In 2017, Microsoft was the first to reveal its plans to open two data centres in the country, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town Photo: (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

DURBAN - There has been an increase in interest by multinationals in deployment of local cloud data centres in South Africa over the past year, with a few already announcing their intentions to do so. But what does this mean exactly for local businesses?

Almost everything is, or will be, moving to the cloud due to the efficiency, flexibility and strategic value that it affords. Businesses can find benefits in the migration of both applications and infrastructure to the cloud, so it’s only natural for data centres to make the same move.

While many have already been opened internationally, there are none in South Africa as yet.

In 2017, Microsoft was the first to reveal its plans to open two data centres in the country, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town. This was then followed by Amazon and, most recently, Huawei, and rumours abound that other enterprises are looking at doing the same too.

Data centre origins

Data centres have initially always been something a company keeps on-premises. Physical infrastructure which stores the critical data needed for the business to continue operations. However, data centres need to evolve along with the changes in expectations of both consumers and businesses for “always on” systems. On-premises servers are still seeing growth, and depending on their unique needs, it might still be the best option for a business. 

Operational benefits

Cloud data centres bring flexibility to a network by removing the complexities of unique infrastructure created for a specific application. By standardising the data centre to work within any environment and in any industry, cloud data centres are able to reduce the costs of updating or replacing legacy software, increase efficiencies and reduce latencies.

Overcoming latency issues is extremely important for businesses as it is a large reason for why some applications cannot be moved to the cloud.Load shedding is also a very unique challenge that businesses in South Africa face, as blackouts can cause on-premises data centres to lose data, which can be extremely costly.

Legislation concerns

Another benefit to having local cloud data centres in South Africa is the peace of mind it provides around the Protection of Personal Information Act – which requires that data be stored within the borders of the country – while providing businesses with enterprise-grade security, capability and reliability. As these data centres would be compliant and complementary to POPI, government, government agencies and municipalities, and the financial sector will feel much more comfortable with storing their data on the cloud, but still within the country.

Security

A cloud data centre is critical infrastructure for cloud computing, and like cloud computing, there are still some concerns as to its security. However, cloud data centre infrastructure is secure as long as it is in the Trusted Cloud. While there has been an increase in attempts to hack cloud infrastructure, there are still many cloud services, like Microsoft’s Azure, which has never been hacked. In fact, the vulnerabilities in a cloud data centre mainly lie in the user, those managing and accessing it, due to the checks and balances the data centre employs.

Devices

Devices play a big part in the modern workplace as they are the core of a business, enabling employees to work from anywhere and integrating new functionalities naturally and seamlessly.

In the office of the future, the way that work is carried out will be adapted to the user and not the other way around. But, as devices are in the hands of employees – who are usually the weakest point in a network – businesses need to make sure they are secure, especially as they will be the access point to the critical data stored in the data centre.

In short, having local cloud data centres in South Africa can only serve to help businesses increase their efficiency and productivity, while saving on costs – a big plus in the context of the current local economy. 

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