The cloud has a lot to offer. Here are some cloud starter packs available to South Africans that’ll help get your small business signed up and benefiting.
IGNITE from Internet Solutions
Internet Solutions is one of the country’s biggest internet service providers. In addition to providing connectivity, the company manages its own datacentre, from which it’s able to offer a range of Cloud packages tailored specifically for the South African market.
IS IGNITE is Internet Solutions’ “all-in-one” cloud product. It offers help with everything a modern business needs in this digital age: getting online, providing services, managing employees and billing clients, and a single point of contact for help with any of it.
IGNITE even has an “online presence” service that helps to market businesses online, and a risk management service that helps businesses recognise where they’re most at risk and move to counter those risks. That means IS won’t just take your money and abandon you to your fate once you’re up and running, plus they offer 24/7 support in case you need technical assistance too.
One of the most interesting services offered under the IGNITE umbrella is IS’s “Cloud PBX” solution, which is effectively a virtualised phone system. It uses the internet to make and receive calls, it’s billed per second or at affordable pre-paid rates, and doesn’t require any expensive PABX hardware. You can effectively throw out your existing phone system and replace it with something better and cheaper.
Prices are very reasonable, too: every service IS IGNITE offers ranges from less than a hundred bucks to just a few hundred, service-dependent. And the best part is you can pick and choose from everything that’s offered, and pay just for what you use.
The IGNITE website has all the details; find it at www.isignite.co.za.
Internet Solutions Skylight
Sticking with Internet Solutions, the company also offers a service designed to help businesses make the most of their cloud services by gathering them all together under one umbrella.
The service is essentially a dashboard from which you can view and manage many of your cloud services. IS uses the opportunity to tell people they are delivering “the world’s biggest cloud”, and it’s true – by aggregating other cloud services and making them accessible and manageable from a single interface, that’s exactly what they’re providing.
And what better name than “Skylight” for a product that provides a rather large view of a collection of online services commonly referred to as “the cloud”? Well played, IS. Well played.
One of the biggest appeals of Skylight is that it doesn’t lock businesses into 24-month contracts, but perhaps even more importantly, the service’s excellent billing system provides businesses with a close-to-live view of their cloud costs for the month.
IS told us that the usage-based billing information offered by Skylight is roughly 24 hours behind the real-time cost, but that’s enough to provide managers with a good sense of ongoing costs, and enough time to make adjustments to avoid unpleasant cost spikes.
While Skylight doesn’t yet support every single cloud service out there, IS has plans to add more in the near-term, and will also listen closely to customer feedback around services they’d like to see included under the Skylight umbrella.
Right now Skylight can only be offered to new IS customers for technical reasons, but IS told us they have plans to make it possible for existing customers to migrate their cloud services to Skylight in the near future.
The best part? There is no cost to use Skylight – it’s a free service provided by IS.
Want more? Go here: www.is.co.za/skylight
Azure from Microsoft
Anything you’ve ever heard that the cloud can do, can be done with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. It’s been designed to provide everything from software tools to virtualised server hardware to virtual machines to end users, who can specify exactly what they need, and only pay for what they use.
Azure specifically, and cloud offerings in general, remove the need for businesses to buy and manage their own IT hardware. All a business really needs is some sort of computer, an internet connection and an Azure account, and it can arrange virtual machines tailored to its needs, storage for backup purposes and even create and deploy web apps in minutes. Literally.
And if you already have a datacentre, Azure can seamlessly integrate with it so that you don’t have to choose between your datacentre and Microsoft’s.
Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform is quite advanced, and while it’s able to provide enterprise-level cloud services for the largest businesses, its offerings can be scaled up or down to suit businesses of any size. All it takes is a few mouse clicks, and whatever you need can be provisioned according to your exact specifications within minutes.
In terms of costs, Microsoft uses a per-minute billing system and offers the option to cap costs, so that financial executives can keep a tight rein on those all-important budgets.
And when it comes to understanding the data a business generates, Azure offers a wide range of business intelligence tools that can analyse that data and help business owners make sense of it, in order to make informed decisions going forward.
If this sounds intriguing, there’s extensive Azure documentation available online at azure.microsoft.com that should answer any questions you might have.
Managing a business’s staff and payroll with software is nothing new, but being able to do it through a simple browser has become a reality only recently.
PaySpace is a South African company dedicated to providing HR software from the cloud safely and securely, and it’s the only HR solutions company that has earned itself an ISO 27001 certification for doing exactly that. The company embarked on that quest back in 2009, and only wrapped it up this year as that’s how long it takes to ensure total compliance with the internationally-recognised ISO standards that give the certification is teeth.
The services provided by PaySpace bring payroll, HR, talent, recruitment, performance and time tracking together into a single record for easy viewing. And because of its ISO certification, multi-currency support and its built-in legislative understanding of 37 African countries, the company is able to deliver those services to other African countries as well.
The benefits of an ISO-compliant payroll solution hosted in the cloud are manifold. First, it’s always up to date because it has to be to maintain compliance, so when tax law changes, businesses that use it are automatically compliant without having to do anything. Second, your business data is kept as confidential and as safe from prying eyes as possible, as that specific ISO standard mandates it.
PaySpace also recently announced integration with Xero, a cloud-based accounting software package, which gives businesses complete access to their financials and staff information with a single login.
If you’d like to check them out, you can find PaySpace at payspace.co.za.[Header Image CC by 2.0]