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Cloud storage strengthens biz

Archiving records has been considered an uphill battle for organisations for decades. While the format of these records have changed from paper to pixels, the battle is far from over. Cyber resilience expert at Mimecast, NICK SAUNDERS, provides some benefits of cloud archiving.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way and organisations that have made the switch from an on premise to cloud archive, have found that archiving can actually simplify how they do business, rather than causing unnecessary stress. Good archiving allows you to find specific records as and when needed, and helps you comply with stringent data storage regulations, such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

But organisations need to see an archive as more than just an old storage box that’s an unwanted necessity, and rather as something they can get value out of. Well-organised, easily searchable and secure records are a business competitiveness booster– and here are just four reasons why by Nick Saunders, cyber resilience expert at Mimecast:

  1. Higher Productivity

Huge volumes of unstructured email data are like the proverbial haystack when your employees are looking for a specific needle of information. Easy access and functional searchability are therefore a must for any email archiving solution. With less time spent trawling through records, or waiting for IT departments to locate specific documents, employees are free to draw insights from email histories and apply them to current issues or opportunities. And enabling access to archives via the cloud and mobile devices when employees are on the move, improves day-to-day efficiency.

  1. A Rock-Solid Plan B

Cyber-attacks, natural disasters or unavoidable downtime – there’s no shortage of ways that businesses can lose email for even a few hours and face significant losses.  Having a tamper-proof email archiving system in place insures your business against data loss, should your primary email system be compromised. In the event of an unexpected outage, cloud-archived email records mean your organisation can be up and running again in minutes. Simply put, no disaster recovery or digital business continuity plan is complete without a solid email archiving solution in place.

  1. Regulatory Compliance

POPI has driven organisations to sort out their data practices and avoid hefty penalties from mismanagement of sensitive personal information. And, come May 2018, businesses with customers in the EU will have to be compliant under the EU GDPR. Both regulations require strict adherence to many aspects of data safety, and a complete and reliable archive can help organisations when a compliance issue arises. Furthermore, e-discovery functions of an archive will allow organisations to speedily and accurately sift through terabytes of email threads – significantly strengthening how organisations respond to regulatory queries.

  1. Lower Maintenance Costs

Maintaining traditional archives on site rather than in the cloud is a costly exercise, requiring significant, recurring resources to keep them regularly updated. This could tempt IT departments to skip the tasks of implementing important patches and fixes in their system, which only results in additional maintenance costs further down the line. A cloud-based third-party archiving partner will take the manual work out of the equation, keeping records perfectly up to date, and at a lower cost than if a business had to do it alone.

As the data avalanche continues, email is set to become a bigger and more business-vital repository of information than ever before. Businesses would be wise to begin their email migration to the cloud sooner rather than later, through cloud providers like Mimecast who can do it better, faster, cheaper and more effectively.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as end-of-support looms, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2008.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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