In South Africa, the concept of the always-on business is gathering momentum. Thanks to the connectedness of the world around us, people expect access to information from anywhere irrespective of the device they use. But does this apply across industries as well?
Warren Olivier, regional manager of Southern Africa at Veeam, says the modern data centre forms a vital part of this cross-industry business environment.

“We live in an age where data permeates everything a company does irrespective of its industry. For example, if there is a failure in the data centre of a food packaging company, the entire supply chain comes to a grinding halt. Anything from a hardware or software glitch to corruption in organisational data will result in potentially significant lost revenue,” says Olivier.

Any business, irrespective of whether it is in agriculture, finance, or manufacturing, requires some form of back office IT to operate.

“So even though some might think an industry such as agriculture might only entail trees and produce, the reality is more sophisticated,” says James Beaumont, CEO of Veeam ProPartner iSquared South Africa.

IT becomes an integral component once the proverbial apple leaves the field and goes into the factory. So at a top level, there is very little differentiating the reliance on technology between a farmer and a broker on the stock exchange.

Olivier believes that the channel eco-system becomes of utmost importance in this multiple industry environment. While a vendor is able to provide the technology required, the partner adds a further level of customisation according to the specific requirements of the customer. This ensures that there is not only smooth integration between new technology and existing processes but also services are provided to unlock the full potential of the solution.

Beaumont says there are many examples of how the modern data centre can benefit companies.

“Take the manufacturing industry. Using such an always-on approach means an automotive parts manufacturer knows exactly how many different body parts are required for the different makes and models of vehicles. If systems go down, using near real-time solutions mean the site can be up and running in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days,” he says.

In financial services, traders cannot afford to have systems go down. In the past, only large brokerages could afford to have high quality business continuity systems in place to keep trading going. Thanks to the technology innovation from companies like Veeam and their innovative solutions, smaller firms are able to run enterprise-class systems at a fraction of the cost.

It is apparent that relying on traditional backup solutions to help mitigate data risks are simply not good enough.

“To move behind this approach, means that there has to be an acceptance of the modern data centre. This helps bridge the gap between what is required from the always-on business and other technologies such as virtualisation, the cloud, and other enabling components. Data is one part of the challenge in creating an always-on business. The accessibility and affordability of bandwidth is another,” says Olivier.

Beaumont agrees.

“Many local companies still feel safe that their backup strategy entails tape technology. Business might think they are protected because someone performs a backup to tape every evening but the reality is completely different. Just ask a company to get their systems back up and running from a tape drive if there is a data failure and see how long it takes. The amount of downtime and associated costs mean a more modern approach is required.

To address this, partners like iSquared lays dark fibre between buildings on campuses and aggregate the costs between tenants. While this does not cater for offices in outlying areas, data compression technology has evolved to improve transfer speeds and overcome this to a certain extent.

Both Olivier and Beaumont feel that the traditional bugbear of user education is still a major concern in South Africa around the adoption of the always-on business.

“Only once companies realise (many times after the fact), that there is a problem, then they will look at embracing new technology. Many companies might think they are ready for the always-on business and providing customers with it but they are not,” says Olivier.

Fortunately, the modern data centre enables businesses to embrace a different way of thinking and operating. It gives them the platform they need to adept to an always-on way of thinking and be more competitive in challenging market conditions.

“Downtime, whether planned or unplanned is simply not acceptable for today’s business that needs to be online 24×7. Competition for customers have become a global battle and the modern data centre has turned into one of the best defences a company can have,” concludes Olivier.