Virtualisation

Using an IT solution that can provide the fastest (but still reliable) disaster recovery process is essential for the success of any business continuity plan. Although virtualisation is still considered leading edge technology by many business continuity specialists, it definitely brings a promise that, once fulfilled, can result in the cheapest, fastest, and most comprehensive solution for business continuity.

One great advantage of virtualisation over traditional BC (Business Continuity) methods is the relatively cheaper cost needed to achieve a certain level of business continuity assurance. Thus, more companies will find it easier to reach their required minimum for BC assurance. By contrast, some BCPs (Business Continuity Plan) based on a physical environment require companies to invest more than what they are willing to in order to reach the same minimum level of assurance.

Virtual machines, which can already encapsulate your operating systems and their corresponding applications, can be transported as a file from one machine running a compatible hypervisor to another. This makes the business continuity tasks of backup, replication, and restoration simpler and faster.

As of 2008, about 54% of IT professionals in Europe were willing to implement virtualisation within a maximum of two years. Furthermore, the expected compound annual growth rate of installed virtualised servers from 2008 to 2012 is already pegged at 33%.

If you want your organisation to take advantage of the benefits of this revolutionary technology, we’d be more than willing to help you discover what it can do for you. Then once you decide to make that transition to virtualisation, we can guide you every step of the way.

  • As not all applications are suited for virtualisation (e.g. some are too demanding on I/O and memory access), we’ll start by reviewing your entire IT system to see which portions can be implemented on a virtualized environment.
  • Using virtualisation and replication, we can conduct disaster recovery tests using up-to-date data without interrupting operations in your main IT site. Running these tests will increase your team’s preparedness and will allow you to discover possible weak points.
  • Provide a simple but comprehensive protection and backup system that encapsulates not only data, but also system configurations and application installations. This kind of setup allows for faster and easier disaster recovery operations. Because of these same characteristics, you can enjoy zero downtime while performing scheduled maintenance operations.
  • Since virtual machines are hardware-independent and transparent to operating systems, we can help you run a mix of legacy and new systems as well as open source and proprietary systems, allowing for more flexibility in your BCP budgeting.

We can also assist you with the following:

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Spreadsheet Risks in Banks

No other industry perhaps handles such large volumes of critical financial data more than the banking industry. For decades now, spreadsheets have become permanent fixtures in the front-line reporting tool sets of banks, providing organised information when and where needed.

But as banks enter into a period of heightened credit risks, elevated levels of fraud, and greater regulatory scrutiny, many are wondering if continued reliance on spreadsheets is a wise decision for banks today.

The downfall of Lehman Brothers which eventually led to its filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 15, 2008, served as a wake up call for many institutions across the globe to make a serious examination of their own risk management practices. But would these reforms include evaluating the security of user developed applications (UDAs), the most common of which are spreadsheets, and putting specific guidelines as to when they can – or cannot be – used?

Banks and Spreadsheet Use

Banks have been known to utilise spreadsheets systems for many critical functions because most personnel are well-acquainted with them, and the freedom of being able to develop customised reports without needing to consult with the IT department offers flexibility and convenience. In fact, more than having a way to do financial budgeting and analysing customer profitability, even loan officers and trade managers have become reliant on spreadsheets for risk management reporting and for making underwriting decisions.

But there are more than a few drawbacks to using spreadsheets for these tasks, and the sooner bank executives realise these, the sooner they can adopt better solutions.

General Limitations

Spreadsheets are far from being data base systems and yet more often than not, they are expected to act as such, with figures constantly added and formulas edited to produce the presumably right set of reports.

In addition, data integrity is always a cause for concern as most values in spreadsheets are entered as manual inputs. Even the mere misplacement of a comma or a negative sign, or an inadvertent ?edit? to a formula can also be a source of significant changes in the outcome.

Confidentiality risk is also another drawback of the use of spreadsheets in banks as these tools do not have adequate?access controls to limit access to only authorised individuals. Pertinent financial information that fall into the wrong hands can lead to a whole new set of problems including the possibility of fraud.

Risks in Trading

For trading transactions, spreadsheets can prove to be of immense use – but only for small market volumes. As trade volumes increase and the types vary, spreadsheets are no longer a viable solution and may likely become more of a hindrance, with calculations taking longer in the face of bigger transaction amounts and growing transaction data.

And in trading, there is always the need for rigorous computational functions. Computing for the Value at Risk (VaR) for large portfolios for instance, is simply way beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets. Banks that persist in using them are increasing the risk of loss on those portfolios. Or, they can be opening up?opportunities for fraud?as Allied Irish Bank (in the case of John Rusnak – $690 million) learned the hard way.

Risks in Underwriting

Bankers who use spreadsheets as their main source of information for underwriting procedures also face certain limitations. Loan transactions require that borrowers? financial data be centralised and easily accessible to risk officers and lending officers involved in making decisions. With spreadsheets, there is no simple and secure way of doing that. Information can be pulled from different sources – individual tax returns, corporate tax documents, partnership documents, audited financial statements – hence there is difficulty in verifying that these reports adhere to underwriting policies.

Spreadsheet control and monitoring

Financial institutions which are having difficulty weaning themselves from the convenience and simplicity that spreadsheets offer are looking for possible control solutions. Essentially, they want to find ways that allow them to continue using these UDAs and yet somehow eliminate the?spreadsheet risks?and limitations involved.

Still, the debate goes back and forth on whether adequate control measures can be implemented on spreadsheets so that that the risks are mitigated. Many services have come forward to herald innovative solutions for better spreadsheet management. But at the end of the day, there really is no guarantee that such solutions would suffice.

More Spreadsheet Blogs


Spreadsheet Risks in Banks


Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry


How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence


Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?


Disadvantages of Spreadsheets


Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment


Spreadsheet Fraud


Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework


Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations


Spreadsheet Risk Issues


Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back


Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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Malware

In the past, viruses were created with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc on the infected systems. A large fraction of today’s malware, on the other hand, are designed to generate revenues for the creator. Spyware, botnets, and keyloggers steal information from your system or control it so that someone else can profit. In other words, the motivation for making them is now more attractive than before.

Keyloggers can reveal your usernames, passwords, PIN numbers, and other authentication information to their creators by recording your key strokes. This information can then be used for breaking into various accounts: credit cards, payment programs (like PayPal), online banks, and others. You’re right, keyloggers are among the favourite tools of individuals involved in identity theft.

Much like the viruses of old, most present day malware drain the resources, such as memory and hard disk space, of contaminated systems; sometimes forcing them to crash. They can also degrade network performance and in extreme cases, may even cause a total collapse.

If that’s not daunting enough, imagine an outbreak in your entire organisation. The damage could easily cost your organisation thousands of euros to repair. That’s not even counting yet the value of missed opportunities.

Entry points for malware range from optical disks, flash drives, and of course, the Internet. That means, your doors could be wide open to these attacks at this very moment.

Now, we’re not here to promise total invulnerability, as only an unplugged computer locked up in a vault will ever be totally safe from malware. Instead, this is what we’ll do:

  • Perform an assessment of your computer usage practices and security policies. Software and hardware alone won’t do the trick.
  • Identify weak points as well as poor practices and propose changes wherever necessary. Weak points and poor practices range from the use of perennial passwords and keeping old, unused accounts to poorly configured firewalls.
  • Install malware scanners and firewalls and configure them for maximal protection with minimal effect on network and system performance.
  • Implement regular security patches.
  • Conduct a regular inspection on security policy compliance as well as a review of the policies to see if they are up to date with the latest threats.
  • Keep an audit trail for future use in forensic activities.
  • Establish a risk management system.
  • Apply data encryption where necessary.
  • Implement a backup system to make sure that, in a worst case scenario, archived data is safe.
  • Propose data replication so as to mitigate the after effects of data loss and to ensure your company can proceed with ‘business as usual’.

Once we’ve worked with you to make all these happen, you’ll be able to sleep better.

Other defences we’re capable of putting up include:

How SOA can help Transformation

Undoubtedly, today’s business leaders face myriad challenges ranging from fierce market competition to increasing market unpredictability. In addition, the modern consumer is more informed and in control of what, where and how they purchase. Couple these challenges with effects of globalization, and you will appreciate that need for business transformation is more of a necessity than a privilege.

As recent business trends show, top companies are characterized by organizational and operational agility. Instead of being shaken by rapid technological changes and aftershocks associated with market changes, they are actually invigorated by these trends. In order to survive in these turbulent times, business leaders are opting to implement corporate transformation initiatives to develop leaner, more agile and productive operations. In line with this, service oriented architecture (SOA) has emerged as an essential IT transformation approach for implementing sustainable business agility.

By definition, service oriented architecture is a set of principles and techniques for developing and designing software in form of business functionalities. SOA allows users to compile together large parts of functionality to create ad hoc service software entirely from the template software. This is why it is preferred by CIOs that are looking to develop business agility. It breaks down business operations into functional components (referred to as services) that can be easily and economically merged and reused in applicable scenarios to meet evolving business needs. This enhances overall efficiency, and improves organizational interconnectivity.

SOA identifies shortcomings of traditional IT transformation approaches that were framed in monolithic and vertical silos all dependent on isolated business units. The current business environment requires that individual business units should be capable of supporting multiple types of users, multiple communication channels and multiple lines of business. In addition, it has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing market needs. In case one is running a global business enterprise, SOA-enabled business transformation can assist in achieving sustainable agility and productivity through a globally integrated IT platform. SOA realizes its IT and business benefits by adopting a design and analyzing methodology when developing services. In this sense a service consists of an independent business unit of functionality that is only available through a defined interface. Services can either be in the form of nano-enterprises or mega-enterprises.

Furthermore, with SOA an organization can adopt a holistic approach to solve a problem. This is because the business has more control over its functions. SOA frees the organization from constraints attributed to having a rigid single use application that is intricately meshed into a fragmented information technology infrastructure. Companies that have adopted service oriented architecture as their IT transformation approach, can easily repurpose, reorganize and rescale services on demand in order to develop new business processes that are adaptable to changes in the business environment. In addition, it enables companies to upgrade and enhance their existing systems without incurring huge costs associated with ‘rip and replace’ IT projects.

In summary, SOA can be termed as the cornerstone of modern IT transformation initiatives. If properly implemented great benefits and a sharp competitive advantage can be achieved. SOA assists in transforming existing disparate and unconnected processes and applications into reusable services; creating an avenue where services can be rapidly reassembled and developed to support market changes.

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