By Donna J. Regan
Efficiency. To a financial institution, it has many meanings. It could mean having knowledgeable and capable staff to handle customers. It could mean discovering ways to save energy and becoming more energy efficient. It could mean the ability to produce critical documents at any given moment in response to an audit or government request. It could mean having computer systems working at optimal capacity and with no outages and downtime. But any way you want to define efficiency, it always comes back to the data center – it is the backbone of a financial institution and when it’s efficient, so is everything else.
IT automation is taking a data center’s more manual tasks and making them automated – making them regularly occurring and streamlined. It’s making critical information instantly “visible” or completely accessible at the “flick of a switch.”
Automatic Updates & Upgrades: Financial institutions spend a lot of time training their staff. Keeping staff well-trained and current with the newest regulations keeps the flow of business moving at a constant pace. It’s a necessity. The data center is no different. Keeping your infrastructure current is crucial. Many organizations spend countless hours trying to keep up with patches and OS upgrades. This is where IT automation can help. No longer do institutions need to rely on the manual and time-consuming process of searching for patch updates and upgrades. With automatic upgrading and updating, IT staff can focus their efforts on more critical tasks. They become more efficient.
Prevent Outages & Downtime: Uptime is always a concern with financial institutions. How much would it cost if your systems were unavailable for a minute? An hour? A whole day? What if your customers were unable to access their account information? Nobody wants to have an outage like that. Keeping a data center running 99.99 percent of the time requires the ability for real-time visibility. In the case of an incident, it’s critical to pinpoint its source, document it and manage it.
Yet being prepared for an outage isn’t enough. Being able to prevent outages and keeping systems current is just as important. IT automation can help establish policies and procedures, create run books and establish blue prints. How many times have you heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? That isn’t just for the medical field – it applies to the data center as well. IT automation solutions can provide an information “dashboard” so you can visually monitor the health of your systems and deal with a problem the moment it arises. Keeping systems healthy by constantly monitoring and performing checks ensures productivity with this added efficiency.
Real-Time Reporting: One of the biggest benefits of IT automation for financial institutions is the ability for real-time reporting in the event of an audit. Government agencies don’t want to see the reports of last week’s back-up. When it comes to an audit, they want to see the most up-to-date information. IT automation gives IT staff the ability to run these reports virtually at the flick of a switch.
Compliance: SOX, GLBA and PCI seem like a bunch of jumbled letters to most people. But in the financial industry, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLBA) and Payment Card Industry (PCI) are far more than that. These acts and agencies are all centered on making customer information secure. Not only must it be secure, but access needs to be closely monitored and the information must be adequately retained. And if that wasn’t enough, IT staff need to keep up with compliance policy changes issued by these various agencies. How helpful would it be to have an automatic compliance policy update delivered right to your data center? There are IT automation solutions that can do just that. IT automation not only makes the compliance process more efficient, it keeps a data center current, thus avoiding costly fines or penalties.
In conclusion, IT automation is fast becoming not just a tool, but a methodology to keep organizations running efficiently. Because it’s methodology, or a particular way of conducting business, it’s a way of thinking that starts at the top and moves its way down through an organization. It’s the desire to automate, manage and create streamlined processes. IT automation has a ripple effect. An efficient data center will lead to efficient systems and support, efficient processes and procedures, efficient staff and even energy efficiency. It’s this desire to become more efficient that will translate into cost savings and higher productivity.
IT automation is not the only way for financial institutions to become efficient, but it is an option no institution should ignore if wants to lower costs and increase productivity. Being efficient isn’t a wish, it’s a necessity.
Donna J. Regan (email@example.com) is product marketing director at Regan Technologies Corp. (www.regantech.com). She can be reached at (203) 284-4125.