Thursday, March 26, 2015

Consider all the variables when deciding on storage

By Anamika Budree, Sales Manager, Branded Products at WD South Africa

For those in the market for storage for their home or Small and Medium Business (SMB), the discussion of the moment is deciding between local or cloud based storage. On both sides of the fence there are a wealth of options from several different brands but it's critical that decision makers get down to the core of how these solutions operate, their demands on other infrastructure, and how it will affect you or your staff as the end users.

As there is increasing adoption of Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices within Europe, let’s consider this option in terms of local storage. Here, you have the flexibility of choosing how much capacity you want, how much performance and redundancy you need, and you can also have remote data access via a personal cloud feature that is offered by NAS devices such as the WD My Cloud EX4.

With a NAS it's easy to quickly transfer large amounts of data to the device via the local network, and when people are on the move; this data can be accessed via a desktop or mobile app thanks to the personal cloud feature. Generally speaking personal cloud services offered by NAS devices are free of cost and are platform independent, so you can access your data from your Windows or Mac laptop, iOS, Android or Windows Phone handhelds. As your NAS resides within your home or office, you have the added benefit of never losing control of your data.

Given that most NAS devices are power efficient and drives such as the SOHO NAS optimised WD Red are built for 24/7 efficient operation, you're not in for a shock in terms of monthly power consumption. And because your data is stored locally on the NAS, you won't be placing massive upload/download demands on your internet connection, which is also being relied on for web and e-mail service.

In terms of cost, if you purchase a My Cloud EX4 and four 3TB WD Red hard drives, you're looking at a one-time and upfront cost. Running this system in RAID 10 which means you get data striping (increased performance) and mirroring (data redundancy), you will have access to 6TB of usable capacity. You also have the flexibility to upgrade your device's storage capacity by simply purchasing larger capacity drives when needed or by adding a USB drive to the NAS device as a quick fix.

On the cloud side of things, the idea is you buy a specific amount of storage from the cloud storage provider and then upload your content to this central repository. Once this is done you can then access your data from different locations and devices. You can also expand how much storage you have but there may be restrictions imposed by the provider, so it's a good idea to look at their terms and conditions when you first sign up for the plan and, if possible, opt for a monthly versus annual payment plan, so you have more flexibility.

In terms of how cloud storage affects your existing infrastructure, consider this; since the storage point is remote, you have to upload all your data to the cloud from the get go. While it is a simple case of drag and drop, it can be a time consuming task depending on the speed of your Internet connection. Most home and business connections offer upload speeds that are a fraction of the download speed, and even if you consider a connection with a higher than average 10Mbit/sec upload speed, a 100MB file will take upwards of 40 seconds to transfer - the larger the file, the longer it will take to upload.

You also need to consider that making changes to data is essentially a re-download/re-upload job, and although this will likely be invisible to you, as the user, it will again be consuming bandwidth on your internet connection, which could slow down browsing and e-mail services. To be able to use cloud storage to the fullest, you need to invest in a high speed Internet connection and, depending on the volume of data that you work with, you may also be looking at opting for a service with no restrictions on how much data can be uploaded or downloaded. As continuously uploading and downloading data can bog down even the fastest internet connection, you may want to consider putting policies in place where large files are uploaded over night or after business hours.

Considering the aforementioned requirements and depending on which service provider you're with, maintaining a high speed connection and the cloud storage could be a very expensive proposition, even in the short term. It's for this reason that you should always consider all the variables and pay attention to the total cost of ownership before deciding on what's right for your home or SMB.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Energy solutions from newcomer carbonTRACK

With our overburdened electricity grid and an energy crisis looming, a promising solution has been launched to the South African business and domestic market. Proudly South African company, carbonTRACK, offers a new intelligent energy management system that is enabling companies and households to adjust and regulate energy use on various appliances, improving efficiency, and reducing costs and carbon footprints.

Irvan Damon, MD of carbonTRACK, says energy consumption represents a large proportion of our carbon footprint, while also continually increasing costs with ongoing price hikes. “carbonTRACK offsets this with a system that includes an energy monitoring, control and savings device which is installed in a consumer’s home or business and connected to the distribution board. It monitors and controls heavy energy loads such as pool pumps, hot water geysers or air conditioning, or the entire incoming load of the house, all from the convenience of your phone, tablet or laptop.  – .”

He adds that invariably consumers pay for energy use when they shouldn’t be. “Most energy is used for heating and cooling and to heat water. carbonTRACK monitors and controls energy use, enabling a saving of up to 30%. For instance, electricity intense hot water geysers are generally only required for a few hours in the morning, and almost never during the night, yet they continually reheat water that isn’t needed. By ensuring water is at temperature during times of use only, carbonTRACK can reduce electricity consumption substantially. The web user-interface allows you to set geyser temperatures and timer settings. Added to this, switching hot water geysers off during peak load events would have a marked effect on grid consumption, possibly limiting or even preventing load shedding blackouts.”

As of this year July, the City of Johannesburg will introduce residential time-of-use tariffs. Stand-by loads like modems, set-top boxes, washing machines and microwaves contribute up to 6% of our national grid-usage. “With carbonTRACK® you will conveniently be able to set your energy loads to draw power during off-peak times, from 10:00 to 18:00. With the launch of carbonTRACK®’s ZigBee wireless plug, stand-by devices can now be switched off at the appliance level via your phone, further reducing your energy spend. In addition, by switching off your appliances at the plug power level, you can avoid the damages appliances experience when connected back to the grid due to load-shedding and voltage spikes. Using your phone to interface with your ZigBee is a first for South Africa,” says Damon.

carbonTRACK technology can ‘see’ electricity use in a home or business, and uses clever hardware and software algorithms to switch devices as required to minimise their electricity consumption. A proprietary communications stack allows remote switching of devices in under three seconds, using robust telecommunications networks at an extremely small cost. The results are residential electricity savings of up to 30% or more; the ability for third parties – such as Eskom – to switch major loads during peak load events; and a total installed cost of around  R4 900 per building.

carbonTRACK can also offer improved efficiency solutions for solar power usage and carbonTRACK can work with householders to help them get the most out of alternative power generation such as solar geysers and photovoltaic solar.

“Solar is a great start to electricity independence, but it is just the start,” explains Damon. “There is so much more that households and businesses can get out of their solar power if they use it well. carbonTRACK is designed to make standard solar smart. carbonTRACK users can see and understand when they are generating the most solar power and how to reduce the grid power they use. Ultimately, carbonTRACK provides the ability to make smarter, informed decisions on how to manage energy needs to reduce electricity bills and dependence on Eskom.”

He adds that carbonTRACK can show how much energy an alternative power source produces, uses and stores, and if the system’s performance drops, carbonTRACK will send an alert. carbonTRACK also optimises the operation of up to two geysers by constantly recalculating and measuring the solar thermal conversion, maximising geyser efficiency and ensuring that water is heated with the least amount of energy. carbonTRACK’s leak detection capabilities detect and control a leak when it occurs, reducing resultant damage from faulty or leaky geysers.

The carbonTRACK device and its management software were co-developed by the company’s Australian partner, which has more than 12 years’ experience in telemetry and software engineering, but manufacturing is 100% South African. carbonTRACK is a Proudly South African company, creating local jobs and economic empowerment for South Africans.

Says Proudly South African’s CEO, Adv. Leslie Sedibe, “carbonTRACK, a registered Proudly South African member company, provides a significant and necessary product to consumers during a time when electricity supply is closely monitored and consumers are urged to cut down on their usage. We are proud to have carbonTRACK on board with a product that empowers South Africans to easily monitor and manage their power usage during challenging times. This innovative solution can also be used to monitor solar generation and ultimately gives consumers the power to save money. This comes at a time when our government is urging all South Africans to work together to save electricity and help get the country out of its energy shortage challenge. President Jacob Zuma recently reiterated that while government will play its part, every single consumer can also contribute towards energy saving.”

The carbonTRACK products are now more accessible to consumers than ever before, thanks to the conclusion of an exclusive agreement with Builders  for the distribution of carbonTRACK systems through its network of outlets. The launch is pegged for the first half of this year.

In a recent development, the Kutana Group has joined carbonTRACK as their black empowerment investors, and according to Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe, shareholder and CEO of Kutana Group, “Kutana is proud to partner with carbonTRACK, a cutting edge technology company focused on energy management. carbonTRACK has made a significant investment in South Africa, contributing to local manufacturing, creating local jobs and supporting local communities.

“Kutana Investments is geared towards delivering significant shareholder value through sound strategic investments, while contributing to and empowering the local economy. Our investment in carbonTRACK extends our portfolio to innovative energy management solutions which are not only locally manufactured and Proudly South African, but which will respond to South Africa's urgent need to conserve energy,” says Mokgosi-Mwantembe.

Last year, carbonTRACK’s device won the prestigious GAP ICT 2014 Innovation Hub Award for its remarkable potential for households and the greater electricity grid, to improve their energy efficiency, according to Lufuno Ramabulana, a specialist at the Innovation Hub’s Innovation Strategy Projects and manager of GAP ICT.

For further information on carbonTRACK go to or follow on @carbontracksa.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Charger Station

Have you seen this thing?

It was at the VIP section of the Joburg Golf tournament this weekend. Each green area has a variety of cables for you to charge your cellphone The red one has a phone charging in it and it is locked. The whole system is controlled via a touch screen in the middle. 

It looks like such a simple but clever idea. I see advertising opportunities and also a great service if you are holding a long function.