In the past the network was used primarily to connect a few PCs together - along with a peripheral device or two, and streamline communications in order to improve the efficiency of operations in business. It has always been a critical tool but was generally confined to the larger organisation or company and its value determined by the results of a trial-and-error type approach.
Today the corporate network is far more accessible and the concept of remote connectivity, service and support a lot more established. Innovation and improved understanding of the network environment is driving costs down and creating greater access to infrastructure.
The result is that it is now plausible for any sized organisation to acquire and implement networking infrastructure to expand connectivity and capture what would have been otherwise a largely untapped resource.
Reliable service delivery is what differentiates in this market and the network has to be the cornerstone of any strategy.
Networking solutions and advanced infrastructure (particularly from a wireless and mobile point of view) is no longer the exclusive domain of larger, established enterprises. Today the SoHo environment shows expansion and a true ability to use the network for effective communication and service delivery.
Whereas in years past there was always a debate about whether or not it made business sense to invest in mobile professionals and kit out employees accordingly, today it is an expected part of virtually any job specification.
Social network platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, Blogging and Twitter are being brought into corporate development plans and are seen as being valuable assets in the broader communications strategy. A network on any level is now considered non-negotiable in business.
The combination of innovation in solution development, the increase in skills and focused attention to training and knowledge has transformed the image of the network, positioning this resource at the top of the priority list amongst decision makers.
The fact is that the network environment continues to show growth and there is also excitement about the impact of issues such as cloud computing and the social network.
This is certainly an interesting time to be involved in networking and networking solution development and integration.
If one considers the practicalities related to remote client support, business process management and architecture, it is clear that aspects such as triple play (transmission of multi-media including video, data and voice over a single channel) will have an increasingly important role to play in networks going forward.
The demand for all-in-one devices that meet the mobile functionality requirements of the modern consumer, that is also cost effective and sustainable, will mean ever increasing levels of competition for operators across the supply channel.
And this channel is not only relevant to South and Southern Africa. Our neighbours throughout Africa continue to invest heavily in telecommunication and mobile connectivity, with 3G established and the promise of 4G on the horizon, HSDPA and much more.
There is opportunity to capatilise on the need for sophisticated solutions that are designed with more capacity and capability, but will not break the bank.
Vendors, distributors, suppliers and resellers are aware of this and will fight for any and every lead. It goes without saying that we are heading for a very interesting, very energetic and vigorous period in the overall development of networks in South Africa and into Africa.