[Column] Linda Carter: Connectivity considerations to futureproof your cloud experience
The cloud is a dynamic, ever-changing environment, surging ahead on the back of developments such as a hybridisation and hyper scaling, not to mention a whole new array of cloud-based solutions to support companies as they stride further into – or take their first tentative steps towards – digital transformation. Amid all this evolution, however, what doesn’t change is the need for reliable, high-speed connectivity to access the cloud services making business migration possible.
With a new financial year around the corner, many companies (from SMEs to large corporates) are likely reassessing their IT spend – and particularly their cloud budget. When making this assessment, it’s important that appropriate cloud connectivity services are high on the agenda. The reason for this is that companies need to think long term about their Internet service so it will provide a seamlessly scalable cloud experience, even as their cloud usage shifts and digital technology advances.
Cloud services will become mission-critical
A primary consideration is that today’s most common forms of connectivity are unlikely to be sufficient to accommodate the needs of evolving cloud services. Staple cloud uses remain software-as-a-service, mail handling plus online back-up and recovery. But as South African businesses start to feel comfortable with the technology and see first-hand its advantages in efficiency, time to market, scalability and cost-effectiveness today, they will move more aspects of their operations to the cloud tomorrow.
The likes of virtual servers, big data analytics, smart AI-powered security and other emerging cloud-based solutions will all place a greater burden on a business’s bandwidth. An ADSL connection, for example, will certainly not be sufficient for a task like real-time system scanning to protect against increasingly sophisticated cyberthreats. It’s also unlikely to cope well with the video-heavy, real-time collaboration and conferencing tools that are becoming essential to modern, globalised business operations.
Overall, as Industry 4.0 gears up, increasing automation and systemisation is coming to all sectors, not just manufacturing, to aid more efficient operations and business growth. High-performance connectivity enables this growth while minimising latency in information transfer – a well-known hurdle to optimised business performance.
Companies therefore need two things: the first is a flexible connectivity solution that can scale with system demands over time. The second is truly uncontended, unshaped and high-performance Internet access that minimises latency. Whether a small-to-mid-level enterprise using the public cloud, or a large-scale corporate requiring a premium private connection, companies should scrutinise their connectivity provider to see if the ISP has the infrastructure to deliver these essential foundations for future-proof cloud adoption.
South Africa’s unusual cloud environment
Another thing to bear in mind is that South Africa’s cloud environment is different to that overseas. Given South Africa’s geographic location, use of big-name cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure previously meant connecting to faraway data centres in Europe and elsewhere. That is now changing with AWS and Azure in the well-publicised process of opening local data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Whether data centres are located abroad or within South Africa, SEACOM is strategically positioned to be the Cloud Connectivity Service Provider of choice by having a complete, scalable end-to-end solution for our customers.
This process began with investment in our own international undersea cable infrastructure which extends along the East Coast of Africa from South Africa to Kenya, and further on to Europe – enabling high-speed reliable access to overseas data centres. Meanwhile, SEACOM has invested in dedicated alternate and resilient paths on the West Coast of Africa to enable the highest level of redundancy.
Closer to home, SEACOM’s South African infrastructure not only includes our industry-leading metro networks but also our recent acquisition of FibreCo Telecommunications, with its own national open-access fibre network. This further ensures a seamless connectivity experience even as demand for cloud services increases from South African companies eager to explore cloud’s potential. Via strategic decision-making, SEACOM can deliver high-speed broadband connectivity and cloud products to businesses in the country’s urban hubs, as well as expand its offerings to smaller cities and towns that have traditionally been lacking fibre and high-speed data network presence.
It’s worth noting that the announcement of cloud providers “setting up shop” in South Africa does not translate into an immediate availability of all their cloud-based applications from local data centres. While common applications are expected to be deployed from South African centres, it may still take months or years for some of the enterprise-centric applications to be offered out of South Africa. This places even further importance on the use of a Tier-1 provider like SEACOM that can offer both exceptional local and international usage.
One of the greatest benefits of cloud services is that they can scale with a business’s needs. Similarly, to ensure they can access that advantage, companies need high-performance connectivity that can scale with use. Making wise choices today in terms of an innovation- and future-minded connectivity partner will lay the foundation for a productive, digitally-enhanced future.