By 15 February 2022 | Categories: feature articles


Mandy Duncan, Country Manager for South Africa at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Traditional network models are all about CapEx (capital expenses) because businesses need to buy switches, routers and pay licensing fees. This IT model also means spending time, and money, on planning, deployment and hiring people with the necessary skills to install, configure and secure the infrastructure once it is in place. But there is an alternative.

Network-as-a-service (NaaS) allows customers to rent networking services from a cloud provider and basically offload the task of managing a network onto an external party. According to our recent report, there is growing appetite for NaaS technology in South Africa as businesses look for ways to free up IT resources so that they can better accommodate new business needs. While much of the talk around NaaS has focused on how advantageous it can be for larger enterprises, this approach to networking is also particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Networking made easy for SMEs

We know that SMEs play a significant role in African economies, employing a large percentage of the continent’s workforce across formal and informal sectors. But we also know that these businesses are more likely to struggle during times of crisis. And we saw this during the pandemic. NaaS gives SMEs a smart, simple and secure network solution equipped to support a growing business. And NaaS enables SMEs to compete with their larger counterparts by delivering flexibility, security and reliability at a lower cost.

When partnering with a NaaS provider, small business owners have access to network experts who can help them plan and build a network that meets the business’ needs without needing to hire a huge, and pricey, IT team. NaaS also makes security simpler for SMEs because service providers offer specialised IT security solutions that include rigorous access control and that are best suited to the business’ unique needs.

Perhaps some of the biggest benefits of NaaS for SMEs are around productivity and costs. NaaS reduces the costs associated with running and maintaining network infrastructure. It also enables greater scalability because businesses can add new connections at any time or remove unused capacity so that they’re only paying for what they use. When working with a good NaaS partner, SMEs no longer have to go through costly, and time-consuming, trial-and-error processes because their NaaS provider has a team of experts who can guide them down the right path. All of this, in turn, means that your employees, particularly your IT team, can spend more time working on projects that increase overall business efficiency.

But as is the case with anything, there are some potential stumbling blocks that small and medium businesses need to be aware of. According to the Aruba report I mentioned earlier, there seems to be a lack of understanding around NaaS as a concept. Despite 100% of respondents claiming to be familiar with it, over half are unsure of its advantages. But this uncertainty is easily mitigated with the guidance and support of the right partner.

Networking may be a bit behind the as-a-service trend but it’s catching up; especially as more and more IT leaders start recognising the network as a strategic IT asset. But networks are also getting more complex. NaaS can help South African SMEs establish and maintain a robust network, without having to hire additional staff or spend extra money. For small businesses, enlisting the help of a trusted partner who can deliver network performance, reliability and efficiency without blowing the bank just makes good business sense.


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