I saw an advertisement in local newspapers recently for a new course to be offered in the University of Botswana that will include a lesson on Google Apps. This is a good sign that Botswana is also on track to digital transformation.
The term cloud computing is not common among Botswana IT managers, but it has been topical in IT in recent years. Cloud Computing was in front page news when it first came and companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon and lately Google, aggressively vied for leadership in providing cloud services. There is still too much hype about cloud computing. However it is not just hype, cloud computing can bring organisations real benefits.
What is cloud computing? The IT industry has a habit of latching onto buzzwords and applying them everywhere. “Cloud” is no exception. So, to understand cloud computing, let’s ground the conversation in some definitions. As a baseline for this article, I cite the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) definition of cloud computing;
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
So are we ready for the cloud? Embracing cloud where it makes sense for your business can speed your time to generate revenue and reduce your costs. But embracing cloud means cutting through the hype to find real solutions. How hard is it to adopt a private or hybrid cloud? How difficult is it to maintain and secure a cloud? How will the cloud transform my business? Do I have the right skill sets in place? What are some of my cost considerations?
There is an important trend in IT that we need to notice here. Now IT vendors are surely moving from selling hardware to selling you software as a service or SaaS. You get the hardware for almost free and buy a software licence that’s needs renewal every year. According to Gartner, a leading IT research firm, cloud computing model came up to shape the relationship among consumers of IT services, those who use the IT services, and those who sell them.
But are we ready for the cloud? A country like Botswana where organisations fear change, building a private cloud is not what an ordinary IT manager can think about. Botswana companies still do not have an IT budget. When the budget is there, it is about how many computers and printers the company needs to buy. We still don’t believe in using IT to increase efficiency. There is no company in Botswana which sells or delivers services online. For example you can’t apply for University of Botswana online, you can’t apply for a BTC telephone line online, you can’t book for a road test online; you can’t pay BPC or Water Utilities bills online and many other examples save for the latest development in mobile applications. So these examples show us that we don’t have the capability to build in-house applications, so resorting to cloud computing can take us far. Botswana is not ready for cloud computing because of technophobia. Even our IT personnel fear change, so imagine telling a corporate manager that his mails and other applications will be handled by some company somewhere in Bombay, India, you will probably be fired. I am writing this article so that we can at least talk about cloud computing for now, and by the time business environment force us to take the cloud route, we know more about it. I believe that in 10 years, organisation will be forced to go the cloud way as a way of cutting costs. Like it or not, cloud computing is the next generation IT management solution.