Vodacom to offer hosted computing services in South Africa


Vodacom promises to transform hosted computing landscape in SA through partnership with Microsoft

South African businesses will soon have access to business software services on a pay-as-you-go basis, thanks to a programme launched last week by Vodacom Business and Microsoft. The announcement, made at Microsoft’s Partner Summit in Durban, will see the mobile provider offer bundled business applications along with its mobile voice and data offerings.

Vodacom will offer Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange and Hosted SharePoint via its data centre. Companies can then access those solutions according to their needs and be invoiced by usage.

According to Wally Beelders, the executive director of Vodacom Business, the driving force behind the move is that modern businesses need more than phone lines and Internet connections. “Voice-over-IP, Web hosting, email, instant messaging, collaboration, and managed security services -- such as data backup and firewalls -- are fast-becoming integral to business,” he explained.

“While almost all SMBs recognise this, the challenge has long been price. Small companies cannot invest huge amounts in technology. That’s why Vodacom Business has teamed up with Microsoft to effectively provide a pay-as-you-go way to access these critical business applications.”

Beelders sayd the value for larger companies is also strong: “With fibre deployments and broadband becoming much cheaper and mail becoming commoditised, we can effectively outsource a large corporate’s collaboration and messaging requirements more cost effectively than they can. Over time, this eliminates the need for in-house skills, infrastructure and licensing.”

Mteto Nyati, the MD of Microsoft South Africa, suggesting that hosted offerings will make it easier for SMBs to benefit from solutions often reserved for larger enterprise companies.

“This move means SMBs can build their businesses without having to make a significant, upfront capital investment in their own infrastructure, server hardware, facilities, or support staff,” he said.

“For larger companies, we’re also anticipating strong demand --- after all, in the current economic downturn, cost savings and productivity enhancements are more important than ever. Companies that invest in innovative solutions during that downturn look set to emerge strongly --- we think this news will make a tangible difference.”

Vodacom Business added that plans are already afoot to provide cloud-based services such as Hosted Office Communications (an integrated presence and VoIP solution for businesses) and Hosted Dynamics CRM, a customer relationship management solution.

“We’re making these complex technologies accessible and manageable to a range of businesses,” added Beelders. “We think the convenience of having a single, reliable point-of-contact for critical communications and collaboration infrastructure can be a very compelling sales pitch.”

Vodacom Business is also looking to expand its offerings into Africa: “With our acquisition of Gateway Communications, we now have a footprint in 40 countries,” said Beelders. “With the backing of Vodafone we plan on aggressively tackling the African business market, offering them high quality software as a service (SaaS) business solutions at affordable prices.”