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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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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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