaaS industry leaders have embraced Kubernetes as the foundation of their platforms and according to Forbes, 2019 will witness the complete transformation of PaaS into CaaS.

Coetzer sees this trend extending locally making 2020 an exciting year for further digital transformation.

Benjamin Coetzer is the Director of cloud service provider Routed.

[Column] Bernard Ford: Managing fixed assets efficiently is an art

Modern cloud-based fixed asset management software helps today’s businesses focus on their core competencies rather than complex IT processes. More importantly, it helps them avoid huge costs related to software, storage and technical staff. This is according to One Channel CEO Bernard Ford.

Cloud offers various advantages such as scalability, flexibility in capacity, enhanced collaboration and cost-efficiency. It also offers a centralised way to integrate the system and its components with web and mobile applications and helps businesses with efficient asset management, maintenance and productivity.

Cloud-based deployment is expected to have a significant growth in the fixed asset management software market, research shows that this market size is expected to grow from US$3-billion in 2019 to US$5.2-billion by 2024.

Fixed asset management software empowers businesses with a centralised platform to efficiently manage their assets throughout its lifecycle. This includes asset lifecycle management, asset budgeting, depreciation management, disposal management, document management, barcoding/Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), asset tracking, audit trail, and tax management.

He says businesses across all industries are adopting fixed asset management software as it enables them to monitor their assets and increase operational efficiency. “Maintenance, repair, and operations of assets are of the utmost importance in any asset-intensive industry.”

Preventive maintenance and IoT technology will boost the adoption of fixed asset management solutions. Also, the growing need to reduce operational cost and proliferate profits through efficient management of assets, are the major factors driving the growth of the fixed asset management software market.

Fixed assets include everything from laptops to printers, furniture, machinery, vehicles and buildings. They need to be managed effectively, regardless of whether it’s a few devices or thousands deployed across multiple locations.

“Traditional fixed asset software typically used spreadsheets whilst modern products enable business owners to use bar code technology to manage off-premise assets including laptops, equipment and machinery. Modern software makes it much easier to track asset location, its usage and even the condition of any asset. Some applications also offer maintenance schedules for these assets,” he explains.

Modern cloud applications like Acumatica allow business owners to track maintenance schedules, location of the asset, current condition and depreciation. It also allows for better asset management, having all asset data stored in a single application eliminates the need for multiple spreadsheets that track multiple assets.

“More accurate reporting is crucial, so instead of using spreadsheets, business owners can now manage their assets right along with their other accounting tasks, saving time by reducing duplicate data entry and eliminates the potential for human error,” he concludes

Bernard Ford is the CEO of One Channel, South Africa. 

[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.