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Local cloud services: read the fine print

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When your data is stored locally, within the data centre of a reputable cloud services partner, you might think that it’s as safe as it could be.
Not necessarily so, says Riaan Terblanche, solutions architect at First Technology Digital. Terblanche refers to a real-life example, where an African independent insurance broker, which learned its lesson the hard way, lost all of its data residing with a local ISP due to a technical malfunction, only to then learn that there had also been no recent snap shots or backups of this data by its partner.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, whatever the size of your company, and a very real risk for local businesses moving onto the cloud; one that could potentially threaten the very existence of your organisation moving forward,” Terblanche explains.
So what are the alternatives? Companies opting for an on-premise solution over cloud are looking at investing a good R10 million on infrastructure, Terblanche adds, and that’s just for hardware.
“You can easily add another three to four million to this amount, and that’s without even splashing out on a backup solution and storage area network (SAN). Not only this, but within two to three years, this technology will need to be refreshed; there’s just no end to the costs.
“Cloud services hold a definite cost advantage over on-premise solutions, but it’s important to select your partner carefully.”
In the example given above, First Technology Digital was able to assist this local company to successfully migrate to the cloud, using Microsoft Azure, a growing collection of integrated cloud services that developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy, and manage applications through Microsoft’s global network of data centres.
“By migrating to a trusted Azure environment, we were able to ensure that the organisation’s data is backed up automatically as an ongoing concern. The successful migration has also provided it with strong cyber security controls and multi-level protection as well as a service level agreement of 99,95% availability – which equates to a mere 4,38 hours of downtime per year.
“Azure offers flexible pricing on a pay-as-you-use basis, allowing for improved budget management. It’s easy to check exact costs upfront too by using the online pricing calculator, which can track actual account usage and bill at any time. There’s also a total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator available that compares the TCO of an on-premise solution with a comparable Azure deployment. There are no hardware costs involved, and software updates all take place automatically at no additional charge.”
And companies hesitant to make use of international cloud services providers will be reassured to learn that Microsoft will be delivering cloud services from Azure data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town from 2018, a move that not only shows Microsoft’s commitment to Africa, but is also significant in helping businesses across Africa to accelerate their cloud journey, Terblanche says.