Achieving high-availability in MFT is crucial to financial organisations. Downtime negatively impacts on financial organisations across the board, from damaging reputation with customers and partners to data loss, and receiving regulatory fines.
As the new DORA regulations were designed to preserve the security and integrity of the financial system, organisations must also ensure the ‘resilience, continuity and availability’ of critical systems to achieve DORA compliance.
High-availability is the ability of an IT system to operate continuously without failing and works by a given period of time being set as an availability goal. Five-nines is a common but ambitious standard, meaning that a system can run without failing 99.9% of the time. TechTarget explains what availability goals equate to in terms of downtime:
Five nines availability ‘mandates that a given service will be unavailable for no more than 5 minutes and 15 seconds a year… four-nines availability — or 99.99% — could be unavailable 52 minutes and 36 seconds per year. Three-nines availability — 99.9% — allows 8 hours and 46 minutes of downtime per year.’
In financial services, high-availability is crucial in systems such as file transfer where it is essential to keep customer and trading partner files flowing.
DORA focuses on operational resilience, which is the ability to continuously provide reliable and secure services to customers. Financial organisations are therefore required to set and achieve standards for both availability and failure recovery times that are aligned with the industry as a whole.
Maintaining High-Availability in MFT
Maintaining the high-availability in MFT that customers, partners and regulations require presents a challenge for many organisations. A key aspect in meeting this challenge is setting up more resilient systems around file transfer and architecting a B2B integration platform that is highly available and can execute near real-time exchange of critical business documents.
Resilient Platforms and High-Availability
Financial organizations can ill afford B2B platform outages because of the possibility of interrupting business operations, which includes the potential loss of revenue. When seeking to increase resilience, organisations should be looking for a modern B2B platform which is proven to not only be more efficient, but allows them to easily scale to handle significant increases in file transfer volumes.
A recent IDC report found that IBM Sterling B2B Integrator used together with IBM Sterling Data Exchange products provided a scalable, more efficient, and reliable B2B platform which also allows them to handle such increases.
The platform’s design minimises errors in B2B transactions, either at origin, with the customer or on partner sites. As these type of errors are drastically reduced or eliminated this allows financial organisations to demonstrate having taken positive action to significantly reduce risk.
Commenting on reductions in unplanned outages enabled by the platform, one study participant noted:
‘With IBM Sterling B2B, we went from an average of three service impacting events that lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes per month to where we’re at now with only one to two a year lasting 15–30 minutes.’
Being able to maintain high-availability also improved the customer experience. One participant in the IDC research study commented:
‘We have happier customers because we’re highly available and never down with IBM Sterling B2B. This means that our customers save money on their end from not retransmitting or having to apply manual resources to fix problems that we may have had internally.’
Increasing resiliency around secure file transfer with IBM Sterling Data Exchange
One of the main threats to maintaining high-availability is the fact that many data exchange systems weren’t designed to meet the volumes of data today’s organisation experience. Emerging technologies, such as big data and AI, also require the processing of larger files than data exchange systems are often prepared for.
These factors all increase the risk of downtime due to bottlenecks which usually occur due to data transfer systems not being able to cope with high volumes of traffic.
To reduce bottlenecks occurring, financial organisations need to employ file transfer systems designed to handle a wide variety of protocols used for transmitting data. To handle modern volumes of data and the larger types of file associated with emerging technology, data exchange systems also must be easily scalable to meet increasing data transfer demands.
Participants in the IDC study found that the IBM Sterling Data Exchange suite of solutions helped them handle increasing data volumes and reduce the occurrence of bottlenecks which can result in the downtime of file transfer systems.
In addition to the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator platform, IBM Data Exchange includes:
Sterling File Gateway (SFG) which provides managed file transfer of any type or format to and from trading partners and other stakeholders.
Connect:Direct (C:D) provides automation of point-to-point file transfers and ensures more reliable movement of files, from batch integration and movement of large images or catalogs, to synchronization with remote locations.
Control Centre Director (CCD) gives organisations the ability to rapidly scale a managed file transfer environment and manage MFT through a single console.
High-Availability through Instant Failover Data Re-Routing
Many companies operate data centres across a wide variety of locations for both performance and disaster-recovery purposes. This, plus deploying redundant software and hardware, makes it even harder to maintain high availability.
In 2015, leading international money transfer company, Western Union were struggling with these problems around maintaining high availability. At the time, they were processing around 31 transactions per second. As a result, even a few minutes of unplanned downtime had a significant impact on their business. Like all financial entities, they needed an solution which would enable them to process files and keep money moving all day every day.
Like many leading enterprises, Western Union uses IBM B2B Integrator as a flexible gateway for trading communications. In addition, the company relies on IBM Sterling Secure Proxy to provide a perimeter to its internal network, and IBM Sterling Connect:Direct for rapid transfers at speed and scale. To meet demanding SLAs, Western Union wanted to be able to restore these B2B integration capabilities rapidly in the event of an unplanned outage.
The instant failover system provided by IBM Sterling Global Mailbox (automatically switching operations to a standby site should the primary become unavailable) meant Western Union were able to meet demanding SLAs even in the event of disaster. If downtime is occurring in one data centre, IBM Sterling Global Mailbox instantly re-routes data to the nearest available data centre, ensuring point-to-point file transfer always operates with high availability.
Western Union were also able to achieve a 5-minute disaster recovery time objective through deploying Global Mailbox. This was 95 percent faster than previously possible.
Read the full IBM Western Union Case Study here.
Discover how DORA may impact on your IT systems and remediation plans by booking a FREE SABREX DORA Consultation today.
Article by C. James