The national disaster that is load shedding is already costing the South African economy almost R1-billion every day, according to the Reserve Bank.

Now SMEs across the country are shutting down their server rooms because unreliable power means that running costs are prohibitive.

“Keeping the lights on is now an affordable non-issue for SMEs,” says Matt Feinstein, CEO of LNX Solutions. “It’s the need to maintain diesel-powered back-up cooling systems in on-premises server rooms, in particular, that is seeing us receive at least half a dozen enquiries a week from small firms that can no longer afford to power and cool their own servers during load shedding. Cooling with fossil fuels does not come cheap in a country famed for its sunny skies and lack of oil reserves.”

Web, mail, application, file, database and other types of servers consume a vast amount of resources as they are usually always on to handle requests made at any time by connected devices which could be located down the passage, on the other side of town, or across the world. Servers are either hosted on-site, off-site or in the cloud which may be a public cloud managed by any of the global hyperscalers, or a private cloud managed by local firms like LNX Solutions and other South Africa-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) specialists.

South Africa’s SMEs are realising the solution to rising server room costs is to switch off their on-premises servers entirely and forget about going it alone in favour of colocation collaboration.

“As always, the South African spirit of cooperation saves the day,” says Feinstein. “Sharing server rack space at off-site data centres is the way to go for SMEs in a sub-1% GDP growth economy.”

In addition, recent undersea cable breaks highlighted in stark contrast the disadvantages of opting for public clouds managed by faceless hyperscalers.

“While cross-border hyperscalers offer potentially massive computing performance – which most SMEs don’t need – there is a definite sense of comfort for local SMEs in knowing an easily-contactable South African company hosts their off-site server in an identifiable location while understanding the unique needs of local firms,” says Feinstein.

Public cloud hyperscalers, he adds, cannot guarantee that data remains within a desired jurisdiction and this can lead to compliance issues.

Ultimately, however, it is the lack of customisation and inflexibility of the global hyperscalers that make them so unsuited to managing the server needs of South Africa’s SMEs.

In smaller business environments where time really is money, slow and impersonal customer support can drag IT issues out for days and even weeks, potentially sinking a small business. Faster issue resolution and more effective communication are the hallmarks of private cloud providers.

Opting for local off-site server rooms or virtualising the workloads of SMEs via private clouds managed by local companies already works out more cost-effective than the hyperscalers – and this difference will become more apparent as the rand inevitably moves towards R20 to the US dollar.

Public cloud hyperscalers usually employ a pay-as-you-go pricing model which can lead to unpredictable costs as usage scales up or down. They may also tie clients into one- to three-year fixed commitments. This can make it difficult for organisations to accurately budget and forecast expenses. Private cloud companies, conversely, typically offer more predictable pricing structures that include fixed monthly fees and bespoke sizing to fit precise requirements. This allows for better planning and control.

There’s also the fact that the sheer size and popularity of public cloud companies makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals. Private clouds offer a much more secure environment with less exposure to organised international cybercriminals. This is coupled with the private cloud provider intimately working with your IT team to make sure the security you require is in place and operational.

“The global footprint of a hyperscaler means nothing to a local SME,” says Feinstein. “Indeed, with the world the way it is, hosting data securely across town suddenly seems to make a lot more sense.”