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Half of Corporate data still stuck in the past

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Enterprise stores on average 50 per cent of their data in branch offices, to which they dedicate half of their total IT budget. In practice, this means half of the IT organisations are using outdated methods of operation, writes ELKHAYAT, REGIONAL of Riverbed Technology.

Today’s enterprises store on average 50 per cent of their corporate data in branch offices, to which they dedicate half of their total IT budget. In practice, this means half of today’s IT organisations are using outdated methods of operation which, in addition to being costly and complex to manage, limit IT’s ability to proactively respond to businesses’ ever-changing needs, prevent security breaches, and recover from unplanned outages.

As a result, some organisations are taking a new approach to branch IT, in order to improve system performance and resiliency, ensure reliable data backups, and greatly reduce operating expenses. While equipping edge locations has traditionally been all about infrastructure — the hardware, routers and switches, backup systems, and software that are there to make employees as productive as possible — enterprises are asking themselves what it takes to manage their remote locations efficiently. What are the operational costs associated with their infrastructure? How is employee productivity affected by their decisions?

To answer these questions, organisations should review the following checklist, which includes items relating to:

·       Infrastructure: What are the key traits of a modern edge infrastructure?

·       Operations: What are the costs associated with managing edge infrastructure?

·       Business needs: How can organisations maximise their return on investment?

Infrastructure

To ensure secure and efficient IT in remote offices and branch offices (ROBO), organisations should ensure the following when planning their infrastructure:

1. Ensure compute is separate from data: Modern infrastructure separates compute, which should remain at the edge, from data storage, which should be centralised. This approach yields a stateless edge and eliminates many operational challenges and costs.

2. Centralise data storage: Organisations should store 100 per cent of their company data in the datacentre where it can be managed and protected. From there, it can be projected to the edge on an as-needed basis. This removes sensitive information from vulnerable remote locations, and gives IT teams far more control over the data.

3. Centralise backup: Edge-based backup can be expensive and error-prone. Instead, data backups should be centralised in the datacentre, and be automated and continuous. This will ensure backups are reliable and efficient, while significantly reducing costs.

4. Optimise the WAN: Wide area network (WAN) optimisation helps further streamline branch infrastructure by accelerating branch user applications and data traffic across the optimal networks at the lowest cost. As WANs are notoriously unreliable and do not offer protection against the creation of localised pockets of systems and information stores, organisations should implement the use of specialised tools that enable the convergence of IT systems and applications with WAN optimisation technologies. In this way, they will achieve maximum performance across distance.

5. Encrypt all data: To help protect against cyber threats, all company data should automatically be encrypted at both when it’s at rest (both in branch offices as well as in datacentres) and when it is being transported back and forth.

Operations

IT teams need to be able to quickly provision and manage edge infrastructure in a timely and cost-effective way. They can achieve this by ensuring the following:

6. Carry out fast provisioning: The IT team should be able to update edge locations with new applications and features, and provision a new edge location from the organisation’s central datacentre in minutes — without costly and time-consuming onsite visits.

7. Ensure fast ROBO recovery: When an unplanned outage occurs, rapid recovery is a must to keep business operations up and running. So that operations resume in minutes or hours and with minimal loss of working data, IT needs to be able to initiate the recovery process from the datacentre.

8. Protect data: From an operational point of view, data encryption should be available at rest and in motion, and backups should be affordable, automatic, centralised, and continuous.

9. Manage storage in the cloud: So as to avoid excessive storage costs and operational overhead, organisations should eliminate storage in edge locations, making them stateless edges. A good way to achieve this is by taking advantage of cloud storage’s low costs.

Business needs

In order to satisfy infrastructure related business needs, organisations need to ask themselves several questions: Does their infrastructure help them stay competitive and act quickly in the face of changing markets? Can the business satisfy customers’ needs around the clock? How can the organisation get products to market faster? How does your infrastructure investment drive business ROI?

10. Keep employees productive: IT can contribute to increasing employees’ productivity by enabling them to access applications, updated data and information, any time, any place.

11. Achieve business continuity: If a disaster strikes, IT should be able to quickly recover data and applications. The team should also have the tools needed to shift operations to a different region without much loss of time or data.

12. Make the business agile: The organisation’s infrastructure should let the business respond to changing market conditions by quickly provisioning users with new applications and features. It should also provide the ability to quickly open new locations in order to take advantage of new opportunities.

With remote offices and branch offices playing a crucial role in modern business, today’s enterprises have entered a new era with new technologies and new thinking about edge IT investments. In order to achieve operational cost savings, rapid service deployment, and instant recovery — all while providing unmatched data protection — IT needs to understand what’s happening across the business and act accordingly. By ensuring that the right tools and processes are in place, organisations can ensure the security, resilience and flexibility they need to meet today’s business needs.

 

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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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