[Column] Kabelo Makwane: Disaster recovery through cloud computing

During the last year alone, we have seen a number of organisations become the latest victims of targeted cyber-attacks and large-scale data breaches, ultimately bringing business to their knees.

Even with the latest and top of the market cyber security defences in place, there is no guarantee that your business is safe. And if the statistics are anything to go by, Check Point Research saw a 50% increase in the daily average of ransomware attacks, compared to the first half of 2020. The question is not ‘if’ your business is next, but ‘when’.

Information is the lifeblood of any organisation and for optimum safety should be secured in the cloud enabling it to be shared and acted upon at a moment’s notice. However, the loss of business data can result in irreversible damage to your business, including the loss of productivity, revenue, reputation, and impact on clients.

For retailers, however, disaster planning comes with additional urgency, requiring businesses to safeguard not only their employees, but customers too at a time when online shopping is expected to peak.

Disaster recovery

Essentially, a disaster recovery plan enables an organisation to futureproof its IT infrastructure against the odds. For retailers implementing the right technology and having a disaster recovery plan in place will minimise the impact of the worst-case scenario allowing your business to respond instantly to the issue mitigating potential negative brand perception.

Security breaches can be the result of intentional actions or accidental ones. While hackers and cyber criminals are motivated by various factors, typically motivations behind a security breach include criminals wanting to gain access to secure information (resulting in a data breach), utilising computing resources for their own purposes (common in crypto-jacking attacks) or crashing the network itself for personal or political reasons.

Cyber security considerations for business continuity are still not a priority agenda across the corporate South African landscape, particularly for smaller businesses trying to manage the crippling effect of Covid-19. But as the threat level escalates, those organisations without security in place need to reconsider their priorities. There are steps that can be taken to prepare and avoid becoming a target. Your business is critical to you, so why would you not secure it to the best of your ability?

With that said, while all businesses should have business continuity plans in place to avoid risks and minimise disaster, retailers operate in a particularly competitive environment and with most consumers going online to avoid in store contact, there is a higher risk. The cloud is an extremely effective place to store all business data in case of disasters and ensure your business remains unaffected in the worst-case scenario.

Cloud hosting with Vodacom Business

A Future-Ready business has information on-demand, at its fingertips and keeps it secure and protected from virtual and physical threats. Collaboration is easier, decisions are faster, and productivity is increased.

Cloud computing is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data. A cloud service is characterised by scalability, managed computer power, storage, platforms and services that are delivered on-demand; allowing customers to provision computing capabilities such as server time and network storage. Cloud computing can be implemented as a private cloud, community cloud, public cloud or hybrid cloud.

Working with a myriad of clients from large scale businesses to SMEs, Vodacom Business adopts a practical approach to cloud computing, understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution as every business is different. This process can be daunting but will no doubt transform and protect your business.

The risk from IT security breaches is a growing threat with criminals interested in gaining malicious access to your applications and data. At the same time, the ever-increasing number of devices and networks which need protection is growing rapidly and exponentially.

Technology will take your business to the next level and prepare it for the worst-case scenario. As we bid goodbye to a hard year, let the cyber security lessons learned in 2020, future-proof your business in 2021.

Kabelo Makwane is the Managing Executive for Cloud, Hosting & Security at Vodacom Business

[Column] Diego Gutierrez: Digital tech trends in Africa for 2021

Digital technology is a critical part of the continent’s response to the ongoing upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Adapting to these continuing challenges will shape the continent’s digital trends further in the months ahead. Here are some of the developments we can expect in 2021:

More demand for mobile money

Africa is regarded as a pioneer in the global mobile money boom, with over 1 billion registered mobile money accounts on the continent. M-Pesa is Africa’s biggest payments platform: at the time of Vodacom Group’s interim financial results in November, the M-Pesa ecosystem was processing around US$20.5 billion a month in transactions across our International markets, including Safaricom.

The pandemic has amplified the need for contactless transactions to reduce the risk of infection and security threats associated with bank card payments. Add to this mobile money’s contribution towards narrowing the financial inclusion gap and providing access to utility services and humanitarian aid, and we can expect to see even further growth in mobile money users on the continent in 2021.

Increase in IT infrastructure

As 2020 has shown, reliable IT infrastructure is a powerful tool in mitigating the impact of a global crisis. Of the 25 least-connected countries in the world, 21 are in Africa, and only a third of the African population has access to broadband connectivity. Addressing this need for improved infrastructure and services across the continent is a key agenda item for Vodacom.

Through technological innovation, such as 5G expansion and leveraging existing network infrastructure reach, including fibre, microwave, LTE and SD-WAN, Vodacom is delivering more connectivity to more users, especially in rural areas. Increasing digital access opens opportunities for employment, innovation and inclusion; bridging the digital divide and changing lives for the better.

Cybercrime on the rise

At the end of 2020, it was reported that a business in Africa experiences a cyberattack on average 1230 times per week, compared to the global average of 459 weekly business attacks. From Covid-related scams to vulnerabilities in remote working conditions, the rise in cyberattacks is linked to criminals taking advantage of the current circumstances. As the “new normal” rolls into another year, so too will cybercriminals look for new ways to exploit individuals and businesses.

Embracing cloud technology

Moving to the cloud is not new, but the pandemic has pushed organisations to rethink and fast-track their deployment strategies to this technology, which allows for improved and secure communication, remote operations, and scalability. In a recent survey of technology decision-makers in Sub-Saharan Africa, 56% estimate that more than a quarter of their applications will have moved to the cloud by the end of 2021.

While the global pandemic that engulfs us has had devastating consequences on health and life, the resulting acceleration of digital transformation on our continent has been significant. In the long run, these developments will go a long way to better equip us all for the uncertainty of tomorrow.

Diego Gutierrez is the Chief Officer of International Markets at Vodacom Group

Vodacom Tanzania extends cloud partnership with Optiva

Optiva Inc., an innovative software provider of mission-critical, cloud-native, monetization solutions to leading communication service providers (CSPs) globally,has announced that Vodacom Tanzania has expanded its partnership with Optiva for utilization of Optiva Charging Engine™ and Policy Control (PCRF).

The multiyear agreement enables Vodacom Tanzania to upgrade its current platform and support and take another step toward leveraging Optiva’s innovative cloud-native BSS architecture.

As the leading CSP in Tanzania serving over 12.4 million customers, Vodacom Tanzania differentiates itself with the best quality, coverage and superior customer experience. They have been utilizing Optiva solutions for more than 10 years to help them successfully remain ahead of their competition.

This expansion and upgrade allow them to quickly launch new, flexible and personalized products and services engineered to capture additional market share and deliver enhanced customer experiences.

The partnership with Optiva aligns with Vodacom Tanzania’s past success and revenue growth from the launch of innovative campaigns, promotions and digital services that have fulfilled market demand and countered cost-driven market disruption.

Hisham Hendi, CEO of Vodacom Tanzania said: “Optiva and Vodacom Tanzania have been long-standing partners, and this agreement further strengthens our ties. Optiva’s solutions, with the leading cloud-native architecture, and our close working collaboration allow us to capture the market opportunities faster and stay ahead of our competition.”

Danielle Royston, CEO of Optiva said:“We are thankful for our continued partnership with Vodacom Tanzania and their trust in us to extend our relationship long-term. By working closely with our customers to understand their business, our focus on Customer Success helps them to grow their subscriber base and win in their markets. Add the game-changing advantage of moving to the cloud with its promise of 80% lower total cost of ownership, and it’s a winning combination.”