By Dave Shore
This is the second in a two-part series on disaster recovery and business continuity planning focusing on the technology and business ramifications of Sept. 11. In the first installment, the author examined whether current plans were adequate to cope with the initial disaster and discussed the effectiveness of longer-term business continuity plans.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, hit the financial sector particularly hard with respect to technology and business interruption. It has been estimated that 30,000 securities positions (defined as trading, sales, research, and operations positions) were lost in the seven WTC buildings, and another 15,000 to 20,000 positions in the adjacent buildings. TowerGroup, a research and advisory firm, estimates that it will cost $3.2 billion to replace technology at the affected securities firms. These losses taught hard lessons to companies across the country about the need for solid disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) planning.
In this article, I will examine a few unique ways that the Internet can assist both DR and BC planners within the investment-banking sector, and how this power can help to put forward more cost-effective solutions. These solutions can also be used in other ways during the normal course of everyday business.
Recovery costs and space requirements
The investment-banking sector has a huge investment in DR and BC planning for obvious reasons. Having dealers and traders out of commission for just a few minutes can mean millions in lost deals or trades.
Even in this high-stakes business sector, the development of business continuity plans is still in a state of infancy. Despite the size of the potential losses, typical disaster recovery plans only provide sufficient facilities for about 20 percent of the headcount to allow dealers/traders to close positions as quickly as possible. The planning assumption is that, in most situations, normal service to the primary office environment will be quickly restored.
A major factor in the decision to provide only limited recovery facilities is the cost of having “redundant” office space ready to use just in case of an incident. This is especially true in the investment-banking environment. Here, the technology piped to the desks of the dealers/traders is always utilizing the latest technology and is complex to set up. To replicate this in a DR site is equally expensive and complicated, especially when the temporary site has to be maintained to the same level as the real work environment. Providing desk space with a workstation at a DR site for a dealer/trader position is typically three times more expensive than an ordinary office desk utilizing general office systems.
Web-based products worth a look
The extra cost of DR sites can be offset somewhat with new products that exploit Internet capabilities. If dealers and traders could access the exact same information through the Internet as they can at their work location, they could conceivably work from anywhere—even from home.
One new product is Anyware from VistaSource, a Westboro, MA-based company. The software lets users retrieve and analyze real-time market data. The Web-enabled version is called the Anyware RealTime WebSheet, enabling enterprises to create a mobile or virtual trading desk. (If you prefer a services approach, RIMES Technologies Corporation offers Web–based services for traders through RIMES Online.)
With a solution such as Anyware, it would have been possible for those firms whose dealers and traders were affected by the events of 9/11 to simply have had staff continue working from home locations in the weeks and months after the disaster. The disaster recovery site itself would have needed only to implement a new server and install the firm’s analytics and models created with the Anyware software. For IT staff, this would mean that they would have to maintain only the server systems and would not have to connect all the data feeds to each dealer/trader desktop. For disaster recovery planners, all that remained would be to keep the backup server up to date and ready for action. This Web-based approach could be the answer to providing a quicker, cheaper solution for disaster recovery and business continuity planners.
Web-based solutions such as Anyware reduce the cost of disaster recovery provision for the investment bank and, at the same time, reduce the strain on the disaster recovery service providers. Business could be resumed as soon as the dealer/trader connects his or her laptop PC to the Internet, and the IT department gets the backup server up and running.
Dave Shore, a member of the Institute of Directors in the UK, has worked with computer technology within the financial services sector since 1970. A former IT director, his work was recognized with the IT For Business Excellence Award, cosponsored by The Sunday Times and Andersen Consulting. During 2000-2001, he was program director for a major global bank, and was responsible for reviewing its UK disaster recovery operations and establishing a business continuity plan to cover its 3,500 UK-based users. He has since established his own consultancy, Dave Shore Consulting.