[Column] Patrick Ndegwa: Journey to the centre of the cloud - Why Kenya should store data locally
Kenyan businesses are migrating to the cloud en masse. According to the Cloud in Africa 2023 report by World Wide Worx, 84% of organisations in the country increased their spending on cloud services in 2022. This increase was attributed to the increase of cloud platforms available in the country along with an uptick in the number of data centres; the latter demonstrated by the construction of new data centres at the cost of tens of millions of US dollars, and a market revenue outlook of $100 million by 2027.
While the benefits of adopting cloud computing services have been made clear to enterprises, questions still linger regarding the value of local data hosting. To that end, let’s explore how, where, and why Kenyan enterprises should approach data hosting and consider local data centres for their storage and processing needs.
The perfect host
While many enterprises use a combination of cloud computing services based on their workloads and operational needs, the distinction between data centre facilities is simple: On-premise or off. Enterprises may choose to host their IT infrastructure and resources on-premise or host it in public cloud data centres shared by multiple users and organisations. With the latter that we saw major developments happening across Africa with hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google establishing new cloud regions on the continent.
Another option for enterprises – those that want to avoid sharing infrastructure with other organisations (as is the case with public cloud centres) but that can’t host and manage it themselves – are managed data centres and colocation facilities. These incorporate a lease agreement between clients and centre providers that allows clients to host their servers, hardware, and infrastructure with the maintenance and support structures required to support it already in place.
Data centres have resulted in us looking at and treating data differently. As more organisations adopt cloud computing services and their data becomes less centralised, traditional and geographic barriers are breaking down. Data is no longer necessarily stored and processed in the same country it was gathered. The result is a focus on data sovereignty. The idea that data is subject to the laws and regulatory policies of the country where it is collected and stored, and how cloud providers are responsible for that data and must adhere to service level agreements (SLAs).
In recent years, we have seen a global push towards recognising and acting on the importance of data sovereignty, with examples such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The same applies to Africa. Kenya has made moves to protect its data with the Kenyan Data Protection Act, which came into effect in 2019. The prevalence of legislation surrounding data sovereignty is also why hyperscalers such as AWS have pledged commitments to honouring such requirements around the world, while continuing to honour their contractual obligations with clients.
Speed, reliability, and access
With data sovereignty and the growing use of cloud-based services in mind, what does Kenya have to gain by storing its data within its borders?
For one, there’s the potential to save money. In terms of hosting, cost disparities between countries and regions mean organisations may be forking out more for their data to be stored and processed elsewhere. Local data centres also close the distance between you and your data. Lower latency and faster data transfer speeds result in reliable and improved overall service, which translates into better experiences for your customers and employees. The speed factor is also important to consider if your organisation has a decentralised workforce. With everyone working remotely or from different locations, and working via the cloud, speed, and reliability ensure they remain in sync.
Data centres also contribute to the growth of a local digital economy. Improved infrastructure and lower latency allow financial services providers to offer optimised banking services and enhanced customer experiences. Manufacturing and industrial sectors can look at new technologies related to data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) as a means to improve productivity and unlock new business functions. Healthcare and education institutions can enjoy instant access to important information that is then stored reliably and securely.
With Kenya positioned as a continental leader in data hosting, enterprises are incentivised to consider what data solutions best meet their needs. With access to quality infrastructure and the help of trusted managed service providers (MSPs), enterprises can make the right choices and empower themselves and their data.