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Should backup be well and truly archived within financial services?

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New jobs network set to challenge gender bias in financial services

By Leon Adato, Head Geek,SolarWinds

As each year passes, it seems the IT technology landscape becomes even more complex. With attention turning to containerisation, the rising adoption of flash storage, the debated benefits of hyper convergence, and the increasing role of machine learning, businesses are looking to maximise their potential by leveraging the latest and greatest innovations.

But it’s not just new innovations that businesses need to be wary of. In a world where more and more businesses rely on IT technology—from banks to retailers, utilities companies to hospitals—ensuring your IT infrastructure is reliable is imperative.

Having “a backup” is a simple enough concept for most of us to grasp, whether we’re technologists or everyday technology users. We understand how and why we should hit save, and have multiple versions stored both on our work systems and in the cloud. Moreover, with many companies’ sights set on tackling bigger beasts like digital transformation, is backup an issue that we should just consider solved?

Far from it. Reliable, robust, recoverable backups remain central to the smooth running of operations. In a world where cyberattacks are the norm and sensitive data is at risk, having a backup solution in place shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise. Financial services companies need to ensure sensitive data is protected and that systems can get back up and running as soon as possible if they fall victim to such attacks.

But the technology we use to accomplish that goal keeps reinventing itself. The old systems never completely go away, even as newer options come onto the scene. Too often, this results in a complicated mix of tools and media that can be a real headache to manage. According to a recent survey of the SolarWinds THWACK® user community, which consists of over 150,000 registered members, almost one in ten respondents admitted to being dissatisfied with their current backup setup. Forty-two percent cited cost, and 31 percent chose complexity as their most significant pain point.

So, what backup solution should companies be using? And how can the operational complexity of backup be reduced?

The evolution of backup

Backup has been around for a long time and, over the years, we have seen backup move from tape, to disk, to the cloud. In the earliest days of magnetic media, the tape WAS the data and so a simple tape-to-tape copy fulfilled backup needs. Soon after media made the leap to fixed disks, the venerable “Grandfather-Father-Son” rotation scheme was established, where segments of data would be archived to tape drives once a day, week, or month, and these would then be loaded onto trucks and put away for storage in a secondary place.

When NAS and SAN came along a few years later, things changed, but not too dramatically—data was mirrored to other parts of the storage array, creating the idea of “near-line backup.” While this theoretically should have made archiving less cumbersome, companies began using both forms for backup, which made the process more complex.

After SAN came virtualisation, which had a dramatic impact on the world of backup from a philosophical standpoint. Now the server WAS the data and mirroring it to another part of the SAN achieved a complete snapshot of that server at a certain point in time, operating system, data, and all. But while virtualisation has brought new facets to backup, it still requires data storage. So, although many companies will have jumped on board with virtualisation and have 80% of their servers virtualised, some physical servers remain in most organisations. Meanwhile, the data is still there in all its forms and still requires backup services. This melange of physical and philosophical approaches often leads to organisations supporting more than one backup product, as well as more than one type of media on which to store backups. Each new wave is additive, not fully replacing what came before, making the whole backup process more complex.

But then the cloud came along, bringing the potential to take away some of this complexity. Rather than putting archives onto a truck and into storage, backup data could be put onto a second datacentre in the cloud, making the archiving process much more efficient and cost-effective. Backup applications hosted in the cloud make it simpler to manage various types of backups, at multiple locations, from virtually anywhere. However, like any bandwagon, many traditional backup vendors have simply bolted on cloud capabilities, rather than developing true cloud-native backup solutions.

For the person responsible for backup, the advent of new technologies has often made managing backup (more of) a headache. On-premises backup solutions not only require one to buy software, they require a server, an operating system for that server, as well as the storage system on which the backups will reside (whether that is tape, a local disk array, or SAN). If this responsible person ALSO wants cloud capabilities, they now must find a cloud vendor too—which means managing multiple invoices and contracts from multiple vendors, and of course, multiple support tickets when something goes wrong.

Is backup really solved?

When it comes to backup, many businesses don’t view it as a core business challenge that needs addressing, and it is often seen as a problem that has been solved. It is of course, an imperative for every business to have their data backed up. Which means companies, from all sectors, will have a backup in place. Box ticked, job done.

But what happens if that backup fails? If a bank is victim to a cyberattack and loses all of its data (be that just for the day, or week, or longer), what happens next? Or, if part of the archives lives in a remote office and is damaged by a water leak, how do you get that data back?

This becomes a growing concern when you take into consideration new regulations like GDPR. One of the key principles of GDPR is the right to be forgotten—and if that data has been compromised (not lost, but partially inaccessible), can a company ensure it is compliant?

Plenty of companies invest in training for their IT professionals, and employ a full-time backup admin. But what happens if the person responsible for a highly complex multi-vendor solution leaves without training someone as, well, their backup?

Making backup simple

Backup needn’t be a painful exercise. Yes, it is something that every business must factor in, but it shouldn’t be a burden—it should be a hero technology that is relied upon, and treated with care. It has the power to potentially save a business from disaster—so minimising risk from backup should be a business priority.

There are a number of factors businesses should therefore consider when looking for a backup solution. Is a dedicated backup specialist needed, or can anyone in IT effectively run backup? Can your backup solution be easily tested? Can it work natively in the cloud, alleviating the costs and complexity of managing multiple media, multiple vendors, and multiple contracts?

Ultimately, backup isn’t something that should be considered solved, and could continue to evolve to meet individual business needs. If financial services companies can implement a backup solution that alleviates the risk of losing data, is easy to manage, and can effectively run in the cloud, it will certainly be one less worry.

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CEO Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®

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Global Banking & Finance Review has awarded Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO of Resource Group, Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020 in recognition of his vision, strategy and strong leadership that have contributed greatly to Resource Group’s success in winning the Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020 in this Global Banking & Finance Awards®.

CEO Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards® 1

Resource Group is an investment group with a portfolio of diversified businesses that capitalizes on technology and human talent for value creation. The company has proven that it has gone the extra mile to develop innovative solutions aimed at improving people’s lives and helping Lebanon transition toward a knowledge-based economy. Global Banking and Financial Review, the renowned online and print magazine identified a number of areas that Resource Group has excelled. The company has been awarded Most Innovative Holding Group Middle East 2020, and Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO, receives the award for Technology CEO of the Year Middle East 2020. Under his leadership, Resource Group has grown from a family security-printing business to a diversified international investment group, with a portfolio of companies across 10 sectors in over 75 countries.

Wanda Rich, editor Global Banking & Finance, said “Mr. Itani took the security printing business to another level and expanded into different technology verticals in an impressive list of success stories”. The list includes digital security, smartcard manufacturing, mobile value added solutions, cyber security and secure communication solutions, telecom infrastructure and managed services, elections supply chain services, lottery systems and operations, mobile and virtual reality games, among others.

Resource Group’s focus on technology has had a constructive and tangible impact on government automation and on citizen experience in target markets.

Editor Wanda Rich says “We are proud to offer Resource Group these prestigious awards and wish them continued success and growth into 2021 during these challenging economic times”.

Global Banking and Finance Review is a renowned online and print magazine. The magazine’s website alone receives over 7 million page views annually. Global Banking and Finance Review provides a balanced view with formative and independent news from the financial community. The Global Banking & Finance Awards® were created to recognize companies of all sizes that are prominent in particular areas of expertise and excellence within the global financial community. The awards are known throughout the global banking and financial community. They reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the financial sector.

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Bouncing back in 2021: Digital Transformation is no longer a choice as dependence on 5G, IoT and Data increases in society and business

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5G and Open Banking: Explosive growth or business as usual?

By Ivan Ericsson, Head of Quality Management, Expleo Group Limited

The global pandemic has put enormous strain on businesses and brought into sharp focus the importance of being agile, adaptable and able to increase the pace of innovation and change at short notice – catapulting technology right to the top of the agenda for many organisations.

As the economy works to get back on its feet, technology is only going to play a bigger role in our lives. At Expleo, as experts in digital transformation and the reliable implementation of technological innovations, we’ve outlined the biggest tech-driven trends that we expect to see in 2021 and beyond.

1)     “Digital transformation” no longer a choice

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s that they need to be poised to respond to abrupt market disruption at any moment, making digital transformation mandatory overnight.

With no room for delay, hugely complex corporations – that have historically been slow to adopt technology – have had to accelerate their reliance on technology just to keep afloat in recent months. Digital change, at speed, has become the norm.

Even last year, the idea of an unscheduled video conference call might put people on edge – now most of us wouldn’t think twice about calling a colleague over Teams or Zoom even for a 2-minute conversation. At the same time, social infrastructure has moved with the needs of its users, with telecoms giants strengthening and opening up networks so we can keep communicating despite social distancing.

There are now very few excuses left for operating in a non-digital way. All businesses need to be intelligent businesses that can change direction nimbly, with speed, confidence and composure. As we see more businesses putting this into practice, it’ll likely result in an increased number embracing and normalising some of the behaviours of tech-savvy giants like Apple and Amazon, who have no doubt thrived during this period.

Their success can largely be attributed to normalising an agile approach. By ensuring all applications have testing facilities built in – a “quality shadow” if you will – it allows for continuous improvements, and the ability to change direction quickly and confidently, when needed. This is particularly valuable today as the world becomes more fast-paced and increasingly unpredictable.

2)     Big data/AI/predictive analytics

We’re moving into a space where big data can be extracted from the most seemingly innocuous places. In a hyper-connected world, a move as simple as a dog walk could offer huge swathes of data to the right companies. Many businesses already realise the benefits of capturing and utilising big data, but not all have taken advantage of it. The businesses that move quickest are most likely to reap the rewards in a more impactful way than their ‘data shy’ competitors. Where data used to be a side effect of business operation, it is now the driving force.

As businesses begin to rely more heavily on data to make critical decisions, independent assurance becomes increasingly important to get those decisions right. Forward-thinking, data-driven organisations must therefore assure that the data is correct in the first place, to avoid giving businesses false confidence and risk them moving in the wrong direction – something that is rarely affordable in today’s competitive and fast-paced environment. If businesses are not 100% confident in assuring the quality and accuracy of their own data, they should look to a third party for support.

A key data trend we expect to see moving further into 2021 is the increased use of predictive analytics. At the moment, businesses will often use data analytics to give us insights into our past activities, or to tell us where we are right now. However, the real value lies in knowing where we are going and how we are going to get there. Data analytics will help to identify the optional levels that can be pulled to drive change and realise business benefit.

Secondly, as intuitive technology advances and becomes more accessible, we expect over the next 12 months to see companies of all sizes begin to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to drive intelligent analytics. In this context, AI refers to various technologies that allow machines to learn, sifting through ‘messy’ big data in order to find and unlock valuable predictive insights into future events. This allows businesses to better adapt their strategy to likely future outcomes and get a head start in the market.

However, with this ever-increasing emphasis on data and data protection, ethical AI will have a more prominent role to play in 2021 and beyond. Protected, usable Data is a by-product of good data security and privacy measures; however, the public remain wary of how their data is being used, particularly after the fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s use of data to influence an election[1]. Businesses, therefore, must give their customers confidence that their data is secure and protected.

3)     Moral relevance/corporate altruism

Research shows that young people are increasingly researching and considering the ethics of brands they’re purchasing from. And it won’t be long before this attitude starts seeping into every other aspect of their lives, with more and more people wanting to work for what they consider to be “purpose-driven” businesses.

Talent is the lifeblood of any company, so for big corporations, many of whom were born to create profit, this could put them in a tricky position. They might already be influencing society in a positive way – but this is unlikely to have ever been their main goal.

Moving forward, however, all organisations will have to start thinking about the “Triple Bottom Line”. That means considering the environmental and social impact of your business, alongside your commercial imperative.

We’ll soon see a mindset switch across businesses, from ‘competing’ to ‘advancing’. Instead of wanting to be the “best,” the question will be, how can I better serve the world around me?

In line with this, businesses will have to start thinking more about how to use tech for good, as we’ve seen with the likes of Microsoft Teams connecting tens of millions of people every day, during this very dark time[2].

2021 is likely to bring even more inroads when it comes to using technology to improve society, whether it’s developing bespoke problem-solving technologies or using IT to ‘eco-proof’ existing sectors, the goal for businesses is to rise to this challenge and build a better future for people and the planet through the use of technology. But all organisations will continue to need to be able to justify technology use and prove that they’re using it ethically, and in a secure manner.

4)     5G new networks – just about all big trends are driven by/reliant upon faster networks – particularly relevant for a more distributed workforce

Greater access and utilisation of 5G networks across the country will underpin and accelerate all of the key trends discussed. Everything we do on our smart devices we can expect to do at higher speed, greater capacity and with lower lag times.

As our digital footprints extend beyond simple web browsing and into our daily lives through smart technology, we are creating huge amounts of data every minute. This vast flow of data is increasingly dependent on new high bandwidth networks to facilitate it. Therefore, the merging of technology and engineering will become critical in ensuring big data is carried successfully to drive analytics and drive business.

The fact we have managed to successfully work from home during COVID is a glowing recommendation for the quality of the networks as they exist today, and they will only get better.

The telecoms industry is already working overtime to ensure that people all over the country get reliable access to the internet – and the fact that there is still inequality in this area proves just how challenging this is. But, in line with this trend toward hyper automation, which will make data extraction and analysis a part of everyday life for businesses, the consolidation of tech and engineering will be ever more important.

Forward-thinking companies will look to incorporate 5G networks into their business strategy. This could be from an internal perspective to enhance the abilities of their remote workforce. Alternatively, this could relate to their own products or offerings – developing an internet of things (IoT) strategy, improve user experience, or bring products to market faster by analysing big data and adapting quicker. Either way, with increasingly improved networks, businesses are expected to take advantage of the huge increase in accessible and usable data.

Concluding comments:

For businesses to truly reap the benefits of these new technologies, they must be developed and adopted in the right way.

Quality assurance, trust and security are three key requirements that the technology of the future depends on to succeed. Having these requirements at the heart of any digital transformation will ensure that systems perform reliably, having been tested and assured.

By prioritising a seamless customer experience combined with an ability to create, test, and scale digital solutions and operationalise at pace, businesses will be in the best possible position to take advantage of the potential being unlocked by these new technologies.

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Ahli Bank, Oman, is SunTec’s 50th customer for its Indirect Taxation Solution

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Ahli Bank, Oman, is SunTec’s 50th customer for its Indirect Taxation Solution 2

SunTec’s GCC VAT compliance solution to help Ahli Bank automate end-to-end VAT compliance process, manage regulatory changes, and seamlessly integrate it with the existing IT ecosystem

SunTec, the world’s #1 relationship-based pricing and billing company and the provider of #1 GST and VAT compliance solution for Banks and Financial Services in GCC and India, has partnered with Ahli Bank, Oman, to provide its GCC VAT compliance solution.

The win is a landmark one for SunTec as it marks the 50th customer for its indirect taxation solution. SunTec has garnered 24 customers in India and this is the 26th customer in the Middle East to acquire the solution.

VAT is likely to be introduced in Oman in early 2021 and Ahli Bank has taken the proactive step of adopting a VAT compliance solution to ensure operational efficiency, enhance revenue, and augment customer experience.

Amit Dua, President – Client Facing Groups, SunTec, said, “We are delighted to partner with Ahli Bank, Oman in what marks a historic win, in their journey to ensure VAT compliance. We understand that the VAT landscape is evolving within the GCC, and therefore, our solution offers agility to respond to these changing regulatory requirements. With the Xelerate platform and GCC VAT compliance solution, Ahli Bank can digitize the entire VAT compliance process and comply with least number of changes to their existing technology infrastructure.”

He added, “VAT is a crucial step that the GCC countries have taken to implement tax regimes. It is imperative for banks and financial institutions to have a robust and scalable solution to accommodate their specific needs. Ahli Bank joins the list of more than 20 banks who have adopted our GCC VAT Compliance solution.  I’m proud to say that approximately 3 billion transactions per annum are processed through our GCC VAT/ GST compliance solution across our client base.”

Said Abdullah Al Hatmi, CEO at Ahli Bank, added: “It is extremely crucial for us to be ready for VAT compliance. We are very happy to partner with SunTec to deploy GCC VAT compliance solution. With SunTec we will have a single solution in place covering all aspects of VAT compliance and we will be future-proofed given that any future regulatory changes will be handled by the solution with ease.”

SunTec’s GCC VAT compliance solution based on the Xelerate platform will enable the bank to smoothly comply with GCC VAT regulations and manage potential regulatory changes with ease. The single end-to-end solution helps automate the entire VAT compliance process including centralized rule-based tax determination, input tax recovery, tax invoice, reconciliation, corrections, adjustments, statements, and regulatory reporting.

SunTec GCC VAT Compliance solution is architected to meet the unique needs of banks and financial services firms and can easily integrate with existing IT systems. The solution is designed to process all taxable transactions across business lines and applications, reduce cost of compliance, mitigate potential risk of compliance violations, penalties, and reputational risk.

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