Hosted applications and software as a service have been promoted in the ICT industry for some time. However, there’s been some market apprehension when it comes to moving systems “into the cloud”. Advantages of this approach are clear, but concerns such as those about security have held some businesses back. That’s changing.
The possibilities unlocked by cloud computing – where software and other services are hosted on online systems and made available over the Internet and secure private connections – have been proven. By having a service provider host infrastructure and applications it’s possible for businesses to cut costs in terms of maintenance and also convert what’s traditionally been capital expenditure to more manageable operating expenses.
But the market has been understandably resistant when it comes to where sensitive data is kept and how reliable the keepers are. However, it’s learning that specialist companies can often do a better job of protecting information than its clients can themselves.
MTN Business product development and marketing head Mike Fairon says fundamental trends in the networking sector are also promoting the cloud approach. “Converged communications are a form of cloud computing. MTN Business is able to connect companies and provide them with fixed telephony services without requiring much equipment on the customer’s premises,” says Fairon.
“Even PBX [switchboard] systems can be hosted in MTN’s cloud, whereas previously those lived exclusively on clients’ premises. By hosting those systems in our cloud MTN Business can also unlock new ways of routing communications.”
Convergence is a focus of the telecoms and business services industry. One such goal is “fixed mobile convergence” – whereby traditionally cellular and office-based communications are merged, allowing for single numbers that connect to whichever device a user is closest to and allows for sophisticated routing of communications.
Fairon says such a convergence works best when systems are integrated in the cloud. “We’re seeing an appetite for this nature of service being expressed by large corporates. Some of the orders we’re getting for this kind of solution are coming from financial institutions that have unique approaches to cloud computing and are a key indicator in terms of corporate customers.”
MTN’s advanced, pan-African MPLS network is able to host infrastructure in an “African cloud” with data centres throughout the continent. Via the MPLS network MTN is also able to answer the question of security, as the network transfers data from one node to the next over highly secure and encrypted connections.
However, Fairon says technology is only part of the solution: it’s also important to have service facilities near to each of the regions MTN Business operates in. “When our customers speak to us they speak to someone with a ‘yellow face’,” Fairon says – meaning support staff work for MTN and aren’t merely from a contracted partner company.
He says MTN Business is a client-centric organisation that places priority on meeting their needs whenever, wherever. “It goes beyond just having in-country infrastructure. We also have people on the ground. The culture is the same from an organisational point of view – and it’s the same throughout the continent,” says Fairon.
MTN’s African cloud also benefits from the group’s ownership in undersea cable projects that are enabling it to form a ring of connectivity around the continent. And then there’s MTN’s cellular network, available in all but two of the markets MTN Business operates in.
“The world is increasingly reliant on mobile devices within business. People can’t be fixed to desks or phones anymore. Businesses must be able to plug in anywhere and be operational – and we can make that happen for them,” says Fairon. “We’re also able to decrease capital requirements for our solutions due to our ability to buy at a scale no other African enterprise can. That means lower costs for our customers.”
Plugging into MTN’s African cloud allows businesses to get up and running with business services, telephony and connectivity in numerous African markets, making MTN Business a vital partner for any enterprise expanding into the continent.