The entry of multinational corporations into African markets, along with increased attention and investment in disaster recovery and business continuity, has led to the growth of cloud services on the continent, analysts say.
According to a recent study by IDC on cloud adoption, 63% of companies in South Africa are either already investing or planning to adopt some form of cloud technology, though the pace is still slow in the rest of the continent.
The African economy has suffered from poor infrastructure, political instability and the failure to attract international companies, but the operation of several submarine cables over the last two years has restored some confidence in the regions telecommunications infrastructure.
Cloud technology allows companies to use infrastructure, platform, software and security services provided by third parties. But a challenge for service providers lies in instilling confidence that they are able to continue operations and keep data safe in case of natural or man made disasters.
In recognition that companies are hiring third party infrastructure and security services, regulatory requirements for disaster recovery have been put in place in various countries, especially for sensitive sectors like financial services. Previously, a bank would be expected to provide protection for sensitive information and physical security, but when information and services are in the cloud, the demand for disaster recovery measures has become more important.
In Kenya, the central bank has regulations on disaster recovery. Smaller financial institutions and small and medium size businesses that offer banking facilities, however, do not have elaborate disaster recovery measures because they are governed by a different law to that of banks.
"Most companies will now have an easier way to put services in place through secure cloud computing, which will relinquish the burden of financial pressure on capital expenditure," said Mike Macharia, CEO of Seven Seas Technology in Nairobi.
"In addition to this companies will require ... elaborate, detailed business continuity plans that will enable them to recover their people and processes in the case of major disaster," added Macharia, whose company is involved in setting up data centers for Safaricom.
Given its superior economic status, South Africa has the majority of data centers while Kenya and Nigeria have emerged as regional hubs and data center locations to serve Eastern and Western Africa markets respectively.
"The emergence of regional hubs is bridging a lot of the historical challenges of disaster recovery and business continuity, but as Africa matures, the need for nearshore / onshore data centers is increasingly becoming important; especially for those organizations in the financial services industry," said Pieter Kok, a research manager for IDC in South Africa.
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