As the fourth industrial revolution commences, it is no longer a question of if companies will make the move to cloud technology, it is now a question of when.

By Bevan Lock, Lenovo Southern Africa spokesperson

For companies to fully embrace the benefits of emerging technologies – such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Blockchain – cloud technology needs to be an integral part of their business strategy.

A cloud strategy could take many forms, and contrary to popular belief organisations do not have to ship all their current workloads off-premise to some far-away data centre. Hybrid cloud solutions allow companies to combine the use of private and public clouds and get the best that both services have to offer. A hybrid cloud strategy enables companies to focus more on the development of cloud services and less on managing their infrastructure.

A hybrid cloud combines private and public cloud services into one system with some integration between the two environments. It is possible to have multiple public and private clouds in a hybrid system, but there needs to be at least one of each. This configuration allows businesses to use everything public cloud offers but protects sensitive data and offers better control.

In South Africa, when selecting an environment for organisational workloads, local companies are giving serious consideration to a hybrid approach because of the business benefits it offers, without diminishing performance, user experience or security.

Fully public cloud technology is adopted because it helps businesses become more agile and flexible. However, some companies cannot deploy workloads off-premise due to restrictions surrounding user data or because of the need for control.

On the other hand, fully private cloud services bring the benefits of public cloud to local deployment – but can be very complex and could require additional specialised skills to maintain.

Many companies find an optimal solution with a hybrid cloud. A hybrid cloud system, such as Lenovo’s fully integrated, turnkey ThinkAgile SX for Microsoft Azure Stack rack-scale solution developed with Microsoft, creates a private cloud on premises that looks and acts just like the Azure public cloud. This combines the flexibility and agility of the public cloud with the control and security of a private solution.

With the Protection of Personal Information Act said to be coming into effect soon in South Africa and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation Act already in place, companies need to make sure that their cloud strategy does not put their customers’ personal data at risk.

The hybrid cloud also allows businesses greater flexibility than a single public cloud environment. Instead of moving everything over at once, companies can choose which workload is transitioned first, and test out how it works before moving more.

The testing phase allows companies to experiment and figure out how the hybrid cloud will best fit into their existing systems and processes. Different companies have different priorities and this approach allows them to personalise their intelligent transformation journey.

The future of business in South Africa and the world will rely heavily on cloud technology and enable businesses to capture new opportunities that they do not know exist yet. However, a considered approach needs to be taken when a cloud strategy is created.