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Is Africa equipped to deal with the data avalanche?

Is Africa equipped to deal with the data avalanche?

Business owners will have to increase their investment in data management solutions that are based on AI and designed to deal with the current complexities (and cost) of data storage requirements.

At the 2018 Gartner Symposium and ITXPO in Cape Town this week, Danie Marais, Director of Product Management at South African data management technology provider Redstor, offered his perspective on current trends impacting the evolution of data management.

"If we look at data management, you cannot help but notice that there is a massive difference between the experience we have at home, and the one we have at the workplace," said Marais.

He added that the advent of content service platforms like Netflix, Showmax and iTunes has radicalised the home user experience, enabling easy storage, access as well as the ability to manipulate video, data, music and images.

"It is fairly user focused, user-centric and it does make our lives simpler. The problem is that we don't see that in the corporate world ... we sit with a lot of struggles," said Marais.

One of these 'struggles' is dealing with the increasingly high value attached to data – and the consequences of data loss.

"Ransomware, for instance, has highlighted the fact that people are willing to pay a lot of money to get their data back because they value that. Businesses close down because they lose their data, it happens," Marais continued.

Aside from the exponential growth in- and pervasive nature of data, which makes it difficult to control, other challenges include the cost of storage, hardware and maintenance.

"It's not just the physical cost of the machine that you're buying, it's also the maintenance, when things break down, you have to manage it... you know, it runs out of space, you have to control who can access it. There are a whole host of other costs that also come into play when it comes to storage. In fact, Microsoft says that cost of storage is typically one of the top three line items when it comes to company expenditure," Marais added.

Regulation compliance

The impact of GDPR and POPI regulation is another challenge that will impact a company's ability to handle data, Marais explained.

"It's about compliance. Where you are being held accountable on how you deal with your data, obviously first and foremost the personal data, but also other data at the company."

Fortunately solutions, based on user-centric designs, are being introduced and are redefining home-based/ consumer-driven data management. This is beginning to filter through to the corporate market.

"Companies take users seriously these days. The mobile environment has created a precedent where it is so easy, it just works so well, it looks good, feels good, it just gets the job done. That is starting to become the norm in the corporate world as well. You don't get applications that you need training for or manuals for. They are becoming so easy to use, you don't need any of that stuff. That is the future... all software, all solutions are going to be so easy to operate, anyone will be able to operate it."

AI data management

This will not mean less complexity or functionality in the back-end, Marais added. "They will still do wonderful things, but in terms of controlling it and interfacing with it, it will be really simple. Then the solutions are also getting more intelligent."

According to Marais, there are now solutions that can provide updates on the available storage space on servers, on where there are opportunities to re-locate and manage data more effectively.

"So making the information available about your data, finding the data out there, categorising it for you ... even bringing artificial intelligence to make suggestions based on the information that is being found. So firstly data on data and action on data... so 'oh you can do this, and not only can you do this, but can I do it for you, can I move it into the cloud for you'. We are already seeing a lot of action in terms of AI, especially with regards to big data where there is simply too much data to be processed by a human, so you let computers work on it and come up with trends and statistics," Marais added.

Much like the situation with the cloud a few years ago, cutting edge solutions are beginning to emerge and acceptance is starting to follow said Marais.

He believes the 'oil tanker' companies (those that take a while to change direction) will be forced to keep up with the more aggressive, nimble firms that are manoeuvring to capture market share.