technology

In a digital era where data traffic continues to grow enormously, cloud technology is placing significant pressure on businesses to store, manage and retrieve a growing amount of data.

In response to this mounting business need, companies are looking to cloud computing for a sustainable solution.

African Leadership Magazine’s correspondent, Chekwube Ukoh spoke to Adenike Taiwo Momolosho, the Managing Director, Choice Cloud LTD on how cloud technology can bolster business growth in Africa.

How would you explain cloud technology in simple, basic terms?

Cloud technology in a simple term is anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet.”The cloud” refers to servers that are accessed over the Internet, and the software and databases that run on those servers. These Cloud servers are located in data centres all over the world. By using cloud computing, users and companies do not have to manage physical servers themselves or run software applications on their own machines. Ultimately, it can be said that the “cloud” is just a metaphor for the internet.

How far-reaching is cloud services in Africa’s business space?

I will say the cloud services sectoris at development stage presently, many companies remain hesitant about using cloud services, storing company data outside company walls is not yet seen as a natural or easily accessible choice by African decision-makers. However, African banks are making investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to improve the customer experience and credit risk; new “digital banks” are emerging, that are, at least in part, and are cloud-based. There are limited datacentres located in Africa, majority in South Africa region and Lagos, Nigeria. In 2020, it was estimated that only about 1.5 percent of the world’s data centres are located in Africa, while the US, Europe, and Asia respectively had 40 percent, 30 percent, and 10 percent of the total.

What are the benefits of cloud services for Businesses in Africa?

Like I mentioned earlier that Cloud technology enables businesses to operate from virtually anywhere over the internet and it’s on a pay-as-you-go basis, this makes cost savings one of the greatest benefits of cloud computing. The fact that businesses do not have to build their own IT infrastructure or purchase hardware, it helps companies reduce capital expenses significantly.

In addition, Cloud technology offers greater flexibility to businesses irrespective of their sizes. They can seamlessly scale up or down computing resources depending on their needs and budget whenever they require extra bandwidth, computing power or even storage space. Not only does cloud services stores data but securely as well. Data security is a major concern for businesses today. Cloud vendors provide advanced security features like multi-factor authentication, access management, data encryption and so forth to ensure sensitive data in the cloud is securely handled and stored.

Furthermore, mobility is one of the benefits companies derive from Cloud computing,with the use of internet, users can gain access to corporate data from any device, anywhere and at any time, making information conveniently available remotely. Employees can remain productive even on the go, thereby making collaboration simple and hassle-free. Cloud computing empowers multiple users to edit documents or work on files simultaneously and in a transparent manner.

How can businesses in Africa utilise the cloud technology and tap into these benefits that cloud computing unlocks?

Undoubtedly, cloud computing has been attributed with increasing competitiveness through cost reduction, greater flexibility, elasticity, and optimal resource utilisation. I would like to mention a few wayshow cloud computing is used to enhance the ability to achieve business goals.

Firstly, Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS). One of the easiest ways companies can begin its shift to the cloud is to invest in a backup solution. IT professionals know that having just one copy of your data onsite opens you up to vulnerabilities in the event of a disaster. Following the 3-2-1 rule – having 3 copies of your data on 2 different media and 1 offsite is the best way to ensure your data is safe and secure. The cloud is where that offsite piece comes in. Restoring backups from the cloud is fast and can help companies avoid catastrophic data loss.

Secondly, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). As companies grow and gather more data, SaaS technology has entered the market as a way to store, organise and maintain that data. Marketing automation tools, customer relationship management (CRM), etc. have helped lines of business to do their jobs more efficiently. Often referred to as “software on demand,” SaaS solutions are centrally hosted in the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere, any time.

Thirdly, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). There is a lot that goes into building and maintaining infrastructure. There are the hardware costs, the cost of the space, the electricity to power it, and the overhead to build and maintain it. Building out a data centre can easily cost a company millions of dollars. For this reason, companies can forego capital expenditures in favour of operational expenditures and host data in service provider run data centres.

And lastly, the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) where developers essentially rent everything required to build an application, relying on a cloud provider for development tools, infrastructure, and operating systems. This is one of the three service models of cloud computing. PaaS vastly simplifies web application development; from the developer’s perspective, all backend management takes place behind the scenes.

Let’s talk about Choice Cloud as an example of cloud services. How is Choice Cloud assisting businesses to improve their service delivery?

For businesses, switching to cloud computing removes some IT costs and overhead: for instance, they no longer need to update and maintain their own servers, as the cloud vendor they are using will do that. This especially makes an impact for small businesses that may not have been able to afford their own internal infrastructure but can outsource their infrastructure needs affordably via the cloud. Choice Cloud develops and owns its remote access software technology.

Choice Cloud has range of cloud services across various sectors that help small to medium sized industry (SME). We have Hospital Management Software (MyHospitalCloud) with integrated telemedicine that offers complete electronic medical records held in a secured datacentre, also available on-premises for the cloud sceptical folks. In addition, we have educational software like school management software (MySchoolCloud), Learning Management software (LMS), Computer based test (CBT).

Our CRM software is FREE when subscribed to our Hosted PBX services. The Hosted PBX is cloud based telephony services allowing companies to leverage on remote working and geographically spread their support services like Call centre services anywhere in the World. The CRM has over 20+ modules among which are Sales and Leads automation, Customer support service, Assets tracking and management, Employees leaves approval and Human resources, Payroll, and timesheet, Know your customer modules, Email marketing services etc. This information is available on our website at www.choiceclouds.co.uk

Our primary strategy is to offer all our services with unlimited users over most foreign cloud software that charges per user per Month to drive adoption of cloud services in Africa and encourage the small businesses.

From your experience running Choice Cloud, how receptive are businesses to the idea of a cloud service?

Africa has been largely left behind when it comes to cloud technology, compared to the rest of the world. One has to ask “why?” One of the main reasons is the internet penetration, low quality of broadband connectivity experienced in the Country, which is also very expensive andhave constrained the use of cloud technology.

The move to Cloud is not an easy endeavour by any means. We have seen a lot of fragmentation when it comes to business comprehension. There is a tug of war between what they can do with the Cloud versus what they are willing to do. However, leaders of organisations are starting to understand that any strategy must include technological investments.

Although cloud computing solvesthe problem of owning your own infrastructure, but internetconnection is needed to have access to the intended servicesin Nigeria, communicationinfrastructure is a challenge and it hinders the growth of the technology, lack of stable power,wreckage of infrastructure, security and lack of awareness are among the challenges Choice Cloud faces in delivering its services.

For instance, some business owners are not well informed about the new trend of Cloud computing, we have had situations whereby, business owners are to firstconsult their children abroad to take a decision on whether to subscribe to our services or not.

Conversely, we have also encountered problems with employees who have been resistant to change, even when the decision makers are opting to move to Cloud technology.

Are there any risks associated with cloud technology? Perhaps cyber security threat?

Oh yes, as we are aware Cloud computing can offer a lower cost, enhanced productivity, faster turnaround time and even storage site for businesses. However, despite this array of benefits, security is one of the major concerns when adapting to this technology. As cybersecurity professionals are conscious of anythingthat gained popularity in the digital world will inevitably become a target of malevolent cyber actors, and Cloud computing platforms are no different. Data loss and downtime can cause irreparable damage to businesses of any size. That is why Cloud vendors are well-equipped to withstand unforeseen disruptive events, such as hardware/software failure, natural disasters, and power outages, to ensure high application availability and business continuity.

How can cloud technology bolster business growth in Africa?

Cloud computing has supported business growth in Africa allowing organisations to scale, maintain flexibility, and focus their efforts on business operations rather than managing complex IT infrastructure. With Cloud technology, organisations can devote resources to operational scalability in other areas.Using the cloud as an infrastructure base for innovation can lead to improved performance, lowered costs, and increased agility. For example, in the world of Internet of Things (IoT) product development, companies are driving innovation at a pace that is only possible through employing cloud computing.

Adenike Taiwo Momolosho is the Managing Director of Choice Cloud LTD, a cloud solution company established to assist businesses improve their services delivery to clients.