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Safaricom offers locally hosted cloud service

Plans to run its Mpesa pan-African mobile money offering on new platform

Safaricom has launched its new cloud offering by pledging to host its Mpesa mobile money service locally, aiming to reassure the market after downtimes caused by international transit-link failures.

The new Safaricom Cloud service offers virtualized services in computing, network and storage. Safaricom is targeting the hosting platform at government services, big and small corporations that would like to reduce their IT spending, or those with no IT departments. It has invested US$150 million in its cloud service and is expecting to invest a further $200 million in the next few years.

"The launch means that businesses that have been hosting abroad can now migrate and have the services hosted locally at much cheaper rates," said Silvia Mulinge, Safaricom General Manager, Enterprise Business Unit. "Safaricom is also providing an avenue for startups to grow their businesses and expand as revenue grows," Mulinge added.

The company will use the platform to host Mpesa, Mulinge added.

Just last week, Mpesa, used for utilities payment as well as general e-commerce, was down for a day, causing public complaints.

"We have a plan to host Mpesa locally in order to reduce downtimes that we have recently faced," Mulinge said.

Safaricom faces a major task of convincing businesses, which point to reliability issues stemming from connectivity and power availability, to host locally.

Mulinge says Safaricom has an extensive IT infrastructure and 22.5 percent share in Africa's TEAMS fiber optic cable, with redundant links on the SEACOM and EASSY cables.

With concerns about security rising due to Kenya's conflict with Somalia, Safaricom says its cloud environment resides in a secure environment with backup, renewable energy to guarantee up times.

"At the network and software level, we have partnered with EMC and Cisco to ensure the servers, storage facilities and network environments are fully secured against threats," added Mulinge. "At the user access level, we have implemented a two-step authentication that uses both user-name logins and remote secure authentication (RSA) technologies to control and allow access for authorized users only."

In addition to Cisco and EMC, Safaricom has partnered with Seven Seas Technology, a pan-African tech company to oversee and train managers on cloud services.

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