Cloud based communication systems are steadily gaining traction in the South African market, in spite of bandwidth challenges. “This evolution reflects a reality taking shape across the global economy – namely, that the business case behind cloud based systems is extremely strong, no matter where you are doing business,” says Elingo CEO, Ian Goss-Ross.
While bandwidth will remain a frustrating complication for local organisations for some time, it doesn’t confine in a fundamental way the cloud business case.
When people talk about ‘the cloud’, virtualisation technology plays a major role and is deployed as part of a private cloud, public cloud, or in some hybrid form. “Virtualisation allows for fast deployment of new services thanks to inherent scalability and enhanced data security, whereby tenants can be segmented easily and customer data contained within their own unique environment.
“At a strategic level, consolidation and virtualisation allows a company to take control of the very challenging and highly fragmented customer communication interfaces. In a world where communication platforms and methods morph daily, the ability to adapt along with customers is crucial for brands seeking to maintain competitive advantage on the customer service and relationship front,” says Goss-Ross.
“It’s important to note, however, that virtualisation can be a capital intensive process. Moving to a cloud-based communication structure requires budget, along with significant planning ability.
“To cite just one example, in order for virtualisation to be beneficial, servers with a great deal of memory are required, in the form of RAM as well as advanced Storage Array Network technology. Not only is a great deal of storage required, but fast access to this storage is mission critical for certain real-time or near real-time applications. Then the Applications that go hand in hand with the technology (such as fail safe back up Apps, snapshots and recovery point functions) are equally important, and costly.”
Lower operational costs
The recovery of the capital outlay is certain – businesses across the world have proved this decisively as they take advantage of the cloud to achieve strong growth and lower operational costs. Simply put, leveraging the cloud as an operational platform significantly improves the notoriously tricky interplay between business strategy and the capabilities of the IT department.
“As decision makers move toward the cloud, the key factor to consider is flexibility. Given the capital outlay and the logistical effort involved in the move, it’s essential that if the company decides at a later date to move certain services back into its own environment, it is able to do that. Things change over time, technologies evolve, and so do customer behaviour patterns. Organisations need to be able to control their own destiny at all times, and shape their technologies accordingly,” says Goss-Ross.
“Custom developed cloud solutions are frequently proprietary, and in this kind of technology context it is very hard to change and re-shape the system. Conversely, systems that are open and modular in their design have been purposefully developed to allow for a variable future. With the right technology you can take an image of the existing cloud-based system and deploy certain elements within your local environment quickly and easily. Likewise, that deployment can be fully or partially reversed when the time is right.”
According to Goss-Ross, South African companies have to consider a wide range of cloud options, and in many cases still need to fully develop their understanding of what the full range of choices actually offers.
“Smaller companies are likely to use so-called Public Cloud Applications, while larger players often feel they need more control over access to data and security, and consequently deploy private cloud systems. And then there is the hybrid cloud model, which typically only utilises certain cloud services, such as email management and mail archiving,” he adds.
“Regardless, the time has certainly come for South African businesses of all shapes and sizes to take stock of what their future communications structure could and should look like. The first step, as always, is carrying out a full audit of the status quo.
“There is no other way to move forward than to define exactly where you are currently situated. Even for established companies with extensive IT departments, this can be a daunting process. Companies should start with a consolidation process before being able to take advantage of cloud and virtualisation technologies, which is all the more reason to get moving now.”