The uptake of cloud services in the SME sector has been growing steadily, but according to this year’s SME Survey, businesses are now realising the benefits offered by online storage, backups and services.
The uptake of cloud services in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector has been growing steadily, but 2015 sees businesses finally beginning to wake up to the benefits offered by services like online storage and backups.
The number of SMEs using cloud services in 2015 jumped by 10% – up to 39% – from 2014, according to Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx and principal researcher for SME Survey 2015.
“For the first time, we are seeing a real take-up of cloud services, which indicates that more and more SMEs are overcoming their natural apprehensions around the cloud and are instead starting to realise the benefits this can offer,” he says.
“Of those surveyed, although only an additional 4.5% said they would definitely be using the cloud by next year, there are obvious clues that we can expect an even bigger jump in the numbers. In particular, a fifth of SMEs (19%) said their use of cloud next year will depend on business needs, and another third (35%) say they are currently unsure. We anticipate that at least a portion of these businesses will discover they either need or want the cloud. It is therefore logical to extrapolate a figure that suggests more than 50% of SMEs will be using the cloud by 2016.”
Furthermore, adds Goldstuck, there are many SMEs that are already using cloud services, without even knowing it. He points out that when the survey questioned SMEs about whether they were using particular services, such as online e-mail, some 83% stated that they were doing so.
“Services like this could be referred to as the Invisible Cloud; online e-mail is obviously a cloud-based service, yet the majority of SMEs clearly don’t see it as such.”
A further 47% of SMEs said that they made use of online backups, while 37% utilised online accounting, 27% used an online project management service and 25% had an online customer relationship management (CRM) solution. This, says Goldstuck, is a clear indication that there is massive uptake and yet a lack of understanding among SMEs as to what constitutes the cloud.
“The disconnect in the figures between what SMEs consider to be cloud services and the actual cloud-based services that many of them are already using demonstrates that there is a lack of education about what the cloud really is and what services actually form part of it.”
Clearly, discovering that many of the solutions they already use, such as Gmail and Microsoft OneDrive are part of the cloud, is a key aspect of the migration process. This is because, upon realising this, most SMEs are then prepared to go deeper into the cloud.
“While it is obvious that SMEs are becoming more technology-savvy and mature in the use of cloud – even when they don’t know it is part of the cloud – for more significant uptake to occur, the cloud service providers need to play a role in educating SMEs more effectively around the topic.”
“Ultimately, of course, the real driver will come not from whether they know certain solutions are cloud services or not. Instead, real uptake of cloud will be driven, as implied by the survey results, by selling specific applications to SMEs. If service providers are able to convince more SMEs to utilise specific solutions – like online backup, to protect against the increasing dangers posed by power failures, for example – it won’t be long before they realise the benefits. This, in turn, will make them more predisposed to adopting other cloud services that could be equally beneficial,” says Goldstuck. “The key is to market the applications within the cloud, not the cloud itself.”
Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank, agrees with this approach: “Cloud-based products can provide small and medium business owners with efficient, simple and cost-effective business management solutions, thus saving the enterprise time and money, which is vital for prosperity. For example, cloud-based HR applications are more economical than tailored in-house systems, as they involve no upfront costs and are adaptable, thus giving the entrepreneur the time needed to focus on innovation.”
Elaine Wang, Microsoft Business Unit Manager at Rectron, says: “While it is incredible to watch the uptake of cloud services skyrocketing due to the inherent benefits that it offers to SMEs, they should still consider all possible alternatives in deciding which solutions to implement as well as how to get it done. The results of the research indicates that there is a fuzzy line between consumer and commercial solutions. Therefore, SMEs need to ensure that they are taking full advantage of the security and features behind the commercial solutions, and are choosing the right partner to take them forward.”
SME Survey is the original and largest representative survey of SMEs in South Africa and, since 2003, has contributed ground-breaking research into the forces shaping SME competitiveness.
* SME Survey 2015 is sponsored by Standard Bank and Forest Technologies powered by Rectron
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.