Cloud adoption is rapidly increasing in Africa, with no slow-down in sight. World Wide Worx research indicates that 69% of companies in eight African countries plan to increase their cloud spend in 2023.
Andrew Cruise, the MD of Routed, local VMware Cloud Verified provider and VMware Principal Partner, says this is due to a number of factors that started with the pandemic and the increase in remote work. “Now, load shedding is further fuelling this shift. Data centre colocation providers are obliged to offer a guarantee of continuous power to their tenants and can address power cuts more efficiently than a smaller enterprise’s data centre or server room.”
As the urgency to move increases, it’s clear that decision-makers need guidance in terms of what to look for when moving to the cloud. Cruise says that to ensure cloud success, it’s critical to choose the right provider. Here’s what to consider:
If you’re going to trust someone with your critical data, you should make sure they are experts in the field. Your cloud provider should be a specialist with a dedicated, experienced, certified team. “If it’s not a provider’s sole focus, their ability to deliver a secure, well-performing product and to be available to support you will be diluted,” says Cruise.
- Data centre choice
Just as your cloud provider should be a specialist, you should make sure they use a colocation facility that is also a true expert in its field. Cruise urges decision-makers to check up on the appropriate certifications and a proven track record of security, redundancy, and resilience across power (dual UPS, dual generators), CRAC (computer room air conditioning) and fire risk mitigation. “An open access, vendor-neutral site at one of the main peering points for internet connectivity is preferable, so that connectivity is not restricted or charged at a premium due to vendor lock-ins. For best performance and minimal latency, it should also be located in-country.”
With load shedding reaching unprecedented levels, a cloud provider’s reliability is essential to ensure that your business operations are not disrupted by system failures or downtime. “Look for a provider that offers a robust service level agreement (SLA), including uptime guarantees and penalties for failure to meet the SLA. A minimum n+1 redundancy is a given, though n+2 or 2n is preferable,” says Cruise.
If your business relies on various software applications, it’s essential to choose a cloud provider that can integrate with these applications seamlessly. But although there is a host of tools and features available from cloud providers these days, not every enterprise needs all the bells and whistles. Choose a provider that uses proven, reliable, easy-to-use management and orchestration tools. “Most enterprises don’t have the need for complicated, cutting-edge open-source software. Rather opt for a purpose-built, upgradeable and well-supported stack from a trusted vendor and ensure that the provider offers APIs that allow for easy integration with other software applications,” says Cruise.
Data can be worth more than gold. Besides redundancy and fault tolerance measures as well as backup and disaster recovery services, find out how your data will be protected. Will it be kept in a single instance only, snapshotted locally, or replicated across failure domains? What additional security options are available? “You should make sure your cloud provider cares as much about your data as you do and has a proven track record of top-notch security,” warns Cruise.
Even global software and hardware vendors are starting to cater to the unique requirements of African markets, but none will understand it as well as a local vendor. The benefits of local providers include data sovereignty and POPIA compliance, an understanding of fibre and undersea cable rollouts (and the importance of reliable internet connectivity in cloud services), and knowledge of the state of the cloud market in Africa and how it is evolving. Most important, says Cruise, is the availability of support. “Though some international providers also offer reliable support, interacting with people who are in the same country and speak the same language, in all senses, is a quicker route to good support.”
Cost is a critical factor for businesses operating in Africa, where cost-efficiency is crucial for survival. But be careful of choosing cheap over efficient, warns Cruise. Your cloud provider should offer competitive pricing models that align with your business needs and budget, as well as scalability and various pricing models on that scale. Keep in mind that costs are increasing or likely to increase soon due to factors such as load shedding (which affects operating costs at local data centres) and the current economic squeeze (which affects the exchange rate for international packages).
By carefully evaluating these criteria, businesses can select a cloud provider that not only lifts their operations but also propels them towards a future of efficiency, scalability, and growth in the digital age.