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App-athy slows productivity

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Many executives are moving towards cloud-based apps at work, but while this is improving productivity it is also causing a growing number of issues, writes WIMPIE VAN RENSBURG, Country Manager for Sub Saharan Africa at Riverbed Technology.

Improving productivity continues to be a priority for many organisations and as such, IT transformation is top of the agenda when it comes to boosting business performance. A recent study commissioned by Riverbed Technology found that companies are increasingly leveraging cloud computing, with 96% of executives using cloud-based enterprise apps at work today. However, moving to this environment is simultaneously causing a growing number of issues.

The underlying concern comes down to poor application performance, ultimately brought about by organisations’ migration to the cloud. 89 per cent say the poor performance of enterprise applications has negatively impacted their work on a weekly (58 per cent), and even daily (36 per cent) basis. With such regular performance issues, is stagnated business productivity the result of acceptance towards slow IT? Has poor app performance become the new norm? The overall impact on productivity is being felt and organisations need to overcome this problem now to ensure it does not become detrimental to results and overall business performance.

The effects of slow running applications

Just about every business operation is enabled and mediated by applications so it is easy to see why app performance plays such a relevant role in productivity, 98% of executives agree with this. Poorly performing applications affect almost every area of an organisation and slow apps present companies with a number of pitfalls which can have serious repercussions to an organisation’s bottom line. Our survey highlights that these include dissatisfied clients or customers (41 per cent), contract delays (40 per cent), critical deadlines missed (35 per cent), and loss of clients or customers (33 per cent).

Additionally, poor application performance does not just affect the business directly, it also has personal repercussions for employees. When apps are not performing it makes it harder for people to do their jobs and get things done. What’s more, over a third of executives (35 per cent) use this issue as an excuse for missing deadlines, with a quarter using poor application performance as a motive to take an extended lunch break.

Worryingly, when faced with slow performing apps, executives can exacerbate the problem as they try to work around it. 35 per cent of executives admit they have used unsupported apps when corporate apps run slowly or stop working altogether. This is often referred to as “shadow IT” and creates infrastructure complexity. Employees have also expressed their frustration to colleagues (31 per cent) and even left work early (23 per cent).

Overcoming performance issues

In order to overcome these issues, organisations need to recognise that users expect their apps to be constantly available and want the performance levels to remain high. When this is not the case, confusion and frustration can escalate. Globally, 71 per cent of our survey respondents said they have felt uninformed about why their enterprise applications are running slowly, highlighting a disconnect between IT teams and business executives that can lead to mutual frustration.

To meet business needs organisations must close the application performance gap. IT should establish clear visibility into how apps are performing, and the impact this has on the user experience. By identifying the cause of performance issues, IT can fix them before users notice. This improved visibility into application performance would result in increased productivity (56 per cent) and revenue (43 per cent), better customer service (54 per cent), product quality (49 per cent) and employee engagement (46 per cent).

Understandably, with apps, data and users literally everywhere, the work of optimising and delivering great app performance has gotten much tougher for IT organisations. But companies can’t control what they can’t see. And in order to close the performance gap, having a clear line of sight into how the apps are performing – and how the end-user experience is being impacted – has also become a business imperative. New technologies provide end-to-end visibility into application performance across the entire network. This allows visibility, optimisation and control, even within complex hybrid environments.

Achieving optimal application performance

The realities of the modern IT landscape can be daunting. Business-critical applications span both physical, virtual, and hybrid environments. In conjunction with this, end-users’ expectations continue to increase. In this light, never has it been more important to monitor the performance and availability of the business services that employees and customers rely on so business productivity can increase.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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