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Some cloud solutions to load shedding

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As load shedding threatens businesses and their livelihood by causing them to turn customers away, TRACEY NEWMAN believes that many can turn to cloud-based services to keep themselves operational when the lights go out.

As the scourge of load shedding once again threatens to cause havoc amongst South African businesses by plunging restaurants into darkness during peak lunch time hours and causing clothing retailers to turn customers away during profitable weekend shopping hours, what measures can local companies take to minimise the impact of blackouts on their business?

According to Tracey Newman, SMB Lead at Microsoft South Africa, the answer, especially for companies that cannot afford to adopt green solutions and expensive UPS’s, may lie in the cloud – that is for businesses to adopt cloud-based services.

Besides leaving a business in the dark, power outages also breaks the line of communication organisations have to customers, partners, and service providers. Here, cloud-based services can keep that line open after Eskom closes the power taps. Unlike PABX lines, solutions like Skype for Business will enable a company to make or answer business calls and have conference calls with clients or video calls with employees in the field during power outages.

Staying productive during outages & out of the office

With cloud storage, there is no longer a need to have expensive UPSs running the company’s server during load shedding times since data is stored online and can be access from anywhere, any time, and using virtually any device. The organisation’s crucial business data remains accessible during power outages, since employees only need a connection to the internet like a 3G dongle plugged into a laptop or even a smartphone acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot for instance.

In fact, cloud has advantages for business with UPS’s as well since the network, computing and storage equipment takes around 40% of the power, while 35% is allocated to cooling the equipment, and only 5% goes to lighting as well as other ancillaries. This means that the cloud can offer significant cost and reliability advantages for businesses relying on UPS power during power outages.

Cloud-based services also make it possible for staff to work from home, where they can utilise soft phone (VoIP) capabilities and presence information to answer calls and attend meetings. Companies that are expanding quickly can utilise these services to instigate a telecommute programme for employees who do not need to be office bound all day to reduce office space costs as well as the impact of power outages. The added benefit of initiatives like these is an improvement in employee retention since workers have the flexibility to work from anywhere.

Providing secure access to the data you need most

A common barrier preventing organisations from moving forward with the migration of their data to the cloud is concerns over security and privacy. At Microsoft South Africa, the protection of user privacy and their personal data is as important as fostering innovation. We understand that our customers will only use technology that they trust and that is why we work hard to strengthen privacy and compliance protections for our customers in the cloud.

“Some of the fruits of our labour in this regard includes the fact that Microsoft has become the first major cloud provider to adopt the world’s first international standard for cloud privacy, namely ISO/IEC 27018. This standard was developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) to establish a uniform, international approach to protecting privacy for personal data stored in the cloud,” says Newman.

She added that, “Our adherence to the standard ensures that we only process personally identifiable information according to the instructions that customers provide to us. For enterprise customers, our adherence also reaffirms our commitment not to use enterprise data for advertisement purposes.”

NSBC is always connected thanks to the cloud

For an organisation like the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) being constantly connected to its data and services, even from remote locations is important. The NSBC needed a solution that could support the growing Bring Your Own Device phenomenon amongst its employees and offer mobility as well as access to email as well as documents from anywhere and consequently migrated to Office 365.

To date the NSBC has enjoyed several benefits as a result of migrating its legacy on premise business tools to Microsoft Office 365 including access to unlimited email storage space, which was a constant internal challenge at the NSBC. In addition, the solution automatically backs up the organisation’s information to a remote location, keeping data safe in the event of break-ins or fires.

The move to the cloud has become imperative to the survival of the SMB, not just because of the resulting isolation from the effects of power outages, but also because it is secure and provides flexibility for employees who are empowered to be productive for their company from wherever they find themselves.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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