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The importance of cloud technologies has been echoed by the catchy puns supporting the buzzword while the implementation thereof has, over the last few years, become somewhat of a no-brainer. At the same time, the adoption is still shown to be much slower than what it should be in emerging markets like South Africa. Why is this the case?
For those unfamiliar with cloud technology, the term generally refers to tools and services available via the internet. Instead of using physical products to store and transfer data, all the work is done online, theoretically, from any internet-connected device.
Work from anywhere, anytime on anything
An attractive perk for technology startups these days is that they can easily have a remote workforce. Meaning that both in-house or freelancers can collaborate from anywhere in the world as long as they have access to the internet.
You’re also obviously not limited by office hours. A big plus for coffee-fueled entrepreneurs.
Ease of access
As much as people work on their mobile devices, there is a trend now that sees work being done alternately on different devices depending on the time of day, and where the entrepreneur is. This means that, with an online server, there is a seamless transition from one device to the other without disrupting workflow.
Fly from Cape Town to Amsterdam to meet a potential investor perhaps, and you’ll have real-time company performance at hand as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection or mobile data.
Without having years of bookkeeping experience on the team, for instance, employees are given the ability to access real-time support often available around-the-clock.
For startups, this is obviously very important.
You’re most likely cash-strapped and picking the right workforce is made less of a hassle if you take advantage of available technologies and the services that come with them.
When it comes to running an online shop, for example, the site and ecommerce services are setup and maintained by third-parties. The shop owner, who takes care of the product, can sit back while IT experts sort out the back-end and all the technical stuff.
Easy to implement
Tying into what I mentioned above, implementation of these services is also generally easy. Especially when it comes to startups. In many cases cloud services cater for both the consumer and business. The gentle learning curve is very attractive when small businesses have to adopt new technologies.
This is particularly relevant in a country like South Africa where accounting skills are one of the most sought after in the job market. Given this demand, taking advantage of world class, up-to-date solutions might relieve the pressure a bit.
Keeping reliable books
Honest bookkeeping is of high value in South Africa. Both the public and private sector is under constant scrutiny for fear of malpractice or corruption. For businesses, presenting valid, reliable financial data to clients would definitely smooth over relationships. This is especially true for startups pitching to investors. Accounting software solutions provide reliable platforms and processes adopted by well-known brands.
It’s widely-known that the cost of cloud technologies is generally less expensive than on-premise alternatives. Most SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions online today are flexible and offer subscription fees instead of expensive once-off payments. Not to mention, software licensing costs. In South Africa the pay-as-you-go philosophy is very much alive.
With all its perks, why are emerging markets so slow in adopting this technology?
According to research giant Gartner, one of cloud technology’s most popular applications, the SaaS market, grew to 18% of software sales in 2013, up from 6% in 2007. The global market for this technology is on the rise yet most businesses in the Middle East and Africa are shown to be much slower in adopting cloud computing services than in the US or UK. Why is this the case?
A study by the University of Cape Town has found that the dominant barriers for cloud adoption in South Africa are poor awareness, limited resources, expensive and poor internet infrastructure, security and privacy concerns.
What if popular SaaS companies like Dropbox or WordPress weren’t able to adequately patch their servers and protect sensitive, valuable user data when the security Heartbleed bug hit in April?
Or, even worse, what if a cloud provider suddenly declares bankruptcy or shuts down for some reason or the other? Hypothetically, all of your company data could be lost. For many local companies not being aware of the advantages and crucial trade-offs would cost them.
Like all things, the adoption of cloud services has its pros and cons but having the ability to handpick certain solutions (and discard others) in order to fit your specific business model is what most companies should take advantage of. It’s about knowing which cloud tools work for your specific business.