Businesses are increasingly dependent on Internet-delivered (cloud-based) IT and communications services today, including Voice over IP (VoIP). In such circumstances, reliable Internet is a must, or your business will simply grind to a halt.
Aware of this, VoIP customers often cite connectivity as their biggest concern. Frequently reported technical issues with ADSL have only deepened their fears, and so the answer is to look beyond using ADSL alone.
The role of ADSL
It must be noted that ADSL is a good technology that has done much to popularise broadband. Even today it holds its own among more up-to-date connectivity options.
But an ADSL link is only as good as the local exchange. Poor ADSL service is often caused by an exchange that is either over-subscribed or under-maintained, causing outages or quality problems like jitter, delay or dropped voice packets.
Good ADSL, bad ADSL
There are good areas for ADSL and bad ones. Some have a rich supply of ADSL bandwidth via well-maintained local exchanges, while others have too many users ‘contending’ for the same bandwidth and poorly maintained infrastructure.
So how do you overcome this? Ensure you’re in a good coverage area (this goes for any form of connectivity). Free tests on sites like www.speedtest.net (line throughput) and www.pingtest.net (quality) give an instant indication of speed and quality of lines.
Secondly, always have ‘failover’ (a backup line) – but never from the same provider or, naturally, using the same technology.
Better new options
Thirdly, ADSL is not the only option. Without detracting from the contribution of ADSL over the years, numerous new wireless and fibre connectivity options are emerging to offer great quality, copious, non-contended bandwidth at a small premium. These include WiMax from Neotel, fibre from Neotel and Telkom, and a range of wireless connectivity providers such as Snowball, Vlocity and TWK.
- WiMAX offers high-speed connectivity over long distances. It compares favourably with ADSL and fibre in price and performance, without suffering the contention of ADSL or the infrastructural investment of fibre.
- Fibre – Fibre rollout is speeding up, and uptake among businesses and affluent communities is causing prices to fall. As competition increases, fibre offers increasingly well-priced, high-performance options too.
- Wireless – The number of wireless providers in SA is growing. Some of the bigger providers offer direct VoIP-dedicated links into national fibre networks such as ECN’s (also VoIP-dedicated). Others link to providers offering ‘breakout’ onto fibre networks. The low cost and minimal infrastructural disruption of wireless allows providers to pursue low-population areas.
- 3G – The cellular providers offer high throughput at competitive rates, but due to the inability of 3G to handle more than one stream of data (two calls or a call and browsing simultaneously), it must be used in conjunction with a quality of service tool like ViBE (see further down). To use ViBE, 3G users need an unrestricted APN to allow a VPN tunnel through its firewall.
|Comparison between broadband access technologies|
|Technology||Line speed||Up/downlink speeds||Bandwidth package||Considerations||Price (+/-)|
|ADSL Broadband||4Mbps||640Kbps/4Mbps||50GB||Reliant on exchange (contention, maintenance)||R2600|
|Wireless Broadband||2Mbps||2Mbps/2Mbps||Unlimited||Breakout onto fibre backbone||R2699|
|Wireless Voice Link||512k||512k Diginet Replacement||Unlimited||Voice only links directly link into dedicated VoIP networks bypassing all shared networks.||1350|
|WiMAX Broadband||5Mbps||2Mbps/5Mbps||Unlimited||Broadband link, new technology||R2300|
|Fibre||2Mbps||2Mbps/2Mbps||Unlimited||Broadband link, new technology||R3050|
|3G||Varies per provider and location||Varies per provider and location||Depends on package and provider||Broadband Link||Varies per provider|
Source: Webafrica.com, Snowball.co.za, Neotel
Even with quality technologies like these, uptime can never be taken for granted. As with ADSL, having redundancy or failover with all these, especially 3G, is wise. In fact, because of their cost-effectiveness, an ADSL line or 3G connection is most appropriately used not as primary, but as secondary (backup) line to these other providers.
But if ADSL has been the cause of complaints, and 3G can’t handle more than one voice stream, how can they be an option even as backup? The answer is to combine it with a technology like ViBE by VoIPex, a de facto quality-of-service standard with VoIP providers.
ViBE works on multiple levels to overcome quality and capacity issues:
- It streamlines data traffic by stripping out unnecessary data
- Using VPN technology, it ‘insulates’ voice packets within a non-dedicated data line to block out interference from other data
- By a technique similar to ‘ADSL bonding’, it pieces a complete VoIP stream together out of voice packets from two redundant links if one goes down or both have quality issues
3G, like ADSL, can be much improved with ViBE and VPN technology. With ViBE and an unrestricted APN, VoIP on 3G can handle up to five concurrent calls. ViBE creates a single VPN link, managing multiple calls within it but seeming like a single thread.
Depending on your financial profile and throughput requirements, a variety of primary and failover connectivity options exist that can give you the assurance that the Internet won’t fail your business.
While ADSL continues to make sense in certain circumstances, a range of new connectivity options like fibre, WiMAX and wireless are challenging the copper technology’s once uncontested birthright to rule the connectivity landscape.
Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
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SME Insurance Checklist For New Year
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers, advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies.
Business owners who are planning for the year ahead should not overlook the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered against insurable risks.
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, every year businesses face unique challenges ranging from credit and market risks, technological disruptions, compliance, operational and regulatory risks, amongst others. As a matter of precaution, insurance policies should at least be reviewed or updated once a year.
He advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies:
- Employee movements – if there are any employees who have left or joined the company, ensure that your policy is updated accordingly.
This type of cover normally depends on the role and contribution of the employee to the business. For instance, directors may be covered for Key Person Insurance and Directors & Officers Liability insurance.
- Protest Actions – this year is the national election year and leading up to elections we can expect to see an increase in the frequency and severity of protest actions, riots and strikes. Thus, it is essential to ensure that adequate special risks cover is in place from the South African Special Risks Insurance Association (SASRIA).
SASRIA provides cover to both individuals and businesses against special risks like civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism at affordable premiums.
- Cyber risks – it is essential to communicate with your insurer or broker and find out if there are any new risks that your business should be protected against. Cyber incidents continue to be a major risk for businesses especially in the SME sector. Over the last couple of years there has been a major increase in the number of reported cyber incidences.
More businesses are now facing increased cyber threats due to their increased dependency on technology, relating to their internal and customer data being compromised by fraudsters. It is therefore essential to have some form of cyber risk insurance cover and/or enhancement of data security protocols.
- Regulatory changes – every year there are a number of regulatory changes that impact businesses directly or indirectly, which may result in fines and penalties for non-compliance.
- Natural catastrophes – the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, coupled with intensifying natural catastrophes will continue to have a significant impact on businesses.
Businesses should ensure they are adequately protected against these risks to avoid incurring sever financial losses.
- Business changes – should a business consider moving to a new location, purchasing new premises or venture into new business activities, these types of changes could have a major impact on its risks profile. As a result, the policy needs to be updated accordingly.
- New and Enhanced products – An innovative culture has taken over the insurance industry and ever so often we see the introduction of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Get in touch with you broker to advise you on any new products that might add value to your existing insurance portfolio.
“Reviewing your policy regularly gives you peace of mind knowing that you can focus on running your business effectively, without worrying about unforeseen risks,” concludes Maupa.
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