Financial services: Build another datacentre, but why?

One large global banking firm wanted the ability to back up, restore and recover their data from their datacentres. It thought it had to build another datacentre – not too close, not too far away from its existing datacentre. The thing is this company probably has the facilities it needs on site already. It shouldn’t need to spend either £1, £100m or even £100bn on a new datacentre. That’s because none of its existing datacentres are operating at anywhere near to full capacity. So, what should that firm being doing? The obvious! It should focus on using the assets its already has, and it also needs to concentrate on its ability to allow workflow and collaboration with all of its key stakeholders.

Disaster recovery

But what about having a datacentre for disaster recovery? Yes there is often a need to have at least 3 disaster recovery sites, located far apart rather than in the same circles of disruption to ensure business continuity. Or, you may experience a scenario that British Airways recently faced in May this year, that left its passengers – its customers – stranded around the world when BA’s network was down in at least 70 countries and their staff couldn’t check passengers in.

The incident was blamed on a power failure that had been triggered in a London datacentre. Many questioned whether this was the case – with media stories stating someone had simply flicked the wrong switch. No matter what the cause was, at least 75,000 passengers were reportedly affected by the downtime. BA is now facing lost revenue, increased staffing costs, compensation claims and fines from regulators. So, rather than customers seeing BA as the quality brand they can trust, they may now think twice about booking their flight with the airline. Aside from the damage in reputation, the estimated outage cost of £150m is why organisations need to action disaster recovery plans immediately.

Protect yourself

The financial services industry is also facing the same broken reputation, dissatisfied customers and lost revenues. In some cases, where a data breach occurs, huge fines can be given by the regulators. Yet with regular audits of your IT infrastructure and data assets, and with a mind on prevention rather than seeking a cure while investing in back-up, storage, disaster recovery and data acceleration solutions, no calamity should ever need to occur. Furthermore, if a bank or some other financial services institution doesn’t audit its data requirements and its IT infrastructure it will remain in the dark about how it can really use what it already has efficiently and securely. 

With digital transformation and Big Data in full flight in financial services, as well as the impact of the latest and greatest in information communications technology, there is always the temptation to buy new technology without considering how your organisation can improve the efficiency and utilisation of what it already has. On the other hand there are existing technologies such as WAN optimisation that once was the saviour of slow WAN  can't no longer fulfil the requirements of  the industry with WAN speeds into the high Gigabit and the need to transfer rich, compressed and encrypted data.

So there should be some consideration about investing in technologies that permit you do more with what you already have. Data acceleration solutions such as Bridgeworks PORTrockIT do just that by using machine intelligence to mitigate data latency.

With accelerated data it’s possible, for example, to make the most of real-time data analysis – making big data analytics more timely and more accurate than if latency were allowed to continue to stall network performance.

Uptime and user experience

On the consumer side, with the uptake in online and mobile banking applications increasing and with banks such as Santander moving to hold remote, video meetings to arrange mortgages, there is a need to maintain a high level of uptime and user experience to ensure that they don’t jump off your plane to embrace a competitor’s financial services products. Financial services organisations therefore need to conduct regular research and impact assessments to consider how customers are affected by any given scenario. Businesses and consumers will want to jump off whenever they experience ongoing delays and any inability to go about their affairs with ease, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that investing in a new datacentre is the right answer to maintaining business and service continuity.

To take off efficiently, it’s important to understand why people think there is a need to buy the latest technology, and part of this process involves testing their assumptions that new technology is going to deliver the greatest Return On Investment. Arguably, technology that isn’t being completely utilised isn’t delivering the most ROI. In fact even most people’s smartphone’s aren’t used efficiently in that people tend to download a multitude of mobile applications, but only use a handful of them. 

Regular audits

So increased ROI can only be achieved by holding regular audits that support the right choices about technology. Why? Well they can save time, money and resources. Audits can also enable you to make the most of the expertise that is already available within your organisations at a time when there is a shortage of skills in areas such as cloud computing and IT security. The audits should also consider whether outsourcing really is the best choice for managing your IT infrastructure. 

Banks and financial services institutions are often dealing with highly sensitive data, and so there may be a cause for keeping as much of it as inhouse as possible – perhaps within a private cloud – to prevent data breaches. However, having any kind of cloud is no guarantee that data will be safe. Audits therefore need to test the IT security of your financial services organisation, and they should also include staff training to prevent ransomware breaches. Equally of importance is the need to test and plan your back-up and disaster recovery to ascertain whether there will be any weaknesses in your ability to seamlessly keep operating whenever a BA or ransomware-like incident occurs.

Know your assets 

So you can use your existing assets by knowing what they are, how much of them are actually being used and by assessing how much capacity you could still get out them. You should only invest in new technologies if they prove that they enable you to either increase the efficiency of your existing infrastructure – which might include a datacentre, or if they really do make a difference to your ROI. However, you might still find that they won’t be used to full capacity too. However, a data acceleration solution is an innovative technology that will permit you to do more with your existing infrastructure by mitigating data and network latency, and by reducing packet loss. With it you will be able to do more with while safeguarding your business, your customers, your brand, your time and money. 

Building another datacentre, or installing new network infrastructure, may sound good. But what will they really do? With regards to networks and latency there is only so much you can do within the limitations of the speed of light. Yet data acceleration supported by machine learning is an enabler, allowing encrypted data to be transmitted in ways that aren’t possible with WAN optimisation. So, in conclusion, find a balance between what you already have and can still use new technologies that make it possible to reduce your expenditure while increasing network, data analytics and storage performance. With this approach, you could become more competitive and flexible. 

David Trossell, CEO and CTO, Bridgeworks