Cloud Simplicity & Efficiency without ‘the cloud’

Cloud Simplicity & EEfficiencyfficiency

Labor is expensive and IT experts are VERY expensive which leaves many bank and credit union leaders with gaps and wants in their IT teams.  So how do you ensure you’re providing the support and IT services your financial institution (FI) needs?  Right now the answer being shouted from every vendor and corner of the IT world is to use the Cloud.  cloud, Cloud, CLOUD! ‘Why are you not using the cloud?’ is heard repeatedly.  There are non-public cloud options for FIs.  As FIs deal with regulators, security, and perception challenges with the public cloud, I want to share 2 options for how to get cloud simplicity and efficiency for your institution without the public cloud.  With these options you can shift or focus your IT team on more valuable business driving applications, business intelligence, and other key areas that impact your financial business.

Option 1:  Put together a managed environment with a trusted Managed Service Provider (MSP) focused on FIs.

MSPs have come a long way (to be more accurate, a few top tier MSPs) to help FIs than your traditional small/regional integrator/MSP.  The best ones are capable of:

  • Taking over all IT infrastructure for you. What does this mean?  It means they either hosting an independent environment for you in a top tier data center or in a multi-tenant environment run in a top tier data center.
  • Designing or providing IT architecture for you that meets FFIEC security, disaster recovery, and other key regulatory needs.
  • Management tools, reports, & dashboards that allow transparency, co-management, real-time and historic performance information.
  • National coverage with options for local support and local device management.
  • 24/7/365 alerting and assistance because you run an always on business and they understand your needs.
  • Expertise in multiple IT disciplines (storage, compute, data center, OS/domain admin, DB admins, security, DR/BCP, etc.) or partnerships with IT discipline experts to give you options for a fully managed environment.

 

Option 2: Use a Hyperconverged IT solution which provides a local cloud plus key backup, replication, and disaster recovery services.

There are 15+ hyperconverged solutions out there but not all are created equal nor are as mature in their services.  At this time, the traditional IT vendors like VMware, Cisco, Microsoft are all behind the curve with Hyperconvergence solutions having only recently introduced or initially stumbled and recently re-vamped their offerings.  They are becoming solid options but are not as feature rich as the top providers who were born as Hyperconvergence solutions. The top Hyperconvergence solutions right now are Simplivity and Nutanix.  I’ll highlight features below are present in both or at least one of these top Hyperconvergence solutions. They are capable of:

  • Replacing the full x86 IT stack. At a minimum this includes your storage, storage network, compute, and management of these components in a single management interface.
  • The management tools are VM object focused so you manage your VMs and don’t spend time or need expertise managing individual components supporting the VM.
  • These solutions work well with traditional Hypervisors or can include their own KVM branded hypervisor that is fully supported and integrated into your single management interface.
  • They provide snapshot and backup options for your VM. When combined with a secondary site as all CU & Banks need this can replace your backup software and be managed in the single management interface.
  • They are cluster aware and have native tools to replicate snapshots/VMs offsite and/or into other cloud services. This can in many cases replace SRM, Veeam, or Zerto and the replication is also managed in the single interface.
  • They even give you the benefit of their deduplication & compression technologies so you can put more data on the environment without adding more storage. In public and hosted clouds, the vendor often charges you for your storage and can use some of those benefits to their advantage instead of your advantage.
  • All this in 1 technology package and supported by 1 vendor who has experts in each area supporting your hyperconverged solution.

If you haven’t evaluated these options, it is time to start reading and having conversations about them.  Beyond the cloud simplicity & efficiency benefits of focusing your team on needs closer to your higher value business needs, they can also be cost savings options that help you better control and predict costs for the coming years.

While I believe the public cloud has great benefits, we can gain many of them today with the two options above.   I have helped customers explore and implement both options and would be happy to share my experience or connect you with others to gain from their experience and perspective.

 

 

Cloud is Not a Strategy

Cloud is Not a Strategy.

IT cloud may just be a fogThe ‘Cloud’ is talked about like it is a heavenly option saving IT but for many it is only a low lying dense fog clouding their vision.

Some institutions are wandering around blindly as they try out various software as a service offerings or charging ahead blindly with one ‘all-in’ cloud vendor hoping there is a clearing ahead that delivers on the benefits of cloud.  If you don’t have a clear IT strategy, you shouldn’t focus on the cloud or have a cloud strategy.  The cloud is not a strategy!

I’ve run into too many conversations lately where the ‘cloud’ is stated as the defining IT strategy going forward without many details around the overall IT strategy.  I’ve talked with a few CTO/CIOs who have shared the following experience.  Their CEO goes to the latest conference or has lunch with a CEO buddy and comes back stating that the bank or CU should be moving to the cloud.  It is, of course, common for a CEO to share the latest things they’ve heard that could help the business and it’s better to have an engaged CEO than an absent one.  This question & situation is not to be feared.  In all but the unhealthiest leadership cultures it is an opportunity for the CTO/CIO.

If leadership hasn’t talked about the overall IT strategy in the last few months, especially after going through the budgeting season and entering a new year, then there is a larger problem than cloud or no cloud.  This is the opportunity to open up more conversation.  The last thing needed in that situation is an independent strategy around cloud.  What is needed is an overarching IT strategy and plan.  CTO/CIOs, your plan may just need updated to address hosted and cloud solutions but what you must do is engage leaders in your institution to share your overall strategy.  Don’t get lost in the fog of only focusing on ‘cloud’.

There are many ‘how to’ articles and templates about writing strategy statements and plans so I’m not covering that here.  If you want help with that, let me know and I’ll point you to a peer who has a solid plan or vendor who can help.

I will instead suggest the following 4 steps:

  1. Find, update, or if needed develop your overall IT strategy and IT strategic plan.
  2. Know your institution’s goals, strengths, & upcoming needs. You will need to lead, support, follow, and adapt to the business units.
    1. Make sure the institution’s goals are restated in your plan for a clear connection between IT and your institution.
  3. Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and the resources available for updating your staff, your IT infrastructure, and your applications. These will influence your strategy.
  4. Engage your CEO, SVPs, CFO, COO, and other leaders as appropriate.
    1. Explain your plan.
    2. Listen to feedback.
    3. Healthy debate is good.
    4. Refine the plan to better serve the business & your IT info with any new information.

If you’ve done the four things above lately, then your strategy should already address cloud options and tools. If it doesn’t then you are missing an opportunity both for your institution as well as for you to communicate to your peers that you are staying relevant with current trends.  Remember the ‘cloud’ comes in many forms; Local, hybrid, public as well as SAAS, PAAS, IAAS just to throw out a few variations.  All of my customers have some aspect of cloud in their environment, even if it is just a specialized SAAS service such as HR services.  Know the tools available to you and address cloud in your IT plan and looking for vision beyond the fog.

 

LostCreek Fintech helps credit unions, banks, and healthcare institutions with storage solutions and large infrastructure design and implementation projects.  Contact us @ Inquiry for more information.