INFOTECH: Cloud Computing - Hybrid Solutions May Be a Better Solution
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but it's really not new - it's the natural evolution of services from the
distributed computing or hosted environments that made an appearance a
decade and a half ago, to the Net. What's different today is that the
computing capacity provided 'out of the cloud' focuses less on processing
and more on services. In South Africa, cloud computing is becoming viable.
However, you must ensure that you understand the implications of cloud
computing and find a solution that works for your business, says Spescom
Notes Pieter du Preez, Group Executive: Business Solutions Development :
"Previously, low bandwidth availability, high cost and variability of
throughput reliability made cloud computing a risky venture locally. Today,
with more bandwidth available at lower cost, it may well be a more cost
effective solution than owning infrastructure and software - especially when
you add licences, upgrades, integration and maintenance expenditures to
initial purchase and installation costs. However, a hybrid solution may be
what is needed at the outset.
"A hybrid solution is when you combine your own infrastructure with a cloud
infrastructure and services. It will allow you to test the waters, retain
data, transaction and customer privacy security, and fully understand the
benefits and limitations of this environment," he suggests. "And while the
business model driving cloud services suggests that only standard
'off-the-shelf' solutions may be available, it may be well worth your while
to find a provider that specialises in a particular service or industry and
will tailor or customise a solution to suit your needs.
For a contact centre, for instance, the organisation would need cloud
services that use suitable computing power and applications. "In this
scenario, the contact centre is likely to 'own' the people and create the
processes - these being the two components within contact centres that
enable the greatest competitive advantage. The technology platform can sit
anywhere. The contact centre then has the choice to invest in technology and
in-house skills or buy in a hosted service, where the functionality is
obtained via a network - or make use of cloud computing services."
A hosted service provider of the traditional kind is likely to have physical
premises housing servers and other computing equipment close by, providing a
dedicated network with guaranteed service levels. Hosted services obtained
in the cloud may come from anywhere and will rely strongly on bandwidth and
throughput available to the user.
"The challenge is to ensure reliability and cost of the network and services
are in line with budget and risk appetite," notes du Preez. "Advantages of
cloud and hosted services include use of opex rather than capex, the vast
functionality that is available at a fraction of the cost of outright
purchase and, of course, the flexibility of being able to scale services up
or down as customer or business service requirements change.
"Making use of a specialist will additionally allow the organisation to, for
example, gain access to advanced functionality that will allow it to enhance
its service offerings and effectiveness, like automation of campaigns and
predictive dialling. However, without some customisation, the contact centre
may never get access to the 'right' data it needs from the cloud service
provider to identify key indicators like performance shortcomings or perhaps
trends that indicate future opportunities."
Furthermore, there are security, privacy and governance issues that need to
be taken into account. "In the cloud, someone else is responsible for your
data security. You cannot abdicate this responsibility - accountability must
remain with the organisation," says du Preez. "This means you need to be
very sure your service provider can live up to its security claims. Don't
let this scare you off, however - hybrid solutions are often the answer."
One good example is where contact centre agents need to dip into a CRM
system to service customers. "You may not want that data to reside with the
cloud service provider. A hybrid solution would see the contact centre
application located in the cloud, and the CRM solution within the
organisation itself, behind a firewall. Thus, client data risk is
A hybridised managed service where the vendor owns the equipment and a
contract governs usage, coupled with a cloud service for application or
specific solutions may also be cost effective, depending on your business
model, he notes.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions - and keep asking them till you are
satisfied you will get the best solution to suit your organisation,"
reiterates du Preez. "Cloud computing is inevitable - it's the next
evolutionary stage in computing. CIOs that ignore the cloud ignore major
opportunities to differentiate their businesses.
"A recent Gartner report puts South Africa 15 years behind the United
States, but that doesn't mean we will take 15 years to get where they are
now - with all the bandwidth now becoming available, we have much less time
to adapt. Exploring the options now with a trusted provider that can offer
the insight and expertise will stand organisations in good stead."
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