Backup is critical for SMEs too

By Dawie Bloomberg, Managing Director of Green Apple IT

As the business world becomes increasingly digitised and more and more critical business information is stored on computers, a backup and data-backup-taperecovery strategy is a critical element of business continuity and sustainability. This is not only important in large enterprises, but is critical for the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) market as well.

Dawie Bloomberg, Managing Director of Green Apple IT. (Image: Green Apple IT)

While backup tends to be a low priority for this market, without it the consequences in the event of a disaster or data loss can be crippling.  This is particularly relevant when considering that much of an SME’s data resides on PCs and portable devices such as notebooks, tablets and smartphones. While implementing a backup and recovery strategy may seem like a daunting task, evolving technology offers easy to use and cost effective backup solutions that automate this process.

This means there is no longer any excuse for not having the right backup solution in place.

According to Boston Computing, 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of a disaster. The Strategic Research Institute claims that 93% of companies that lost their data centre for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. This means that companies that are not able to recover their data and resume operations within a short period of time are unlikely to survive, making backup a critical component of business continuity and sustainability.

While many SMEs are aware of the importance of backup, the main challenge that they face is the sheer variety of different solutions available, and a lack of understanding of which solution will fit their business best. Coupled with this is the challenge of a limited budget, which is something that large corporates do not necessarily need to content with. As a result, although smaller businesses are aware of the need for backup, there seems to be a lack of urgency around implementing a proper strategy and solution.

However, when it comes to backup and recovery, the importance of having the right system in place only becomes clear when disaster strikes, and by then it is simply too late.

 There are various backup and recovery strategies available, which can suit the needs and the budget of the SME. One of the most common is to adopt a rotational backup approach, whereby servers, PCs and notebooks are backed up onto external drives, with one drive kept onsite and the other offsite in a rotational fashion.

This approach has its merits, chiefly that it is very cost effective since external storage is inexpensive to purchase, and that data is always readily available onsite for quick recovery. However, it does not provide for backup of mobile devices when they are away from the external drive, such as on the road, and if these devices are lost or stolen there is a security implication as well as the risk that some data may be lost.

The drives themselves are also at risk, especially the onsite backups, as if a fire, flood or other disaster destroys the office and all the machines, the onsite backup will also be destroyed. For this reason, multiple hard drives are needed and should never be kept in the same location.

Increasingly, SMEs are turning to the cloud to provide effective, efficient and above all secure backup and recovery solutions. As bandwidth has become more plentiful and more affordable, online backup solutions have gained popularity and offer a number of benefits. The cloud offers an easy and convenient option for backup that is always available when there is an Internet connection, and this process can be automated to remove the risk of human error and forgetfulness.

As files are changed on the system, they can be automatically backed up, to ensure that the latest data is always available in the event of a disaster. Cloud backup solutions can also be delivered for a monthly fee, allowing this to be integrated into operational expenses and reducing capital outlay.

While the original upload of data may be fairly bandwidth intensive, this is a once off occurrence, and after a snapshot of the data is captured any further backups will be incremental. This reduces the amount of bandwidth needed on a day-to-day basis for backup.

Solutions can also be configured for certain types of data, so that not everything is backed up in the cloud, only mission critical information and documents. All that is needed for cloud backup is a stable Internet connection such as ADSL, and the services of a reliable and reputable provider who understands the backup needs of the business and can provide a solution that is ‘fit for purpose’.

The one downside of cloud backup, however, is that in the event that data needs to be recovered, it must be downloaded from the cloud storage, which can take some time depending on the size of files and can be bandwidth intensive. Combining a hardware-based backup system, such as an external hard drive, with cloud storage and backup, provides the best of both worlds to ensure that data is always safe, secure and available in the event of a disaster. If hard drives fail, data can quickly be recovered from onsite backup, but in the event of a complete system failure or disaster, SMEs can rest assured that their critical information is safely stored in the cloud and can be recovered in short order.

The SME market is highly competitive in South Africa, and businesses rely on being agile and delivering effective services. Without their data however, they are unable to do this. If companies lose their critical information and are unable to recover it, their chances of survival are not high. Even if data can be recovered, time is of the essence as while they are scrambling to get back up and running they are losing revenue and potentially losing customers to their competition. Having the right backup solution in place is critical not only for large corporates, but for SMEs too.

As featured in ITNEWSAFRICA

A trusted partner is key to addressing IT challenges faced by SMMEs

By Dawie Bloomberg, Managing Director of Green Apple IT

Information Technology (IT) is a critical enabler in today’s business world. However, Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) face a unique set of challenges when it comes to keeping up with the technology that enables them to remain competitive, while working with limited resources and often very tight budgets. Small businesses need to ensure that their IT infrastructure supports their core operations, but is also cost effective. On top of this, having a full time IT department is often simply not feasible, so SMMEs often rely on outsourced IT service providers to resolve issues. Smaller businesses need technology that is fit for purpose and IT services on demand. A trusted IT outsource partner can help SMMEs to achieve this without breaking the bank, enabling them to operate with maximum efficiency in all areas.

One of the core challenges for SMMEs is a lack of understanding of technology and how it can be used to benefit the business. Technology is always changing, so keeping up with these changes can prove challenging and overwhelming for organisations whose core business is not technology oriented. There is also a certain stigma attached to technology, that it is expensive and a grudge purchase. However this is not necessarily the case. IT can in fact help businesses to become more efficient and as a result more profitable, which means that the right investment will pay for itself by improving business operations.

The key is to ensure that the right technology is purchased to meet organisational needs. However many outsourcing providers do not take the specific needs of a small business into account, preferring to sell technology that will gain them higher commission margins. Often these expensive solutions are more geared towards larger organisations and their needs and budgets. So while they will deliver the functionality promised, the full potential of the solution is not being utilised and is often not necessary, wasting precious budget on expensive technology that they do not need. IT needs to be fit for purpose to deliver the optimal balance of investment and return for the SMME. Using a streamlined, fit for purpose solution will ensure that SMMEs gain the benefits of a more efficient solution.

Another challenge is the support and maintenance of IT solutions. SMMEs typically do not have high level IT skills in-house, which means that this service needs to be outsourced. However, outsourced contracts where the business pays a fixed amount every month are often not cost effective, since SMMEs typically require IT services on an ad hoc, on demand
basis. Any technology also needs to support emerging business trends, including mobility and the cloud. Mobile workforces are becoming increasingly common, and in order for these to be effective they need to be able to access their ‘office’ from wherever they happen to be working. This requires appropriate technology to be in place to enable this. Cloud solutions can also help to improve productivity, but again require appropriate technology, most importantly connectivity, to support this.

Addressing these challenges requires the services of a trusted outsource partner who understands the unique needs of the SMME, who has their finger on the pulse of changing technology, and who will be able to provide the right solution to meet the specific needs of the individual business. IT does not benefit from a one size fits all approach, which means that any outsource partner needs to build a relationship with customers to get a full understanding of their business and their needs. In today’s world IT is not simply about dropping boxes anymore, but about understanding an organisation’s business model and translating this into workable, appropriate technology solutions.

The outsourcing model delivers multiple benefits for the SMME, enabling them to take advantage of technology while focusing on their core business. However, not all outsourcers are created equal, and small businesses need to choose their partner carefully. Integrity and transparency are two key characteristics to look for, as well as a company that is up to date on technology and the trends in this market. Above all, small businesses should look for personalised service, and a partner who is able to take the time to understand their business and its needs. In this way, SMMEs can get the right combination of technology, service and cost effectiveness to carry their business into the future.

About Green Apple IT

At Green Apple IT, our goal is to build systems for your organization that will analyse your customers and opportunities, and help your company be more efficient by examining your current business, how IT integrates into your processes to maximise your effectiveness out in this competitive market. For more information, please visit our website at http://greenappleit.co.za , call us at +27 011 2344711 , Email us info@greenappleit.co.za

Stable, fast connectivity is the foundation of cloud computing for SMMEs

By Dawie Bloomberg, Managing Director of Green Apple IT

Cloud computing offers many benefits for the Small, Micro and Medium Enterprise (SMME), including the ability to access the latest technology to optimise business efficiency, improved scalability and flexibility. On top of these is the advantage of moving this technology from a capital expense to an operational expense with a monthly bill for services instead of a large investment for technology infrastructure and software. However, connectivity is critical to leveraging cloud services. Without stable, fast and reliable connectivity, cloud solutions and all of their benefits remain inaccessible to the SMME. Organisations wishing to move to this model need to address the foundations first, to ensure that cloud solutions deliver on the expected benefits and function optimally.

Cloud computing effectively eliminates the need for businesses to have infrastructure and servers on site. Using this model, SMMEs can instead access infrastructure owned by a hosting provider, leveraging economies of scale and reducing the footprint of equipment on site. This in turn lowers power consumption and reduces the amount of physical space that organisations require for technology such as servers. This is particularly effective for distributed small businesses, as instead of requiring a server at each site this can all be pushed into a central cloud.

Hosted services tend to be more secure than on premise solutions, particularly for small businesses, as they can leverage the latest enterprise grade security technologies and methods. Hosted providers also utilise more stringent enterprise level physical security, as well as adhere to best practices with regard to redundancy and dual power supplies. This is particularly beneficial to the SMME, which works on tight budgets and often cannot afford to maintain this enterprise grade level of solution in house. The infrastructure required to deliver these services can be very expensive, which puts it out of reach for the majority of SMMEs. However, using the cloud services model makes IT and technology solutions more affordable for cost-conscious businesses, improving cash flow and ensuring more predictable expenses along with improved services.

The benefits of cloud computing for the SMME are clear, and connectivity remains the only barrier to entry with regard to accessing these services. While availability and affordability of bandwidth has improved dramatically in recent years, balancing speed, availability and cost remains an issue. Organisations need to fully understand their needs and the available technologies to ensure that bandwidth and connectivity support their cloud objectives.

When it comes to connectivity there are many options available for SMMEs, each with their own pros and cons. ADSL is the most popular option for businesses, as it is cheap relative to other options and provides acceptable speeds and availability. However, ADSL has is challenges such as stability, cable theft and outages to mention a few, forcing organisations to explore other options, and when lines go down they can take time to repair and get services back up and running. 3G and more recently 4G or LTE connectivity  is another popular option as it is prevalent in most of the country. However it is more expensive than ADSL, and for enterprise use does not provide the levels of stability often required. Other available options include satellite, WiFi  and Metro Ethernet,  which have a high price point relative to other technologies, as well as the relatively new microwave links which offer high speed stable bandwidth but which are not available in many locations outside of city centres.

In order to achieve the maximum ratio of uptime, reliability, stability and speed, organisations should look at obtaining an ADSL router which provides automatic failover to a second ADSL line, a 3G line or a microwave link. These routers are available with two or more WAN ports which are able to aggregate several lines of different technologies and provide auto failover between the lines for an improved user experience. This enables businesses to also incorporate multiple ADSL lines into a single connection with failover to another technology, to ensure that connectivity is always up and running and will not impact a business’ access to services.

These solutions can be tailored and scaled to meet the needs and budgets of the SMME, making them highly affordable. However in order to make maximum use of connectivity it is vital to firstly understand exactly what the needs of the business are from the outset. This will be determined by the type and number of cloud services that need to be accessed, as well as the number of users who need to access them. This will then ensure that the right mix of connectivity options can be put into place at the right price, with failover capability for maximum uptime.

Partnering with a specialist consultancy service can help organisation to ensure that they assess their needs accurately and can take advantage of solutions that meet their needs and budget. A consultant can also help to ensure that the cost of implementing cloud solutions and the connectivity required does not outweigh the benefits of these solutions. Understanding the business case for cloud computing is a critical aspect of success, and a consultant partner will be able to assist organisations to do this effectively.

Cloud computing typically delivers a more cost effective path to accessing technology, with a scalable, pay per use, flexible delivery model that suits many budgets. It also delivers the ability to test out new features and functionality without extensive capital outlay. However connectivity is critical to accessing these services, as without a stable Internet connection the user experience will be poor and access to information will be compromised. Connectivity is the foundation of cloud computing, and must be adequately addressed before any move into the cloud is even considered.

About Green Apple IT

At Green Apple IT, our goal is to build systems for your organization that will analyse your customers and opportunities, and help your company be more efficient by examining your current business, how IT integrates into your processes to maximise your effectiveness out in this competitive market. For more information, please visit our website at http://greenappleit.co.za , call us at +27 011 2344711 , Email us info@greenappleit.co.za

External Published Links:

  1. http://www.biztechafrica.com/article/stable-fast-connectivity-foundation-cloud-computin/4584/
  2. http://kopiarki.biz/kserokopiarki-2/stable-fast-connectivity-is-the-foundation-of-cloud-computing-for-smmes/
  3. http://companies.mybroadband.co.za/blog/2012/10/31/stable-fast-connectivity-is-the-foundation-of-cloud-computing-for-smmes/

Unlock the business potential of social media with Nimble 2.0 from Green Apple IT

Social media is an important tool for competitiveness in today’s business world. However, the typical ‘watch and listen’ approach employed by many organisations often fails to deliver the anticipated benefits. To leverage to true business potential of social media, the multitude of media streams need to be managed and integrated into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in order to generate actionable leads that will drive the bottom line. This daunting task is now made easy, thanks to the latest release of Nimble, available locally from Green Apple IT.

Nimble 2.0 is a powerful unified social media interaction platform that brings together media streams from multiple platforms and integrates seamlessly into CRM. This allows you to easily monitor messages across different social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google + from a single integrated space. These incoming notifications can then be flagged for follow up and have tasks added to them for internal action. This ensures that customer interactions and leads never become lost in the clutter, empowering small businesses to attract and retain customers by engaging them on their own turf.

“As social networking gains popularity among consumers, it becomes increasingly important for businesses to engage their customers on these platforms because there is great potential to generate new business leads and improve customer retention. However the sheer number of different social sites, along with the different user profiles associated with each one, can make this challenging,” says Dawie Bloomberg, Managing Director of Green Apple IT. “Nimble 2.0 streams new notifications from multiple platforms into one place, so they can be easily read and responded to. It provides a single platform for all contacts, calendars, communications and social conversations.”

“Nimble 2.0 is so much more than a ‘listener’ programme, with an integrated database enabling collaboration on business-related social media across an organisation. Contacts can be added and shared, tasks can be associated to specific media engagements and assigned to team members, sales leads can be flagged for follow up, deals can be added and much more,” he adds.

Nimble is the brainchild of Jon Ferrara, the founder of pioneering CRM tool GoldMine. Since signing a partnership agreement with Nimble in December 2011, Green Apple IT has been working closely with Ferrara and the Nimble team to test the new version of the software in the local market.

Our Solution Partners are immensely important to us and companies such as Green Apple IT are leading the way in their value orientated approach. With the recent launch of Nimble 2.0 we’re excited to see partners like Green Apple IT promoting social business solutions in emerging markets,” says Richard Young, Director of EMEA Nimble.

New features in Nimble 2.0 include improved usability, social discovery, enhanced privacy filters and powerful third party app integrations. Contacts have an all new user interface that effortlessly pulls together all related messages, activities, deals and so on along with a live social stream of each contact. Custom fields and tabs can also be created to tailor interactions with individual customers. Social discovery enables a unified stream of social notifications, along with an intuitive, easy to understand daily email detailing all new engagement opportunities. The new release also includes the ability to choose which messages to share, either by default or on a case-by-case basis, as well as integration with third part apps such as Wufoo, HubSpot and MailChimp!.

“By integrating social media and collaboration into a single platform, small businesses are now able to uniformly manage social media streams, making workload far simpler and adding productivity enhancing functionality. Customer experience can be dramatically improved and sales leads can easily be followed up. Nimble in effect turns social media into a powerful sales tool, helping you to unlock to business potential behind social media interactions,” Bloomberg concludes.

Nimble 2.0 was officially released on 14 February 2012 and is available immediately from Green Apple IT.

*Nimble Personal

Nimble Personal is for single users and free-of-charge, upgrade any time.

Nimble Team

Nimble Team is for groups and is available for a small monthly fee.

Pricing / Version Comparison

Need more information? Check out : www.greenappleit.co.za/nimble or  www.nimble.com

Alternatively, please feel free to contact us on info@greenappleit.co.za or 011 234 4711