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Foundations rise for Industry 4.0

As organisations begin to embrace the cloud, deploying new apps and services on-the-fly – as well as get new sites up and running quickly – are essential to ensuring the level of agility digital transformation demands, writes TAJ ELKHAYAT of Riverbed Technology.

The first industrial revolution was based on the use of steam to power machines. The second centred on the use of electricity to supply energy to assembly lines. The third came about with the use of electronics and IT to further automate production. But all of that is in the past. We are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, in which the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to overhaul not only business, but also every aspect of modern life. From cars, washing machines, and even clothing, to heart monitors and dams, anything and everything will soon be connected.

As a result, the Industry 4.0 phenomenon is expected to revolutionise all areas within the manufacturing space, connecting all the elements that take part in the production process within the industrial environment: machines, products, systems, and people. The IoT will make today’s organisations more competitive by enabling them to further automate manufacturing processes, and collect and analyse data which they can then use to tailor their products to specific client needs.

In order to get the most out of this agile transformation, today’s companies will not only need to embrace the cloud. They will need to invest in a robust data security environment, and analyse their existing IT infrastructure to ensure it meets their IoT needs. Ensuring their network, branch and remote sites have a strong foundation and that they have in place a solid visibility strategy is the best place to start.

Taking a good look at network architectures

Organisations can only implement digital technologies successfully if their network is flexible and agile. This might be easier said than done, as smart factories – where there is an increasing number of connected objects creating billions of new end points, and transmitting information and interacting with applications – are already struggling to stay in control of inflexible, complex networks.

Many are storing information in the cloud as well as on local systems – generating what are known as hybrid environments – putting an incredible strain on the network, which traditional networking technologies are not designed to handle.

In response, many organisations are taking a new approach and are opting for the use of Software-Defined-WAN, or SD-WAN networks, which offer them the ability to make on-the-fly adjustments to their network’s performance and application delivery, and meet the business’ ever-changing needs. SD-WAN also enables organisations to direct traffic and deploy network services across a WAN from a centralised location. Ultimately, this translates into reduced costs and operational complexity; and increased optimisation to deliver superior-performing apps and experiences to users.

Addressing issues in the branch

At the core of any manufacturing business are branch offices and manufacturing sites.  Often operating as independent data centres which are difficult to support and protect, these sites often fall victim to services outages and data loss which lead to a range of productivity issues including assembly-line stoppage, missed sales opportunities, customer churn, and ultimately, lost revenues.

Getting these remote sites up and running requires significant IT investments. In fact, Riverbed found that branch offices represent 50 per cent of an average company’s total IT budget. However, with half of today’s IT organisations using outdated methods of operation, businesses are finding it difficult to address pain points that impact overall business agility and performance. New IT services take longer to provision. Data loss is a greater threat when it’s stored outside the secure data centre. And, when something goes wrong, it’s difficult to recover data and restore business operations.

As an alternative, implementing technologies designed specifically for the management of branch IT allows organisations’ IT teams to virtualise and consolidate 100 per cent of data and servers from remote sites into data centres, centralising data security and IT management without losing the benefits of running branch services locally. Additionally, new tools offer instant provisioning and recovery, providing complete security and visibility into the network, improving data security, business continuity, agility, and operational efficiency – the foundations of a solid transformation.

Paving the way for optimal performance

Industry 4.0 is set to change the way industries produce and consume products, boosting manufacturers’ productivity worldwide. However, with apps, devices, and data anywhere and everywhere, it will also bring increased complexity across networks. There will necessarily be an increasing number of blind spots in the application delivery chain which could ultimately affect product delivery processes and companies’ bottom lines.

As organisations begin to embrace the cloud, establishing the ability to deploy new apps and services on-the-fly – as well as get new sites up and running quickly – are essential to ensuring the level of agility and performance digital transformation demands. Delivering great app and network performance is one of the keys to doing this, as well as to succeeding in an increasingly competitive and changing marketplace.

* Taj ElKhayat, Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa at Riverbed Technology

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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