Barry Mansfield looks at the factors driving the growth of next-generation data storage in Africa
“Africa is seeing a dramatic rise in innovative entrepreneurial activity, and governments are looking to nurture and promote such activity as vital to enabling their own economic growth,” said Kritzas. He believes cloud services offer businesses in developing countries a number of advantages, beyond cheap access to enterprise-grade infrastructure and resources. They offer consistency from a technological point of view (network and power infrastructure) and also protection from political instability (upheavals, changing legislation or civil conflict).
Another benefit of the cloud approach, says Kritzas, is the possibility of comprehensive data security, backups, and protection from theft or natural disaster. Scalability is a plus point, too, as virtualisation allows for predictable growth models. Then there is the fact of support and maintenance, and that cloud technology allows developing countries to leverage first-world solutions in targeting new markets: “In the document management and storage space…unparalleled efficiencies can be realised through cloud storage and online collaboration.”
Kritzas believes that small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) across the region are desperate for affordable technology to help them survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. “The market for simple digital services, particularly document management and business process workflow, is huge and growing at a phenomenal rate throughout Africa,” he says. “Software companies with the right products and technology at the right price are extremely well positioned to take advantage of this growing need in emerging markets.”
From a legal point of view, national or local online backup often makes more sense than using international providers - even if this turns out to be the slightly more costly option. This is another factor powering the adoption of cloud services on a more local basis. For example, if a business carries out online backup in South Africa with a South African company - then the laws of that country govern the contract. If doing backup to a cloud backup company located outside of South Africa, then that service is governed by the laws of the country in which they are based.
If a business uses international cloud backup services, then its data could be located on servers in a country whose laws and methods are totally out of sync with expected standards and norms. Local backup frequently offers superior bandwidth in terms of cost, in terms of speed of data transfer for each backup, in terms of speed and efficiency of data restores, and simply the security of knowing where any critical business data resides. By contrast, the ability to speak to top management and get a speedy response can be extremely difficult with an international service.
African businesses may appreciate the presence of a fully staffed call centre operating in their own time zone, and therefore able to provide rapid-fire local support. There is also the possibility of closer in-person assistance from the service provider's dealer network, including actual visits to the physical business premises where necessary. In Australia the law states that a business must back up data to servers in Australia. Executives from Irontree reckon South Africa will see very similar legislation enacted in the near future.
Even if local cloud storage ends up being a more expensive solution, it’s important that companies make an informed comparison between an anonymous service and one where the business owners are assisted at every stage.