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Many steps in storage decision

Both local and cloud based storage solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. It is for this reason that decision makers need to get down to the core of how these solutions operate before deciding what to invest in, writes ANAMIKA BUDREE.

For those in the market for storage for their home or Small and Medium Enterprise (SME), the discussion of the moment is deciding between local or cloud based storage. On both sides of the fence there are a wealth of options from several different brands but it’s critical that decision makers get down to the core of how these solutions operate, their demands on other infrastructure, and how it will affect you or your staff as the end users.

As there is increasing adoption of Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices within Europe, let’s consider this option in terms of local storage. Here, you have the flexibility of choosing how much capacity you want, how much performance and redundancy you need, and you can also have remote data access via a personal cloud feature that is offered by NAS devices such as the WD My Cloud EX4.

With a NAS it’s easy to quickly transfer large amounts of data to the device via the local network, and when people are on the move; this data can be accessed via a desktop or mobile app thanks to the personal cloud feature. Generally speaking personal cloud services offered by NAS devices are free of cost and are platform independent, so you can access your data from your Windows or Mac laptop, iOS, Android or Windows Phone handhelds. As your NAS resides within your home or office, you have the added benefit of never losing control of your data.

Given that most NAS devices are power efficient and drives such as the SOHO NAS optimised WD Red are built for 24/7 efficient operation, you’re not in for a shock in terms of monthly power consumption. And because your data is stored locally on the NAS, you won’t be placing massive upload/download demands on your internet connection, which is also being relied on for web and e-mail service.

In terms of cost, if you purchase a My Cloud EX4 and four 3TB WD Red hard drives, you’re looking at a one-time and upfront cost. Running this system in RAID 10 which means you get data striping (increased performance) and mirroring (data redundancy), you will have access to 6TB of usable capacity. You also have the flexibility to upgrade your device’s storage capacity by simply purchasing larger capacity drives when needed or by adding a USB drive to the NAS device as a quick fix.

On the cloud side of things, the idea is you buy a specific amount of storage from the cloud storage provider and then upload your content to this central repository. Once this is done you can then access your data from different locations and devices. You can also expand how much storage you have but there may be restrictions imposed by the provider, so it’s a good idea to look at their terms and conditions when you first sign up for the plan and, if possible, opt for a monthly versus annual payment plan, so you have more flexibility.

In terms of how cloud storage affects your existing infrastructure, consider this; since the storage point is remote, you have to upload all your data to the cloud from the get go. While it is a simple case of drag and drop, it can be a time consuming task depending on the speed of your Internet connection. Most home and business connections offer upload speeds that are a fraction of the download speed, and even if you consider a connection with a higher than average 10Mbit/sec upload speed, a 100MB file will take upwards of 40 seconds to transfer – the larger the file, the longer it will take to upload.

You also need to consider that making changes to data is essentially a re-download/re-upload job, and although this will likely be invisible to you, as the user, it will again be consuming bandwidth on your internet connection, which could slow down browsing and e-mail services. To be able to use cloud storage to the fullest, you need to invest in a high speed Internet connection and, depending on the volume of data that you work with, you may also be looking at opting for a service with no restrictions on how much data can be uploaded or downloaded. As continuously uploading and downloading data can bog down even the fastest internet connection, you may want to consider putting policies in place where large files are uploaded over night or after business hours.

Considering the aforementioned requirements and depending on which service provider you’re with, maintaining a high speed connection and the cloud storage could be a very expensive proposition, even in the short term. It’s for this reason that you should always consider all the variables and pay attention to the total cost of ownership before deciding on what’s right for your home or SMB.

* Anamika Budree, Sales Manager, Branded Products at WD South Africa

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Loadshedding keeps small business from the cloud

New research shows nearly half of South African small businesses struggle with internet connectivity

New research reveals South African small businesses aren’t able to adopt cloud technology because of their connectivity problems. The third annual State of Small Business report from accounting software firm Xero, conducted in partnership with World Wide Worx (WWW), shows that over half (53%) of small businesses haven’t adopted cloud technology yet, due to connectivity problems.

Over half (59%) said that scheduled power outages by the national supplier posed a significant challenge for their business. In addition, more than two fifths (43%) said that their internet connection was ‘OK but not 100% reliable’. Other challenges cited include new technologies entering the market (29%) and compatibility with customers (45%).

The research represents the opinions of 400 South African small business owners and 200 South African accountants. Almost half (47%) said their staff were highly tech-literate, but more than two thirds (67%) don’t allocate budget for training employees to use the software provided.

Colin Timmis, General Country Manager, Xero SA and professional accountant said “Our most recent State of Small Business report gives a real insight into what it’s like on the ground for small businesses in South Africa. In uncertain times like these, technology can provide stability. For example, cloud software can help overcome issues with connectivity. It helps to make your business more agile, meaning you can work from anywhere at any time. Being able to move when there are scheduled power cuts or patchy internet is crucial to keeping your business running.”

Nearly all who had adopted cloud technology said that they noticed an increase in profit (98%) and an increase in efficiency (99%). More than half (51%) suggested that it had improved their ability to work anywhere, and a quarter (25%) said it had improved security.

In addition, nearly two fifths (38%) said their IT set up was ahead of the curve. Over half (56%) said they use basic automation, whether in operational or accounting tasks. A quarter (25%) said they were using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, followed by cloud computing (19%).

“It’s great that South Africa’s small businesses are seeing the benefits of adopting technology. But there will be a learning curve for anyone using new software and employees shouldn’t be expected to self-teach. Because people are more tech-savvy than they used to be, training normally only takes a few hours. It could make all the difference in getting return on investment on the technology that you buy”, said Timmis.

Other key findings from the research reveal:

  • Three quarters (79%) of small businesses claim that accounting software support is very important
  • Three quarters (78%) of respondents use accounting software to manage financial records and over half (55%) are using desktop solutions.
  • Only one fifth (22%) are using cloud accounting tools and nearly a quarter (23%) still do their books manually.
  • Only a tiny proportion of respondents (0.25%) are using AI and machine learning.

Download the report in full here.

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Uberising solar energy

A team of students from Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday walked off as winners with R20 000 in prize money for an innovative concept to provide equitable energy access to remote villages based on, among others, “Uber(ising) solar energy.”

The team was one of four university teams participating in the African Utility Week and Powergen Africa conference and exhibition’s first ever Initiate! Impact Challenge. The 19th edition of the event gathered thousands of power, water and gas industry experts in Cape Town this week and ended on Thursday.

Student teams from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand also took part in the three-day challenge sponsored by the Enel Foundation, the Innovation Hub, Lesedi Nuclear Services and the Russian Nuclear Agency Rosatom. The Initiate! Challenge aimed to create a platform for students and start-ups to drive innovation and share ideas for the energy sector.

Strathmore University’s winning team: (left to right) Fredrick Amariati, Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga and Alex Osunga.

The Strathmore University team included engineering students Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga, Fredrick Amariati and Alex Osunga. One member of the team will also have the exclusive opportunity to join the 5th annual student fact-finding mission to Russia to visit several state-of-the-art nuclear facilities and dedicated Russian nuclear universities. Maranga said the team is happy and humbled especially because they competed against some of the top universities on the continent. He said the teams’ winning idea is rooted in real life challenges that Kenyans in rural areas face. “The solutions offered so far to expand energy access are not solving these problems as many are not financially viable.”

The team’s idea is to put a solar panelled container in rural villages that will also house a clinic and a knowledge hub like a school for vocational training to teach people about the use and benefits of solar energy. It will also include a shop where villagers can buy daily essentials like milk.

Maranga said: “The school will help with capacity building as villagers will see and learn benefits of electricity and as the business grows, they will want to have electricity in their homes and when that point comes, we will have solar powered tricycles. These tricycles will carry and deliver batteries like Uber does passengers to villagers in more remote areas. The system is modular so we will add another container to charge batteries. These batteries are ferried on trikes, so villagers in more remote areas can request a number of charged batteries on their phone.”

Maranga explained that it is common cause that Africa is big, and many people live in remote rural villages. “So, it is not always possible to extend the power grid to these areas as it is very expensive. So, what do we do instead? Most people own a cell phone, and everyone needs electricity, so you take it to them. They cannot exactly carry a battery for two kilometres so why then not Uber a battery?” Maranga said their company Kijiji, (Swahili for village) will now look at commercialising their idea, optimise it and do market tests. “If accepted we want to roll it out depending on funding.”

The team’s idea appealed to the judges because it was a simple idea that is easy to replicate beyond Kenya to the rest of the continent. Chief executive officer of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, Dmitry Shornikov, said: “We are very pleased with the solutions presented by the students. The maturity and depth of their research gives us great hope and proves that young Africans really are devoted to solving Africa’s energy challenges.”

Business Development executive at Lesedi Nuclear Services, Shane Pereira, in an earlier interview said the company partnered with Initiate! because it is dedicated to the youth that will be the leaders of tomorrow. “The growth and development as well as training, coaching and mentoring of the youth is critical to the success of our future economy.”

The ideas of the other three teams focused more on mitigating the risk of climate change and came up with ideas ranging from vertical farms to energy boxes.

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