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Find agility in the cloud

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SMEs and enterprises are quickly adopting cloud computing as an alternative to physical servers. This, according to ATTILA NARIN of Amazon Web Services, is because cloud computing offers numerous benefits including lower costs, easy and quickly deployment and robustness.

Over the past few years we have seen that cloud computing is becoming the new normal for larger companies across South Africa and around the world. As well as the rapid enterprise adoption of the cloud, small businesses and start-ups are also becoming part of this growing trend. Migrating to the cloud is giving smaller organisations the ability to access near endless amounts of compute, storage and other technologies over the internet, on a pay as you go basis, lowering the overall cost of their IT and increasing their agility and pace of innovation.

In the pre-cloud world, when you asked an engineering team how long it might take to get a server to try something new, typically it would take 10 – 18 weeks. In this new world of cloud, not only can a company spin up hundreds of servers in minutes and pay only for what they use, but they have access to a very robust, full-featured technology platform that lets them go from idea to launch in record time.

For start-ups and SMEs this is good news as employees now have the opportunity to test new concepts in a much shorter time-frame and with a lot less IT investment risk. As a result, both start-ups and SMEs are evolving to be far more dynamic and innovative.

The question is not, therefore, whether you should move your activities to the cloud – it’s when you should and how quickly.

One of the main benefits of cloud computing is agility. For a start-up or SME, being able to adapt to uncertain market conditions or quickly change direction of their business to better fit with the needs and wants of customers is critical. Being able to quickly change their strategy is leading to many smaller organisations taking on older, more established players which is disrupting many, often decades old, industries.

If you think about what’s happened in the last few years, we have started to see many longstanding businesses and industries that have been completely disrupted by new companies in a very short amount of time. The best example is the growth we have seen in Internet based businesses such as Netflix, Airbnb and Dropbox. The reason for the disruption is these more agile companies have been able to rapidly experiment and test out new ideas. Those ideas that fail can be shut down quickly and inexpensively and those that succeed can be allowed to quickly grow. This is leading to many new companies taking on larger organisations, for example, in industries such as financial services.

A good example of a South African company in the financial services sector that is using AWS to flourish is Entersekt. Entersekt provides authentication solutions to customers which is making the online world a safer place to bank and shop. Entersekt has been able to build a service that can scale to millions of users by using the cloud while giving customers a more secure and better retail banking experience all while reducing online phishing fraud to an absolute 0%. Although it may be expected that a technology like this would come from one of the world’s largest banks or credit card companies, in New York, London or Hong Kong, instead it came from an agile, fast moving and fast thinking cloud based start-up based out of Stellenbosch.

As well as giving smaller organisations the ability to experiment quickly and scale up to take on larger companies, the cloud is also giving them the ability deploy their applications in multiple regions around the world with just a few clicks. This kind of global reach was previously only available to the world’s largest multinational companies. Now, with the cloud, it means a start-up can go global from day one and can increase their chances of success and also rapidly increase their customer base.

A good example of a fast growing company from South Africa that is seeing many of these benefits is Travelstart. Travelstart has been able to rapidly grow their Middle Eastern business using AWS while reducing downtime by 25%. Started in 1999, the company has grown to become Africa’s largest travel booking website offering flights, hotel bookings, car rental, vacation packages and a range of insurance services. The company operates in more than 15 countries across Africa and the Middle East. By using the cloud to rapidly grow their business, Travelstart is able to take on the world’s largest companies in their field while also increasing their reliability and levels of customer service.

Cloud computing gives businesses of any size access to storage, compute, database and many other technologies on a pay as you go basis from anywhere in the world. This is democratising the business world by giving small companies access to the same vast amounts of technology that were only in the realms of the world’s largest organisations in the past. I look forward to see the cloud continue its rapid growth in South Africa and look forward to see more start-ups expand their businesses around the world thanks to the cloud.

* Attila Narin, Head of EMEA Solutions Architecture and Business Development, Amazon Web Services

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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