As TT moves toward digitisation which will involve official documentation processes being converted to, and maintained as digital data, development manager for APC Latin America based in Miami, Hector Martinez believes cloud storage technology will become increasingly more important when considering digital data management.
The cloud is a model of data storage service where data is stored on the private networks or internet/external servers instead of being stored on an internal hardware or one specific device such as a single computer hard drive. The cloud service provider manages the platform and is responsible for allowing for accessing, sharing and the protection of data. Cloud technology allows users to experience greater elasticity in how much data they can store.
An example is Apple's iCloud, where users can store data such as videos and photos on the cloud after exhausting the maximum built-in/ hardware storage capacity of any given device. The data is saved and accessed by logging in online and are managed by specifications and security mechanisms created by the server.
Speaking to the relationship between websites, social media platforms and cloud storage, Martinez said currently there is a trend where a large number of companies are moving their IT infrastructure to cloud services providers. This means organisations are now outsourcing data management instead of doing it themselves. "Companies want to be able to concentrate on their core business so they have been outsourcing these services."
Asked if APC observed a major shift in 2020 based on an increase in people utilising online platforms as substitute for functioning in offices, which includes schools, Martinez said while there has been a noticeable shift reflecting an increase in cloud storage access from homes, there has not been a great increase in demand.
He also said there have been changes in how networks are operating. "There has been an increase in the demand for greater bandwidth. So, governments must request that network providers supply the demand without this having a negative impact on consumers, such as higher charges for bandwidth.
"I think going forward, this process of the world becoming more digital and many people being more likely to work from home is going to continue. This will increase the demand for networks at home. So, I expect internet providers will have to improve their services with higher bandwidths and speeds in homes."
As reflected in TT's current budget, much has been set aside to facilitate the country's transition toward greater digitisation. Martinez said across the globe, which has also been evident in TT, cloud data management at a fast rate include healthcare organisations, which are leading in the data transformation process. "They are taking advantage of the capability to digitise medical records. The second is education. With this pandemic, education has been transformed. There are now a lot of requirements for schools to supply services through digital systems.
"And then there is, of course, the banking sector." Banking was always ahead in the digitising data, he said, but now banking with digital currency which is a sector that is growing very quickly, the banking system continues to experience changes to meet the demands brought by digital currency."
Asked where the Caribbean stands, in his estimation, on the path toward digitisation, Martinez said he believes the region has a long way to go. Regarding data protection, in particular, because of how quickly it must evolve. "There are new ways that people are trying to access data illegally. One of the actions we take at APC is that we have contracted companies that help us find vulnerabilities in our software and digital solutions and solve them before malicious attacks happen."
He said this has to be the way organisations in the region must approach digitisation and data protection. "We must be proactive, prepared and preventative. Avoiding data breaches will continue to be a must in the Caribbean and Latin America."
Asked how APC protects data stored on the cloud, Martinez said, "We also provide solutions which ensure the management of digital infrastructure is protected by encrypting information using firewalls and authentication factors." Data encryption is a security mechanism where information is encoded. When encrypted, meaning scrambled or made unreadable, data can only be decrypted by a user with the correct decoding key. Firewalls are network security features that monitor the flow of network traffic, permitting or blocking data transmission based on security settings, while authentication factors include passwords to access or transfer data.
"We are going to see the digital transformation happening at a faster pace in the years to come. So, we have to be ready throughout the region, especially in the Caribbean, to keep up."
He said a key factor for the region should be ensuring networks capable of managing the amount of data that will be produced are developed. "That is why it is important to start deploying solutions like broadband, edge and 5G that will allow countries to become more digitised and benefit from the efficiency that a digitised country experiences. We have to be proactive in working to provide solutions that are safe and that protect data."
Data management and sustainability
Martinez said APC has been in the business of providing cloud services since the wider spread of the internet in the 1990s and has risen to become among the leaders in data and energy management.
"We provide solutions for cloud and edge data centres that provide reliability, business continuity and energy efficiency for data stored online. Our solutions provide the infrastructure to ensure they will be run 24 hours, seven days a week and that there will be no disturbances."
Martinez said one of the most important operating expenses of a data centre is energy consumption, and so, contributing to better energy management was among the company’s main objectives. He said the company does this by helping people and organisations reach their sustainability goals while storing, sharing and protecting digital data.
"Cloud service providers’ work is connected to energy." This he said is because all the data processed requires the consumption of energy used to operate data processing and data management technologies.
"We are not only communicating, but we are measuring all the physical elements of the world and converting it to digital forms, those being information that can be stored and managed in the cloud."
Speaking about the impact of cloud storage on sustainability, Martinez said, "Energy used by data centres and cloud systems across the world account for three per cent of the total amount of energy consumed. From the energy consumed across the globe, 70 per cent is electrical energy and the other 30 per cent is fossil fuel.
So, what we want to do is ensure energy used by data centres does not contribute to the carbon footprint. We want to ensure it is produced by sustainable or renewable sources of energy."
Asked how the technology works at its current global utility-scale, he said the company has a complete portfolio of energy management systems that allow them to provide solutions for anyone, from people working at home to large corporations.
"We are providing solutions to make individuals and companies more efficient. We are reducing loss of data, improving capacity for proper data management and to helping users obtain as much data as possible with as little possible energy being consumed."
The company has been gathering data on data consumption patterns by people to help them improve efficiency. This Martinez said has been improved by the incorporation of artificial intelligence and automated systems.
APC works with telecommunications companies and internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.