Opinion Piece: Managed services are the data solution Africa needs

By Gerhard Fourie, Channel Lead at Commvault Africa

While the African market is by no means homogenous, there are certain common challenges faced across the region that make data management a challenging prospect. This includes access to technology and hardware, as well as access to the specialist skills required to effectively implement and manage this technology. Combined with the data explosion being experienced across the globe, this creates a difficult situation. Managed service providers (MSPs) are perfectly positioned to help address this need, offering shared platform services for a fraction of the cost of procuring hardware, as well as skills and value-added services that can help businesses in the region leverage real value from their data.

A challenging technology environment

Access to technology has long been a challenge for developing countries, and this has become a particularly pertinent issue when it comes to storage. The amount of data generated in the past 18 months was accelerated due to Covid-19, but the pandemic also made it more difficult than ever to obtain sufficient storage capacity. Getting hardware into the region during the lockdowns was almost impossible, and the pandemic also caused a shortage of microchips which meant vendors across the globe experienced hardware stock challenges. 

This new issue adds to existing challenges such as skills shortages, political instability and failing infrastructure as businesses cannot afford to keep up with technology evolution. Tax and import laws also add to the cost and admin of product refreshes, so businesses end up sweating the assets they have far longer than may be prudent with a critical asset like data.

MSPs to the fore

Traditional platforms cannot provide a viable solution for many businesses, and this is where MSPs provide the ideal answer. With shared infrastructure platforms, MSPs are able to spin up capacity quickly to meet growing demand, and they can offer a range of value-added services on top of this, including ransomware protection and data management solutions. Customers gain access to greater economies of scale, obtaining better services for a fraction of the cost of investing in the infrastructure themselves. 

The MSP model means that data storage can become an operational expense, with a contract to deliver services rather than a capital expense sitting on the books. This also guarantees better service, and from a data management perspective, also means that data is stored on up to date and secure platforms. Customers sign a service level agreement (SLA) contract with the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) that they require, and the service provider will take care of the rest. 

Not only does this mean that, from a data management perspective, customers now have access to up to date technology and teams with specialised skills, it also makes compliance with the minefield of data legislation easier to handle. This takes pressure off the IT teams, allowing them to instead focus on growing the business, funding projects that add value instead of just keeping the environment up and running.

Data is king

Data is what powers the modern business, and for customers to make informed decisions they need to know what their data looks like. This includes scanning environments for dark data, removing stale data from the environment and optimising storage platforms to help manage costs. MSPs can deliver this via a shared platform approach that provides access to enterprise-grade technology at a fraction of the cost.

Through this shared infrastructure, customers can also access additional services like ransomware and threat protection, anti-virus, firewalling and more, as well as the skills base required to maintain this. It also removes the HR admin, since services can be accessed without the overheads of staffing and resources. 

Data growth is a challenge, but even more so on aging infrastructure in an environment where the cost of connectivity and lack of high-speed networks may prevent the cloud from becoming a viable alternative. The MSP platform gives customers in Africa the ability to optimally manage and use data as an asset to propel them into the future, rather than an inhibitor of growth. 

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