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Veeam checks data out of Hotel California

Kate Mollett, regional manager for Africa at Veeam, tells BRYAN TURNER how Veeam reduces stress from enterprise data lock-in.

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With big cloud services comes big cloud responsibilities. There is a lot to consider when choosing a cloud service provider, like where to put your data, how much should be moved to the cloud and, the most important question for many, how much will it cost?

Historically, there has been a perception of cloud being a locked-in environment where data can be migrated to the cloud easily, but very difficult to get out when it’s time to move to an alternative provider.

Kate Mollett, Africa regional manager at cloud data management leader Veeam, believes that this key issue can be addressed with a multi-cloud strategy.

“Initially, the South African market was a little more guarded in how they adopted cloud solutions. We saw a more accelerated journey outside of South Africa initially, but as the cloud model became more of a trusted standard, the market is now far more willing to onboard to the cloud and there’s strong growth.”

Cloud storage providers, like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS), have embraced the South African data market, by opening or planning proprietary data centres in the country.

“Services like AWS and Azure are real oxygen for Veeam,” says Mollett, speaking on the sidelines of the Cisco Connect conference at Sun City. “We’ve got such a strong story about how companies can move their data easily in an environment in the cloud by having a multi-cloud strategy and how you can bring your data back on-premise. All of these tasks need to be easy to do and Veeam makes it easy.”

Veeam was founded just over 10 years ago and initially focused on dominating the VMware backup market and servicing the cloud needs of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The Veeam SME engine remains very slick,” says Mollett. “It has certainly been the sweet spot of the business for the first eight years. If you consider in Southern Africa, we have 4000 logos and many of them are in the small to medium space. We became very good at servicing that engine through the partner community.

“However, as the Veeam solution has matured from just being the protection of virtual environments to physical environments, data in the cloud as well as the introduction of Veeam solutions for Cisco, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and other enterprise systems, the solution has evolved into a true enterprise data management solution.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth because of what’s happening in the enterprise regulatory environment. The fact that enterprise is now more open to modern solutions like cloud and innovation around digitalisation, has provided us with an easier path for us to have a meaningful conversation.”

She says Veeam relieves the pain points and concerns that businesses may have with adopting cloud technology.

“The challenge customers have always had is: when I put the data there, how do I get it back? There’s been this perception in the market. And how do you trust that it’s secure and protected in the cloud? Also, when companies change their strategy because they’ve outgrown one provider and need to go to another, how do they move their data to the next cloud service provider?

“In the Veeam Cloud & Service Provider solution, we enable our customers to put their data in one provider’s cloud, and with the ease of a few clicks, have the ability to point the data connection to another provider’s cloud. Another move could be bringing the data back on premise. We provide the ease of data mobility and this follows our own defined mission statement of being the leading cloud data management company.

“A lot of companies don’t want to play Hotel California with their data. This solution is giving customers the confidence that they’re not locked in. We’ve made it easier for customers to move that data around.”

Veeam’s set of Availability Solutions has matured to cater to the enterprise space, while remaining personalised enough for various enterprise requirements.

“There’s a definite education element to these new technologies,” says Mollett. “Most organisations that you talk to now have either got a defined strategy around AWS or Azure, sometimes both, or they’re considering other cloud service providers in the country. There tends to be a multi-cloud strategy in most of the large enterprises.

“There are many enterprise features and functionality to the solution and that talks directly to a different customer set. The organisation has been transitioning quite successfully into that enterprise market. When you start to build a sales campaign around the financial services industry versus SMEs, it’s a different engagement, the requirements are different and the stakes are higher.”

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Spotify hits sweet spot

Streaming has shifted the music industry away from ownership and towards customer experience, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week marked the end of the beginning of the streaming music revolution. Apple announced the closing of iTunes, the 18-year-old platform that helped shift the music industry from physical to digital. At its height, in 2014, close to a billion people were using it.

However, the business model was still based on traditional ownership of music. Users either converted their physical music into digital tracks, or bought songs from iTunes. Apple founder Steve Jobs said back in 2003, when the iPod music player was launched, that consumers “don’t want to rent their music… They don’t want subscriptions”.

History proved him spectacularly wrong, and when streaming subscriptions services like Spotify and Pandora began taking off, even as iTunes hit the 800-million user mark, the company launched Apple Music in a dramatic acknowledgment that subscriptions were the future. It was also an admission that iTunes, which had also become a download service for movies and TV shows, had become top-heavy and frustrating to use.

Apple’s late arrival in the streaming world has cost it: In January this year, Apple Music reached 50-million subscribers – exactly half the number paying monthly subs to Spotify.

Spotify took South African music by storm when it launched here in March 2018, thanks to close collaboration with local artists.  It has a dedicated South African team that creates playlists for South Africans, in genres that appeal to local audiences. It also has a local ad sales team, and achieved early success with automotive brands like BMW and Mini using the platform extensively.

The company does not break down user statistics by country but, says Claudius Boller, managing director for Middle East and Africa, uptake exceeded all expectations.

“It’s been an amazing year,” he told Business Times. “Engagement in South Africa has crossed the world average. Users are extremely active, lean forward, and engage with playlists on a daily basis. We are not running many campaigns to move people from our free service to the Premium offering, but people do it right away.

“The metric we look at is how often and how long people use Spotify on average per day, and we have already seen those on premium subscriptions using Spotify much more than Facebook per day.”

The South African audience has another key differentiator, says Boller: “The market is extremely loyal. We know other music services have been in the market for many years. But when people make up their minds to try Spotify, they fall in love with it and continue to use it. The drop-off rate of people using our service is one of the lowest of all the markets in which Spotify operates.”

One of the secrets of Spotify’s success is the close relationship it builds with what it calls “the creative community” – both artists and labels.

“They are extra engaged, because of the data they are able to get. We give them a huge amount of data in a way that is very easy to digest. Through Spotify for Artists, they can see in real time how many listeners they have, their demographics, where they are listening, and where their audience is growing. If Jeremy Loops is doing very well in Australia, he can adjust where to promote his music and how to plan his touring schedule.

“We also use that data to work more closely with the creative community. We bring artists, labels and managers together for educational events so that they can get to know how to use the data. We give them practical advice, for example that they should release music on the same day on all platforms, including radio and streaming services, to maximise monetisation.”

Music entrepreneur Siya Metane agrees that audience data is one of the greatest benefits of streaming music. Better known as Slikour, founding member of the legendary hip hop group Skwatta Kamp, he now runs SlikourOnLife, an online urban music site and community with well over a million regular users. Understanding user trends has been at the heart of the growth of the platform, and he believes Spotify and its competitors add yet another dimension.

“The analytics that the streaming platforms provide give artists more insight of where their music is being consumed,” he says. “It is therefore giving the artists and their managers insight on where to invest nationally or globally. Such information has not been readily available to artists and managers before. Historically, everything was based on the physical purchase of a copy in a region – most of the time locally.”

But there is a downside, he says: “The cost of the streaming sacrifice is losing a whole R100 per album to a streaming company that pays you based on their pro rata plays on their service. Therefore only a few people can benefit. But streaming has definitely shifted the business from music alone to everything else music can influence.”

Both Vodacom and MTN have recognised the potential of streaming music to add value to their services, which are becoming increasingly commoditised. MTN late last year bought the local music streaming service Simfy Africa, and Vodacom in April this year launched its own streaming music service, called My Muze. The latter invites aspiring musicians to upload their music, with the possibility of being discovered and signed to a music label.

“The music industry has changed rapidly in recent times in that everything now lives digitally,” says Rehana Hassim, portfolio manager for music at Vodacom. “We also hope to attract new young consumers, to whom music remains one of the biggest passion points, providing various ways to engage with and consume the music they love.”

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AI reveals SA domestic abuse trends

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By Kriti Sharma, leading global voice on ethical technology and founder of AI for Good and Joanne van der Walt, Director, Sage Foundation 

Digital abuse, infidelity, and alcohol abuse are emerging as common conversation topics between victims of domestic violence in South Africa and rAInbow, an artificial intelligence-powered smart companion.

Developed with funding partner, Sage Foundation, and social justice organisation, The Soul City Institute, rAInbow allows users to ‘chat’ to a non-human over Facebook Messenger. It provides a safe space for domestic violence victims to access information about their rights, support options, and where they can find help – in friendly, simple language.

When we launched rAInbow in November last year, we didn’t expect that it would facilitate over 200,000 conversations with 7,000 users – 150,000 of those within the first three months of launch. One of the reasons we believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) can fill a gap in victim support is because many victims are uncomfortable talking to another person about their experience – due largely to social and cultural taboos, embarrassment, and shame.

The data gathered from anonymised rAInbow conversations** providesinvaluable insight into this complex issue; insight that we can use to improve our communication and prevention strategies.

Digital abuse: Behind the screens

Around 30% of rAInbow users believe it’s acceptable for their partners to check their phones and to insist on knowing who they’re talking to at all times.

Yet this constitutes a form of verbal and/or emotional abuse because abusers exploit technology and social media to monitor, control, shame, stalk, harass, and intimidate their victims. In conversations with rAInbow, many victims reveal that they don’t know what constitutes digital abuse because they can’t recognise the signs.

You could be a victim of digital abuse if your partner demands to know your passwords and who you’re talking to, reads your messages, and dictates who you can be friends with on social media.

The bottom line is, when you’re in a relationship, all communication with your partner – be it digital or face-to-face – should be respectful. You should never feel pressured into doing anything you’re uncomfortable with.

Infidelity: Is cheating really abuse?

Infidelity emerged as one of the main challenges facing rAInbow users in abusive relationships. In such cases, the cheating partner usually blames you for his/her cheating, does it intentionally to hurt you, or threatens to cheat again to control you. Infidelity is often accompanied by lying, manipulation, and blame-shifting – all recognised abusive behaviours.

Technology has exacerbated the problem. It’s now easier to access dating sites, pornography, and chat platforms, facilitating behaviour like ‘sexting’, which some people may consider infidelity.

‘Alcohol made me do it’

Alcohol and drugs are common triggers for violent episodes, with rAInbow users saying their partners were more likely to lash out at them verbally or physically after they’d been drinking. While alcohol itself doesn’t cause domestic violence, it can aggravate already tense situations.

Alcohol impairs people’s judgement and behaviour, to the point where they may lose control and become aggressive, short-tempered, and abusive. In most situations, the abusive partner will blame the alcohol for their actions and may not remember what they did or said the next day. The abused partner, however, has to live with the memories and after-effects of the abuse.

Everyone’s responsibility

In his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said violence against women and children has reached “epidemic proportions” and that ending abuse would be made an urgent national priority. Corporates, NGOs, and ordinary citizens also have a responsibility to end the scourge.

Technology like rAInbow provides the vital information needed to start driving radical change – at policy and societal level. The conversations that rAInbow is having with users is making us think differently about how to approach this issue. It’s apparent that we need targeted, personalised education drives that help victims identify abuse and explain how and where to get help. It’s also apparent that there’s a strong need for information that can be accessed in a safe, anonymous, and non-judgemental space.

We need to use the aggregated data that’s available to us to make better decisions about action plans and strategies. Solutions like rAInbow can provide governments with the information they need to tackle abuse.

To find out how you can contribute to the rAInbow project, e-mail humans@aiforgood.co.uk.

** All conversational data is anonymised. It is used to improve rAInbow and help organisations make better decisions about where to focus their efforts to combat abuse.

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