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Avoiding a ‚€ėdowntime‚€ô disaster Back  
Financial services companies need to give time and energy to their data storage systems if they are to avoid major problems says Aidan Higgins.
It sounds straightforward enough to say that money makes the financial world go round, but it would be more accurate to say that data makes the world go round. Data is the lifeblood of any organisation, none more so than in a financial institution. How we move, control, manage and use data is critical to achieving and maintaining competitive advantage in today‚€ôs business environment as its loss or unavailability can have a devastating effect on a business.

Data storage is no longer just an IT manager‚€ôs decision, it is a fundamental strategic business decision, and one which is being affected by many contributing factors, including:

‚€Ę the slowdown in the US economy, now filtering into Europe, has resulted in the deferral of IT spend decisions and a more conservative approach, in anticipation of a storm which may not arrive
‚€Ę increased competition for financial business means that data has to be available 24 x 7 without interruption to ensure a constant and consistent service
‚€Ę the explosion of data as a result of internet and mobile technologies is evident in the fact that every 30 minutes results in 100 million new e-mails, 4 million new phone users and 12 million new internet users globally, thereby continuously increasing the requirements for data capacity and management
‚€Ę downtime costs in lost revenues, impacts on competitiveness and reputation and can incur costs due to litigation, outside of the fact that you could lose your business completely
‚€Ę it is increasingly difficult and more costly to employ trained knowledge workers to implement and manage your IT and storage systems

In the face of these challenges the most effective financial institution will seek to implement a data storage strategy that can reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and headcount requirements, while at the same time increase return on investment (ROI).

Downtime is probably one of the biggest business headaches in today‚€ôs technologically advanced working environment and the costs to any business are growing by the day. In the financial sector downtime is estimated to cost an institution $420,000 per hour in internet banking alone. We are all aware of the eBay disaster a number of years ago, when 22 hours downtime cost the company $60 billion. That‚€ôs just one of many horror stories which has hit the headlines over recent years and has become a potential nightmare that CEO‚€ôs everywhere need to plan against occurring.

However, the cost of downtime to a company‚€ôs reputation can be even more detrimental than the almost certain loss of customers and revenue. It can result in damaged corporate reputation through negative perceptions, but more alarming still is the fact that almost half of companies who lose their data and don‚€ôt have a back up will never do business again.

Financial institutions can be affected by downtime or data unavailability in many ways: imagine your ATM or online banking service being regularly unavailable, inconveniencing and potentially driving your customers to your competitors; online share dealing systems need to be available continuously in order to maintain your customer base; global branch networks can be jeopardised if head office systems are not available, but even more seriously your organisation could be in breach of the Securities and Exchange Commission if information has been lost or cannot be maintained indefinitely.

Why and how, we ask ourselves, do such disasters continue to happen? It tends to be a consequence of the one-size-fits-all approach taken in relation to storage by many companies and the vendors supplying to them. Storage is currently accounting for approximately 60 per cent of an organisation‚€ôs IT budgets. Only an average of 30 per cent of storage is being used as current server centric infrastructures cannot be accessed independently of its server/host to facilitate use by other machines/users. The remainder is totally under-utilised. The bottom line is that with storage, a one size / solution does not fit all - a storage platform must be tailored to suit the specific needs of a business and it must guarantee 100 per cent uptime to create a 24 x 7 environment, the expected norm for any business competing globally today.

100 per cent uptime means that your storage system is always available due to high availability software or integrated resilience in the storage hardware to ensure uninterrupted availability of information and applications at any one time of the day or night. It should also have an automated backup, which guarantees ease of data recovery in the event of user error or corruption. More importantly from an investment perspective, is a solution that is flexible and scaleable to facilitate updating and integration with existing and future systems and applications as the business requires. The outcome is an IT spend that never becomes redundant, rather it lays the foundation for a system that can truly change and expand with your business.

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