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‘Shared infrastructure, co-location critical to crashing Internet cost’

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Charles Harringnton is the Vice President, Corporate Development & Marketing, NETCOM Africa

Charles Harringnton is the Vice President, Corporate Development & Marketing, NETCOM Africa, an integrated ICT solution and service provider in Nigeria.

He spoke about the evolution of IT in Nigeria, the need for businesses to go cloud, and how co-location and shared telecommunication infrastructure can be used to reduce Internet cost in the country.
ADEYEMI ADEPETUN brings the excerpts:

Cloud server and co-location are the new way to go. Can we say Nigerian firms are exploring these solutions?

Nigerian companies are becoming more ready every day. One trend that I have noticed is that Nigeria is typically a bit behind in technology trends and then there is need to close that gap.

This is what I am seeing with cloud servers and data center co-location as well.

A couple of years ago, companies would shudder to think that could put their servers in someone else’s server room or data center, and even worse to put it in the cloud! Today companies here in Nigeria are embracing that idea.

At Netcom, we offer data centre co-location as well as VM’s. In addition we now offer Amazon and Microsoft VM’s and we have in house experts to setup and manage these solutions for companies.

One of our solutions for data backup and recovery is eVault. All companies should take data security seriously and it’s only after a disaster that some people think of it.

Power outages, hardware failures, ransomware and even human error are threats that could compromise servers. Network security, event monitoring and access are few of the solutions that you have in place.

Of what benefit is for businesses to move from data centre to cloud services?

Well, cloud isn’t necessarily cheaper in the long run but there are lots of advantages. There are recurrent charges, but one advantage is that organisations don’t need to worry about power and infrastructure.

It is more secured, it is easier to access and no need to worry over many things like downtime and all what not. It is much easier to deploy and more convenient.

What is your approach to Nigerian market, especially in the deployment of (Enterprise Resource Planning)
ERP solution?

I think our approach is unique. What a lot of companies will do is provide you with whatever ERP you want and then spend countless hours, months, years even to customize it for you.

When this method is done, you may as well hire your own team and build your own ERP from scratch.

What we try and do is pair you with the ERP that fits best with your requirements. The more you can use the ERP out of the box, how it was designed the better.

What advice can you give to firms to secure their data from physical to virtual?

The move to the cloud is never easy, and it’s even scary for some! Change is something that we as humans fear the most, but we can all agree that with constant improvement, change is best.

Part of the big change for data is moving it to the cloud and then tries to make it easy as possible for clients.

At Netcom, we look at all of the data needs that clients have and help develop a plan for what they need to move.

You would be surprised at how much data they don’t actually need to move, or that’s been duplicated or simply unnecessary.

As an infrastructure company and and data centre provider, how can the gap of data center usage in an era of big data be bridged?

Let me start by citing the example of Microsoft, which operates in Nigeria, but don’t sell directly to end users. Microsoft uses their authorised experts to sell to the end users.

These multinationals took these critical business decisions that they don’t have to worry about implementation; they know firms like us are capable of implementation and deployment. So, this is where we either come in or bridge the gap.

We have a lot of organisations that we are their intermediary like Microsoft and Avaya. We have the competent support system and skill to ensure that we get the implementation done.

This is one way we try to bridge this gap in a big data economy that Nigeria is trying to come to terms with.

These organisations believe in our capacity to handle the deployment and implementations for these global acclaimed ICT firms in Nigeria.

Companies feel secure dealing with us, most companies are moving away from hosting their servers on premises and they outsource these things to us because we have the competency.

The Right of Way is one thing that you have to contend with as an Infraco, how have you been able to surmount this?

Right of Way is and will continue to be a huge barrier until both public and private organisations come together and start to share infrastructure.

As it is, there are so many levels of government, which have a stake in the RoW charges from federal to state to local.

For national penetration to happen there needs to be one entity to deal with in terms of RoW charges and then, there is need to cooperate with all of the telecommunications operators. I think to move forward, there is need for penetration though cooperation. It is critical to achieving ubiquitous connectivity.

Can you tell me about your new IP Telephony solutions?

With our new Cloud private branch exchange (PBX) systems, intercompany communications is simple. There is no need to have physical box or server in your office anymore, everything runs on cloud.

People might choose not to have their desk phone anymore but might decide to have their phones on their computers or their smartphones.

This reduces the capital expenditures for the organisation and moves it to an OPEX model.

We have partnered with Avaya, a global leader for this solution. All the client needs is an app on the computer or the phone and the license. We have similar solutions for call centers as well.

Nigeria is a data consuming nation with lots of data breaches. As a data specialist, how can you advise firm?

Data breaches are lot more frequent lately, and this trend is going to continue.

The best thing for companies to do is to ensure they get the protection that they need before the breach.

We encourage companies to have their mails on the clouds, their emails and file storage should be in the cloud.

With bring your own device (BYOD) policies in place in some organisations today, companies must have their firewalls and put inside systems in place to protect themselves from security breach both internal and external.

As an IT consulting Firm, you have evolved from IT infrastructure to consultancy, why?

When Netcom entered the market 15 years ago, we were primarily an Internet Service Provider with a focus on corporate clients.

As time went on, our customers’ demands for more solutions led us to expand our service offerings.

Our focus has not shifted from the corporate market, but our area of expertise now lies in connectivity, managed services such as Office 365, Virtual servers using Azure and Amazon, infrastructure as a service, and IT Outsourcing.

Our IT outsourcing in particular is one area that is gaining a lot of momentum.

We decided to look at the IT needs of firms and we offer to handle the day to day duties of a company’s IT staff allowing them to focus on their core competencies, while we handle their technology.

In addition to taking over the responsibilities, we also set a technology roadmap showing them where they are and where we want to bring them to.


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