[Column] Trent Odgers: The rise of Africa’s cloud
With mobile subscriber penetration in Africa set to reach 52% by 2025 with an estimated 634 million unique users, the continent is poised for exciting growth. Already, many refer to Africa as a mobile-first territory that can exploit digital technologies, propelling digital services and driving cultural change. As such, the cloud delivers an enticing enabler to leverage this mobility and increase capacity for data management in different ways.
According to the 2019 Veeam Cloud Data Management Report, the quest for data availability in such a mobile-driven environment is putting the pressure on decision-makers to rethink their management strategies. In fact, most (73%) organisations admit that they are unable to meet user demand for uninterrupted access to data and services, costing the typical company almost R300 million annually.
As part of the shift to become a cloud-centric business capable of managing data, irrespective of the device used, solutions providers across Africa are examining different ways of delivering cloud services. Some are happy to partner with vendors and build practices around those offerings that fit their areas of specialisation. Others are seeing public and managed cloud provider offerings as an opportunity to streamline the digitisation process and effectively manage their workloads and data.
Research indicates that mobile technologies and services will generate up to $270 billion and create more than 4.5 million jobs in Africa by 2020. This is creating a new app economy where people from across the continent are using apps to drive business and new products and services across industry sectors.
Of course, this dynamic business landscape is seeing many companies still trying to get their heads around how best to approach data, its availability, and its effective analysis.
A fortunate spin-off is that thanks to the arrival of multi-national data centres in South Africa, companies do not have to be concerned about data sovereignty as data is kept within the borders of the country. For counties outside of South Africa, many telcos and cloud providers are deploying Microsoft Azure Stack in county, meaning businesses can host on a local Azure stack and consume services more effectively than if they have to access servers in Europe or elsewhere.
Adding further impetus to this is the pervasiveness of mobile devices. This will only accelerate backup and recovery solutions as companies need to ensure all touch points are effectively covered. Most apps and data on mobile devices “live” in the cloud, so it in imperative that the cloud data has a recoverable backup and relative restore point to the type of data. Being able to reliably access business data on mobile devices, irrespective of geographic location will become a business imperative.
Already, companies are taking their physical and virtual backups and migrating them to the cloud as a readily available and accessible restore point. This is also contributing to the adoption of a public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud approach to business strategy. Moreover, they form an integral part as an enabler of managing data using the computational resources and capacities available from cloud environments. On-premise solutions are struggling to keep up with this demand whether it is from a price, performance or scale perspective.
This has resulted in cloud investment starting to grow across Africa. Strong moves are taking place across Central Africa with the public and private sectors in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia being prime markets.
The accelerated cloud adoption is resulting in service providers using Veeam powered solutions to protect customer workloads across private, managed and public cloud provider offerings for African-based organisations. There is certainly a growing awareness of safeguarding data, but there is still some way to go.
But this cloud mobility needs to be seen for what it is – an essential part of the backup strategy of an organisation. Sure, migrating workloads is all good and well, but if one does that without having a robust backup strategy in place that is a recipe for disaster. It is akin to changing your phone without having a copy of your data accessible from your old phone. Once there is a successful migration, that data needs to have a backup strategy to ensure recoverable restore points of cloud data.
The mindset at organisations clearly needs to change. Companies must start their transition to cloud data management sooner rather than later. Part of this entails moving a backup of the production environment to the cloud and thoroughly testing it to fully understand all the factors. Only then, can they consider doing the same with a live production environment.
However, resources and skills on the continent around data management are still limited.
This means businesses must invest in solutions that leverage automation, are intelligent and self-learning, and capable of being always-on and available. A resource-hungry, complex environment requires a significant investment in IT resources and up-front capital expenditure, which few businesses can afford. This points to a bright future for the cloud on the continent. However, solid business practices still need to apply if momentum is to be derived from it.