By Neil Stobart, Vice President, Global System Engineering, Cloudian
The challenge of data storage and protection is a familiar one for the financial services sector. Most banks and financial institutions are required by law to securely store the data they collect for varying periods – up to seven years in the UK.
As the quantity and complexity of data has increased over time, IT decision-makers responsible for data storage have had to carefully balance security, compliance useability and cost factors. Last year’s homeworking revolution added another layer of complexity to these challenges.
The remote working curveball
Previously, most organisations had a workforce that was largely confined to just one place – their offices. This meant employees mostly worked on the same physical network as their company’s file server.
Since the move to remote working, it has become much harder for banks and financial institutions to know and control the networks and devices their employees are using. A much larger percentage of employees now store valuable data not only on their laptops but also on their smartphones and tablets. This is a concerning thought when you consider that 38% of iOS apps and 43% of Android apps include at least one high-risk vulnerability. Each of these endpoints represents a “mini data centre” that needs to be backed up properly.
And this is no “temporary blip”. Despite initial scepticism from many banking bosses – including Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan CEOs David Solomon and Jamie Dimon – the global shift to remote working will likely be at least partially permanent. According to recent PwC research, 69% of US banks expect to have 60% of their workforce working from home at least once a week going forward. In fact20% of new jobs currently being advertised in the UK financial services sector are for remote positions.
Because data is likely to remain widely distributed across organisations’ infrastructures for the foreseeable future, endpoint backup must become an IT priority. On the one hand, traditional file servers aren’t particularly effective for remote work. Data typically needs to be shared locally, presenting issues when it comes to remote collaboration and managing data across multiple locations. Plus, more employees are now using public internet connections to complete their work – which adds a security concern.
Compliance is another key issue for banks and financial institutions, requiring them to have visibility and control of data storage and protection. However, if remote employees use their own smartphones or tablets, employers might not have full visibility into what data is stored on them.
Add to this the fact that cloud-based file-sharing services – which employees are now accessing from a range of locations – are often outside of IT control, and the scale of regulatory and compliance concerns becomes clear. So, what can financial services organisations do to mitigate the security and compliance issues related to their new distributed IT environments?
Introducing object storage
For many, object storage is emerging as a great solution. Object storage infrastructure can cover multiple data centres, with data coming into one site and being instantly replicated across all the other sites to ensure a single source of truth. This puts the data closer to the different groups of people that need it, as well as providing assurance that employees are accessing the most up-to-date documents from wherever they are. An additional advantage is its geo-distribution capabilities mean data can be accessed from anywhere, while still being managed from one location.
Because it adds comprehensive metadata to each file, object storage eliminates the tiered file structure used in file storage. Unlike traditional enterprise storage, object storage consolidates massive data sets into a single, easily-managed environment – a storage pool. Object storage is not an architectural enhancement, but rather a fundamentally different approach to storage, with benefits tailored for the large-capacity needs of banks and financial institutions.
An agile future
According to KPMG research, 68% of banking CEOs believe that agility is key to driving growth. Even when looking further than solving the remote working challenge, object storage is much more scalable than traditional storage and represents a more agile solution for banks and financial institutions. They can seamlessly and cost-efficiently scale both capacity and performance through additional nodes, all without any risk of disruption or downtime. When linked with endpoint protection APIs, this means that data snapshots can continuously be sent back to a central repository, without organisations having to worry about running out of space.
The global upheaval caused by the pandemic has enabled financial services organisations to think differently about their IT systems, and to make changes in areas that previously wouldn’t have been prioritised – such as endpoint backup. Ultimately, in the “new normal”, data management will be more important than ever, so IT leaders would do well to take this opportunity to future-proof their organisation with object storage.