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The impact of cloud on businesses in Africa

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If you don't do cloud there's a risk of missing out-Gartner researcher
Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner.

According to Gartner, cloud will influence ever-greater portions of enterprise IT decisions, in particular, system infrastructure. But what does this really mean for Africa? The Gartner Africa ICT Hype Cycle 2019 which was published on Tuesday, 20 August shows that cloud office has entered the Plateau of Productivity this year.

During an interview with IT News Africa, Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner said, “I have had discussions with South African clients and well as clients in other parts of Africa about cloud office. I think Microsoft opening a data centre in South Africa made a big difference. It addressed many of the fears and concerns that many companies had. Most companies are migrating or have started plans to make the move. The state of cloud office in Africa is that most companies are doing it, wondering why they haven’t done or have started plans to make the move. So it is generally pretty advanced.”

Challenges and fears 
It is clear that the cloud is a trend that continues to grow exponentially especially in Africa. Cloud allows businesses to access a vast array of resources and services on the web. Although this may be a practical and attractive option, it does come with significant risks. These risks should be identified and managed, to ensure the continued effective management of data.

According to Mann, there have been concerns with data sovereignty, where it is stored and that relates to the protection of personal information, both on a technical and political or emotional level. “The idea of storing the data “too far away” is unsettling for many people as well as the network issues because when data is that “far away” its a long way to go to get your email. The improvement of network access has definitely helped. It is a slow process, people have to become comfortable with the idea of where their data is, what sort of access and what sort of control they have,” he said.

Benefit vs risks of not moving to the cloud
The cloud offers the flexibility of increasing or decreasing capacity to meet a business’ demands, it is an enabler of growth and innovation.

Mann revealed that the cloud model is more of a constant feed of small innovations and small improvements rather than this one big change. “A lot of benefits are well known, they are potential, gives you more flexibility, allows you to scale up and scale down. You can add users and applications very quickly. The agility and speed are some of the most profound. It also means that you are getting access to the latest stuff because, in the traditional model, a new version comes every year two or three years, so you’re using the same software for a couple of years,” he said.

“Because the cloud is becoming so pervasive, if you don’t do the cloud there’s a risk of missing out. Everything interesting happening in software is happening in the cloud right now. So if you say we don’t do cloud, you are saying we don’t want access to anything interesting. So I think there’s a tremendous opportunity lost there. I usually tell clients that yes you can stay on-premise, you don’t have to use the cloud, but if you do you have to know that what you do today, you’re going to have to use forever,” said Mann.

Smart Cities, IoT and
The 2019 Gartner Hype Cycle for ICT in Africa features three technologies that will have a transformational impact on businesses in Africa within the next 10 years. These include the Internet of Things (IoT) and low earth orbit satellite systems.

Speaking about IoT, Mann said, The Internet of Things is presenting a lot of opportunities for some very innovative types of applications. The thing about IoT is that its a technology that Africans are clued at. Although Africa doesn’t have huge capital investments, they are very resourceful in taking the basic kinds of technologies and doing interesting things with it. That is why it [IoT] can be suited to African situations.

Cloud-only in Africa
Gartner states that by 2020, cloud-first, and even cloud-only, will replace the defensive no-cloud stance that dominated many large providers in recent years. The company predicts that hybrid will be the most common usage of the cloud — but this will require public cloud to be part of the overall strategy. Technology providers will increasingly be able to assume that their customers will be able to consume cloud capabilities.

“African businesses are open to the cloud from an experimental basis. The trend that we’ve seen quite broadly is that there’s a bit of a gap. There’s also enthusiasm to a particular project, to do something experimental, to try something in one particular area but then there’s a gap in taking it to scale,” said Mann.

“We see that across the board with many of these technologies and IoT is one of the examples there. Going from individual experiments into something that is of a larger scale is going to be the challenge that African organisation will have to face, he added.

With regards to a “cloud-only” approach for organisations in Africa, Mann said, “They will be in the foreseeable future which is 5 to 10 years from now beyond that it’s hard to say. With larger organisations there will be a little bit of hybrid, there are some things such as legacy that they [organisations] have built up over time that can not be moved to the cloud so they will continue to run on-premise. There are some things that work better on-premises. Flexibility to have multiple models is going to be key to success” he concluded.

By Fundisiwe Maseko
Follow Fundisiwe Maseko on Twitter
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