By Jennigay Coetzer – Business Day

Thousands of cloud-enabled applications and services are already being accessed over the internet. Andrea Lodolo, chief technology officer at CA Southern Africa says these include service desk applications that can be used to log calls and resolve problems, for example by support staff in a call centre.

He says cloud applications are also available for calculating a company’s carbon footprint. Yaron Assabi, CEO of Digital Solutions Group, says software tools like Mobile Tools enable content such as information about new products and services, company policies, trend updates, and video announcements to be pushed to employees’ mobile devices.

“A company could also put together a podcast of a channel partner talking about a new product, in video or audio form or as a web page,” says Assabi. He says another useful cloud service is Rightnow.com, which allows companies to monitor what is being said about their brand online on a pay-per-use basis.

Grant Hodgkinson, business development director at Mimecast’s says the company has developed a cloud service that routes, monitors and interrogates the content of email and applies policies to it, and archives it up to 10 years. Criteria can also be set up to check emails for inappropriate content.

“In addition, if a company’s email server goes down, users can log into our servers and send and receive email instead of using a public service like gmail,” says Hodgkinson.
Paul Fick, divisional MD at Jasco Enterprise says telecommunication management systems are among the less bandwidth intensive applications to use on a cloud service basis.

For example Calltracka will log into a company’s PBX system, collect call data from multiple branches, apply pricing criteria to it, cost the usage of each extension, and produce a consolidated report. “It costs R15 to R20 per user per month as opposed to paying R150,000 to install it in-house,” says Fick.

Andy Brauer, chief technology officer at Business Connexion, says cloud-based TV will take off once bandwidth becomes cheaper and more plentiful. He says more than 5000 TV channels can already be accessed over the internet, and viewed on any device that has a web browser.

Many are free, and others can be viewed on a pay-per-use basis. Brauer says webtop applications like Cloudme allow users to drag and drop cloud-based applications onto a virtual desktop and use them without downloading them.

Softline Pastel developed a new accounting system two years ago that can be used on a software as a service basis for a monthly fee, and the service can be cancelled at any time. MD Steven Cohen says the application was a rewrite of the company’s existing midrange desktop accounting system, with a few less functions, although more will be added.

The company is marketing the service directly to customers, but a number of telecommunications operators and banks are interested in hosting the application and offering it to their customers, says Cohen. “The banks and mobile operators will be major cloud service providers.”

Cohen says the company will be launching new software as a service versions of its start-up and top-end accounting systems shortly. He says another useful cloud-based application service is Drop Box, which stores a mirror image of selected data that is stored on the users’ hard drive, and updates it when changes are made from any designated device.

Data is constantly synchronised across all devices, and users can invite colleagues to view and collaborate on documents. The Drop Drop service is free for the first two gigabytes of storage.

Vodacom has recently launched an app store from which companies can access a range of  business applications on a pay-per-use basis. Richard Vester, executive head for hosted services at Vodacom Business Services, says these include Pastel Accounting,

Microsoft Office, SAP, and Visio, an application used to create diagrams. He says companies can also put any applications they are currently running in-house into the store and access them for their own use or allow others to use them for a fee.

Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance business and technology journalist with 25 years experience, and she writes regularly for Business Day. She also runs media training and writing skills workshops, and is the author of A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing and distributing effective press releases, an electronic version of which can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.za.

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