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How Dell backs the Boks

Dell Technologies signed a sponsorship deal with the Springbok team at its lowest ebb – but now reaps rewards far beyond the stunning World Cup victory

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The past year was an epic one for South Africa’s Springbok rugby team, crowned by the decisive defeat of England in the World Cup Final in Japan. It was not only about the victory, but also about the journey the team took from the depths of defeat. 

The entire story proved to be a massive and unexpected bonus for Dell Technologies, which signed a deal to sponsor the team at what seemed to be the worst possible time.

“When we signed this sponsorship, we just lost 57-0 to the All Blacks,” says Doug Woolley, general manager of Dell Technologies South Africa. “At Dell, we believe in human potential. This team demonstrated that in bucket loads.”

Supporting the team went beyond a logo on their kit. Dell was able to bring its expertise in modern systems to help make a tangible difference for the Springboks and the South African Rugby Union (SARU).

Games for the champs

Dell helped keep the Springboks entertained while they resided in Japan. Six Dell gaming laptops, complete with peripherals, were offered to the team. The original intent was to keep in touch with their families. But as it turned out, many of the champions are avid gamers as well.

“The team asked for ways to talk to their families back in South Africa, so we provided laptops that could deliver clear and reliable video conferencing,” says Chris Buchanan, client solutions director at Dell Technologies South Africa. “But then a second request came in: could these PCs play games as well? Some of the team love playing certain video games, so we packaged several high-end laptops. These are solid gaming machines and also ideal for watching movies or streaming content.”

Multi-purpose Inspiron G-series machines were bundled with peripherals, including headsets, gaming mice and gamepads. Team captain Siya Kolisi, along with teammates Damian de Allende, Elton Jantjies and Handré Pollard, collected the machines. Whether they shared with the other guys is a Springbok secret.

Modernising the game

The Springbok sponsorship also opened other doors of engagement, ones that might well impact the future of rugby in South Africa.

Sports teams across the world have been using digital technology to improve their odds of winning. The McLaren Formula 1 team partners with Dell to capture and analyse data from the cars. In a league where split-seconds can mean victory for finely-tuned machines and drivers, insights generated through modern technology have become crucial.

SARU staff are on the road often and rarely sit at a desk. They are more likely to be next to a sports field or in the thick of a training camp. The activities of coaches and players also generate a lot of information that can be captured and used intelligently. Though the union had invested in the appropriate software, their legacy infrastructure was not up to the task.

“SARU had some solutions: they had the software to do the job, but their computer infrastructure was not up to the task,” says Andrew Wardman, enterprise account manager at Dell Technologies South Africa. “They wanted to drive analytics and share those insights effectively. For example, the defence, tackling, and head coaches should all have the same data, accessible from devices in the field.”

The central vision at Dell is that technology helps drive human potential and must be deployed with that purpose as the outcome. This aligns with SARU’s vision, and an end-to-end digital strategy was formulated. The union’s servers were consolidated around PowerEdge R640 machines, and its data storage was centralised for easy access.

SARU generates a lot of high-fidelity data, including video recordings of matches and practice sessions – not only of the national Springbok team but others, such as the Sevens team and developmental events. The upgrades, which include Dell Latitude laptops for staff, make it possible to access and analyse data from matches and players. Now SARU can review plays more efficiently, track players, get information to trainers and gain that sliver of competitive edge that put the best ahead of the rest.

These improvements are just the start. SARU and Dell’s collaboration continues as they look at even more advanced developments for the team and sport.

“Seeing the team crowned as world champions was just the cherry on top,” says Woolley. “For us, it’s been an opportunity to work with some truly amazing human beings who are proud of their country. You can’t help but catch that spirit as well. They are transforming the country, and we’re humbled to be invited along to contribute what we can.”

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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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