Cloud Computing – Best Option for African Startups?

Cloud computing has been gaining a lot of attention from the IT experts all over the world. The raging debate has been between the advantages of cloud computing, as compared to the traditional local server environment. Collectively, most experts have agreed that cloud computing saves a huge capital investment during the initial setting up, but it might be expensive in the long run.

Africa’s increased number of startups are coming up from all over the continent, majority of them providing computer related solutions, from mobile applications, social networks, music and video streaming sites etc. One thing always important during the formation of a startup is the initial set up and operational costs of the business. Research shows that most startups fail within the first six months of operation, due to poor spending and strategy.

Basically, cloud computing is a online form of computing where users access applications via a browser, while the application is installed and stored (as well as the data) on a server. The cloud is moving in diverse ways, from cloud based apps like Google docs to Software as a Service (SaaS) applications like Sales Force. In 2011, Safaricom of Kenya launched its KShs 2 Billion cloud computing service, a sign that it is the next big thing.

Cloud computing saves costs by eliminating the need for high infrastructure expenses and also provides an easy to use, cost efficient, flexible, dynamic and secure environment for modern businesses. Speaking to HumanIPO, Ronald Kwena, Managing Director, Onsite Technologies Kenya said, ”Cloud computing is the best option a startup can take when it comes to cutting operational costs. It really helped my company that we formed early last year (2011), and we still rely on it. I can do my work from anywhere, anytime, provided I have a computer and internet access!”

Research has shown that cloud computing would cost 65% cheaper as compared to the startup capital required for a company to purchase and maintain its own servers, for the first six months of operation.

Simone Brunozzi, technological evangelist for Amazon specifically in cloud computing agrees by saying that, “Cloud computing matters to Africa because it allows startups or companies with little budget to be on par with international companies and access the same power that they have.”

Cloud computing also allows for the unexpected changes in the business of providing services online. What happens if for example, a startup only budgeted for 2 servers, to cater for an estimated 10,000 users in three months, only for it to get 500,000 users within the same period? The systems will simply crash, leaving the business with a bad ‘first impression’ to its users, which might take long to redeem. Cloud computing carters for this through its unlimited space and capability, allowing the startup to concentrate on developing the business.

p dir=”ltr”>However brilliant the idea of cloud computing is, it has two major concerns, privacy and security. Not many users are willing to store their sensitive information in cloud servers, as compared to local protected servers. Ensuring that a client’s data is not accessed by any unauthorized users is of great importance for any cloud service. To make their servers more secure, cloud service vendors have developed password protected accounts, security servers through which all data being transferred must pass and data encryption techniques.

For African startups cloud computing is a chance to tap into its unexplored world, cut costs associated with initial company formation, and concentrate more on their core business, the business of doing business.

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