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Cloud lets you innovate without disruption

For decades, a CIO’s responsibility was to reduce costs and keep the a company’s IT infrastructure running. Now, CIOs and IT departments are tasked with driving business innovation, writes CAMERON BEVERIDGE, Director: Cloud at SAP Africa.

Businesses acknowledge they are buried under mountains of inefficiencies and missed opportunities. CEOs understand that digital is an opportunity or a threat. So, the question is not about awareness, but how to unleash the power of digital transformation while finding a balance between maintaining a healthy business and current infrastructure, and innovating without disruption.

The mandate from business to IT has shifted. For decades, a CIO’s chief responsibility was to reduce costs and keep the lights on just enough to run mission-critical processes.  Now, CIOs and IT departments are tasked with driving business innovation. To stay competitive in a digital economy, it is no longer sufficient to have a system landscape whose primary role is to keep records.

Most organizations invest a great deal to maintain and customise their IT landscapes to meet their unique business needs. Today, nearly every organisation has some level of cloud presence, typically for customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM), or procurement. The question we hear most often from customers is not how to make their first foray into the cloud, but rather how to design a comprehensive enterprise cloud strategy that:

  • Protects existing investments
  • Accelerates innovation
  • Keeps an organization’s unique business processes intact

Moving to the cloud does not mean breaking off some parts of the business in a piecemeal fashion or taking a rip-and-replace approach.

Cloud is one of the key drivers of digital transformation.  Cloud has disrupted the traditional IT model by drastically reducing time to market and TCO for innovative solutions.  With its ease of use and ubiquitous access, cloud has democratised the decisions about software purchasing, access, and usage.

Cloud computing offers immense opportunity for companies to improve their business operations, regardless of sector. Modern cloud offerings reduce IT infrastructure complexity and free up resources that can be better applied to driving innovation. And with security topping the list of concerns among business and IT leaders, cloud providers today invest talent and energy into ensuring their offerings are able to meet even the most stringent security requirements.

According to the IDC, cloud spending is expected to surge by 25% to reach more than $100bn, with cloud data centres expected to double in number. In a separate study, analysts found that an astonishing $237bn in profits were lost by the top 200 global companies alone, mainly due to the hidden costs of complexity.

Despite these clear signs, cloud migration of key business applications is still met with reservations and, often, resistance. IT leaders list concerns such as possible downtime, security, potential loss of control over key business processes, and cost.

Managing increasing complexity

As technologies like artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, AR, VR, and the Internet of Things become mainstream, enterprise IT systems and the digital processes they drive are getting more complex every day. Companies need to find new ways to reduce complexity while ensuring that their IT systems are flexible enough to adapt to the requirements of a shifting technology and business landscape.

Many organizations choose to migrate some or all their mission critical applications to the cloud to increase flexibility. To do this efficiently, it is critical to understand some of the key success factors for a cloud model. The high ground in any mission-critical application cloud solution comes down to four promises:

  1. A comprehensive, end-to-end SLA approach that avoids unproductive time-wasting by disparate service providers.
  2. Integration across your application landscape.
  3. Access to industry and engineering experts and best practices to support ad hoc and ongoing needs.
  4. Ability to leverage new skills and resources across infrastructure, technical management and cross vendor application management.

SAP’s cloud offerings provide companies with the global expertise and local knowledge needed to free up internal resources and shift focus away from IT management – i.e. ensuring systems are up and running – and to innovation, the driving force of all successful businesses in today’s digital economy. The benefits of this are clear:

The cost benefit of cloud

Running business applications in the cloud means less maintenance, especially in comparison to on-premise solutions, as many subscription models include company-specific maintenance and support in addition to hosting. Investments to replace outdated hardware are also no longer necessary, as these are already included in the monthly fees and service agreements.

Using managed cloud services allows companies to scale the scope of applications they pay for to what they really need. While existing on-premise solutions might have numerous functionalities that companies pay for (although they are often unnecessary), companies in the cloud only pay for what they really need and for what they use. When business requirements change, companies can flexibly adapt their services and applications in the cloud as required.

Unlocking business value

By partnering with a leading cloud provider such as SAP, companies can accelerate business processes that were previously limited by the performance of their on-premise systems. In addition, they can swiftly replace outdated applications with new ones and make sure that different company locations with previously diverging software releases are all upgraded at the same time, reducing the overall complexity of their IT landscape.

Support is similarly simplified: by moving insulated business applications to the cloud, companies are able to work with a single provider that assumes total responsibility. With a comprehensive, managed cloud offering such as the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, organisations can further optimise their IT landscape to future-proof their business. This allows them to focus on the functional and business layer of their stack – driving innovation, business value, and growth – while handing off the technical aspects of system and application management to a reputable cloud partner such as SAP.

With 125 million cloud subscribers and 44 state-of-the-art data centres in 27 locations around the world, isn’t it time you spoke to SAP about how the cloud can fit into your company’s digital transformation journey?

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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