At a presentation at the third Cloud and Virtualisation Summit Africa held in Sandton last week, several speakers took to the stage to address the concerns and potential benefits brought by cloud technology.
For businesses, this can have some rather profound and exciting ramifications.
According to Kim Anderson, the principal advisor at CIO Advisor, a particularly significant one included enabling businesses to focus more on innovation than on maintenance.
Additionally, he pointed out that cloud computing could further enable business agility – a term which referred to organisations being able to develop new products and new services, and thus provide for their clients in a very rapid manner.
Andre Joubert, the general manager for MWEB Business, took it upon himself to achieve what seemed like a Herculean task, namely, demystifying the cloud.
While other speakers delved into the nitty gritty and highly technical aspects of cloud computing, Joubert’s was a wholly different approach, as he explained that cloud computing was something that many experience throughout their every day, perhaps without giving it a second thought.
Joubert began by pointing out the notable difference between a pre-digital world and one in which the internet has become ubiquitous. He commented that much like smokers may light up a cigarette as their first action upon waking, many people reached for their smartphone to read their email or check their Facebook or Twitter feed as their first action of the day.
He added that in so doing, people are quite clearly engaging the cloud from the moment they open their eyes.
He continued that going for a morning run or cycle can similarly be influenced by the cloud, as numerous apps exist that allow one to log, track and most particularly, share, one’s exercise with friends, family or a community of the like-minded, via the cloud.
Joubert elaborated that cloud computing has similarly influenced communication; depending on one’s device of choice, this may entail use of iMessage if using an iPhone, BBM if using a BlackBerry or more than likely, WhatsApp for those who prefer Android.
Nor are these the only areas impacted on by cloud technology.“How we drive today has also changed forever. It used to be that a journey in one’s car was accompanied by a map book, now, a dedicated GPS unit or on-phone GPS guides one’s drive, using information coming from the cloud,” he elaborated.
Joubert continued that office productivity had similarly been greatly influenced by the internet and the benefits brought by cloud technology, citing the transition to remote working as being chief amongst them. He added that while going to a meeting used to be analogous to going on a blind date, thanks to social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and microblogging sites like Twitter, now one seldom if ever had to go into a meeting without knowing something about the other person.
Even smaller aspects of every day life, such as note taking, have been incorporated into the cloud, as evidenced by services like Evernote, which store one’s notes in the cloud for availability on a myriad of devices, and which enables one to search through reams, and years, worth of notes. “Try that with your pen and paper-based notepads,” he challenged.
Another arena of life which Joubert cited was travel, with cloud technology influencing everything from the way people book their trips and check in, to how they find and secure accommodation.
Dark clouds, silver linings
Answering one of the oft-raised concerns with regards to cloud technology, that of security, Joubert asserted that in South Africa, the risks that one’s physical devices will be stolen are much higher than the risk of one’s Dropbox being hacked.
However, Joubert echoed a point similarly raised by Dr Happy Sithole, the director for the Centre of High Performance Computing South Africa, as both men stressed that in order for cloud technology and the benefits it brings to be viable in this country, stable, reliable, fast and consistent internet connectivity was essential and critical.
If the internet and cloud computing has a dark side though, then one aspect of this would be that what goes on the internet, stays there. Thus Joubert warned users to take great care about what information they share online, because it may very well be accessed and viewed by recruitment agencies and potential employers in the future.
To the point
Nonetheless, all the speakers seemed to concur with a similar attitude, as they encouraged attendees to acknowledge and move beyond the concerns and fears of cloud adoption and instead to embrace cloud technology, and allow its benefits to rain in their business and their lives.