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Still not in Cloud? You may be left behind

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A few years ago, cloud computing was touted as the next big thing. Today, however cloud computing is not an option but a necessity for businesses wanting to stay ahead of the curve, writes AJ HARTENBERG of T-Systems.

Just a few short years ago, we in the technology industry were touting cloud computing as the latest and greatest competitive advantage for progressive companies. Fast-forward to today, and it now seems like cloud migration is more of a hygiene factor than a competitive differentiator.

Simply put, if you’re not already moving your IT estate into private, hybrid or public clouds, you’re going to fall behind in the coming years.

Markets are digitising, they’re globalising, and they’re coalescing into each other, or splintering apart in interesting new ways. And these market shifts are changing the rules of the game for everybody.

Netflix started life as a DVD rental company, then became a video streaming service, and is now spending $5billion a year on creating original movies and TV series. Nintendo’s modern-era began with console games, before launching a new realm of motion-sensor technology with the inventive Nintendo Wii. In its most recent ‘pivot’, the immersive augmented reality game Pokemon Go, it hauled in $200 million in just its first month.

There’s a litany of reasons for these firms’ successes – from culture, to leadership, to strategy. But from a technology perspective, boundary-pushing companies like Netflix and Nintendo all share one common principle – flexible, scalable cloud architectures that enable the rapid expansion of services, to millions of users.

These two firms have truly leveraged the power of cloud computing. But, in fact, in every industry you’ll find examples of digital cavaliers, quickly gobbling market share from slower-paced incumbents who’ve been entrenched for decades.

Failing fast, failing forward

Cloud-based digital tools and assets allow organisations to create new routes to market, insert themselves into new value chains, and address entirely new customer segments and geographies. They help the organisation to better understand changing market dynamics, influences and trends – and to respond with speed and decisiveness.

The cloud also enables faster, lower-risk experimentation with new strategies, products or services. If a prototype proves successful, then it can be scaled up to achieve commercial value. And, if it’s unsuccessful, then it can be quickly shut down and the team can move on to explore other ideas – it’s a principle we refer to as ‘failing fast, and failing forward’.

With the real-time data streams that cloud computing makes possible, businesses can fine-tune every aspect of their operations – making minor tweaks where the data points to improvement opportunities. Perhaps the data leads you to make changes to the production schedule, to change supplier relationships, or to change the tone of the marketing campaign, for instance.

We talk about a cloud-centred business being a blend of both art and science. This is the true beauty of the cloud: it unleashes the creativity of the creative types, to dream and to design. At the same time is provides a platform for the more left-brained team members to form methodologies, gain control, and ultimately make ideas commercially-viable.

In fact, the science of big data might reveal opportunities, for creatives to find an innovative solution to capture that market opportunity

Now, imagine an analogue business trying to compete, without all of these cloud benefits?

Taking the plunge

Despite all of the cloud’s compelling advantages, migrating part or one’s entire IT estate to the cloud often entails incredible complexity, uncertainty and cost. These concerns tend to cause inertia in decision-making, particularly in larger, more entrenched businesses, or those in protected and slower-moving industries.

Some traditional businesses are so consumed with the day-to-day grind of simply ‘keeping the lights on’ that they hardly have time to think about future-proofing their enterprise technology. And others still are remaining relatively successful – for the time being – without having made any serious attempt at digital transformation.

But the question is, for how much longer will this last?

For large organisations, cloud migrations are certainly complex and scary. But there are ways to manage the risks and costs, and become more certain of success. It generally starts with a comprehensive evaluation of your IT environment, and a very sharp understanding of your own business, your market, your customers, and your competitors.

Find a trusted technology partner, one that’s helped other firms through the process of cloud migration, and is willing to shoulder much of the risk and provide guarantees in terms of both costs and business returns. Once you’ve selected the right strategy and the right partner, commit to the transition and pour all your energy into making your cloud migration a resounding success.

As we see with the likes of Netflix and Nintendo, cloud-based organisations have one crucial advantage over their more traditional peers – the ability to continually reinvent themselves, serve new customer demands, and respond to ever-shifting market landscapes.

The time is now. Take any longer, and you may never catch up.

* AJ Hartenberg, Portfolio Manager: Data Centre Services for T-Systems, South Africa

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SA consumers buy 3.2m smartphones in Q1

Smartphone sales in South Africa grew by 12.4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, reaching around 3.2 million units for the period.

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However, the value of the smartphone segment increased by 22.8% as sales of entry-level devices to low- and mid-income consumers continued to drive the market, according to point of sale data from market research firm, GfK South Africa.

GfK South Africa’s data reveals that telecommunications retail enjoyed a strong start to the year, with revenue growing 22.4% year-on-year. The growing popularity of phablets and higher unit prices (as a result of a weaker rand) helped to drive this increase in revenue, against a backdrop of low or negative growth in many segments of the consumer technology market.

“The mobile device market showed good growth in the quarter, despite rising prices during the period under review,” says Norman Muzhona, Solutions Specialist for Telecommunications at GfK South Africa. “In addition to the exchange rate, the introduction of popular, new mid-tier devices by several leading vendors helped to drive higher retail revenues in the telecoms market.”

Information technology retail revenues for the quarter contracted 4.8% compared to 2017, largely because of decreasing monitor prices and a 38.9% decline in tablet revenues. However, desktop computer revenues grew 39% and mobile computing revenues grew 6.5% year-on-year, thanks to higher prices and increased sales of higher-end products.

Says Berno Mare, Solutions Specialist for IT, Office Equipment and Value Added Services: “Retailers introduced new computing devices priced in the R3000 band during the quarter and enjoyed surprisingly strong demand for these entry-level units.

“Telcos enjoyed robust growth in mobile computing retail sales, thanks to credit deals, subsidised contracts and attractive data offers. However, South African consumers are heavily indebted, which may dampen growth for the rest of the year.”

With consumers rapidly migrating to smartphones, sales of traditional mobile phones continued to decline, down 1.6% year-on-year to around 2 million for the quarter. However, the exchange rate and the introduction of higher-priced brands helped to drive a 8.9% year-on-year revenue increase in mobile phone revenues during the period under review.

This follows the 21% drop in mobile phone unit sales in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. “Operators continue to lead the transition from feature phones to smartphones as they pursue higher data revenues,” says Muzhona. “The entry-level market for smartphones is fiercely competitive, and the minimum specs of lower cost smartphones is improving all the time.”

GfK South Africa expects the migration from mobile phones to smartphones to accelerate in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if the introduction of 4G-enabled, Voice-over-LTE-ready feature phones will have any impact on the South African mobile phone market.

Sectors of the consumer electronic market that showed strong growth for the first quarter of 2018 include loudspeakers—revenues up 21.6% year-on-year, thanks to demand of Bluetooth-enabled product—and ultrahigh definition (UHD) panel TVs—where revenues grew 33%, thanks to the growing affordability of the technology. UHD unit shipments were up 76%, while the average selling price of the products fell 24%.

Other market highlights for the first quarter of 2018 include:

  • Photo category revenues were up 8.1% year-on-year.
  • Small domestic appliance revenues grew 8%, following a 10.3% decline in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015. Hot air fryers sold well, as did kettles and toasters.
  • Major domestic appliances showed small year-on-year growth over Q1 2016, despite a decline in average selling price in many sub-categories of this market. Cooling products continued to make the highest contribution to growth in this segment.
  • Office Equipment revenues declined 18% year-on-year, led downwards by lower printer and cartridge sales volumes.
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What kids want online

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Kaspersky Lab’s latest report on the online activities of children – based on statistics received from its solutions and modules with child protection features – highlights children’s online activities and the importance of protecting them when online. For example, video content globally, comprised 17% of searches over the last months. Although many videos watched as a result of these searches may be harmless, it is still possible for children to accidentally end up watching videos that contain inappropriate content.

The report shows anonymised statistics from Kaspersky Lab’s flagship consumer solutions for Windows PCs and Macs that have the Parental Control module switched on and from Kaspersky Safe Kids, a standalone service for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices.

In South Africa, communication sites (such as social media, messengers, or emails) were the most popular pages visited by computers with parental controls switched on – with users in South Africa visiting these sites in 69% of cases over the previous 12 months. Software, audio, and video accounted for 17% of searches. Websites with this content have become significantly more popular since last year, when it was only the fifth most popular category globally at 6%. The top four is rounded off with electronic commerce (4.2%) and alcohol, tobacco, and websites about narcotics (3.9%), which is a new addition compared to this time last year.

The report presents search results on the ten most-popular languages* for the last 6 months. The data shows that the video & audio category – including requests related to any video content, streaming services, video bloggers, series and movies – are the most regularly ‘googled’ by children (17% of the total requests). The second and third places go to translation (14%) and communication (10%) websites respectively. Interestingly, games websites sit in fourth place, generating only 9% of the total search requests.

We can also see a clear language difference for search requests: for example, video and music websites are typically searched for in English, which can be explained by the fact that the majority of movies, TV series and musical groups have English names. Spanish-speaking kids carry out more requests for translation sites, while communication services are mostly searched for in Russian.

More than any other nationality, Chinese-speaking children look for education services, while French-speaking kids are more interested in sport and games websites. In turn, German-speaking requests dominate in the “shopping” category. The leading number of search requests for porn are in Arabic, and for anime are in Japanese.

“Kids in different countries have different interests and online behaviors, but what links them all is their need to be protected online from potentially harmful content. Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on websites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds,” says Anna Larkina, Web-content Analysis Expert at Kaspersky Lab.

As well as analysing searches, the report also looks into which websites children visit or attempt to visit that contain potentially harmful content which falls under one of the 14 preset categories** for the last 12 months.

The mobile trend is again highlighted in the figures for computer games, which are now in fifth place locally on the list at 3%. As kids continue to show a preference for mobile games rather than computer games, this category will only continue to decrease in popularity on computers over the coming months and years.cleardot.gif

“No matter what they are doing online, it is important for parents not to leave their children’s digital activities unattended, because there’s a big difference between care and obtrusiveness. While it is important to trust your children and educate them about how to behave safely online, even your good advice cannot protect them from something unexpectedly showing up on the screen. That’s why advanced security solutions are key to ensuring children have positive online experiences, rather than harmful ones,” adds Anna Larkina.

The Kaspersky Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security consumer solutions include a Parental Control module to help adults protect their children against online threats and block sites or apps containing inappropriate content. In turn, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution allows parents to monitor what their children do, see or search for online across all devices, including mobile devices, and offers useful advice on how to help children behave safely online.

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