By Tracey Newman, SMB Lead at Microsoft South Africa.
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 (Uninterruptible Power Supplies), may lie in the cloud and the adoption cloud-based services by businesses.
Besides leaving a business in the dark, power outages also break the lines of communication organisations have to customers, partners, and service providers. Here, cloud-based services can keep that line open even in the event of an unexpected outage. 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 and out of the office
With cloud storage, there is no longer a need to have expensive UPS's 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 notebook or even a smartphone acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot for instance.
In fact, cloud has advantages for businesses with UPS's as well as the network, since 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 utilising a UPS 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, reducing 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.
In my opinion, 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.
Added to this, Microsoft SA's 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 BYOD 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.