Reducing the risk of business

Risk, whether it affects operations or reputation, is something mutual fund providers such as the Guardian Group of Funds Ltd. (GGOF) say they just can’t afford to ignore.

According to Julie Hodge, assistant vice-president of information services for GGOF, part of Bank of Montreal’s Private Client Group, the risk to her firm surfaced because of an inadequate disaster recovery plan – but a solution from Toronto-based DataMirror has helped her organization remain “risk free and up,” she said.

During her presentation at a recent DataMirror customer meeting in Toronto, Hodge explained that GGOF’s computing environment consisted of two IBM iSeries (AS/400) systems running an IBM DB2 UDB platform. The iSeries systems were in two different locations: the host server in Toronto and the target server in Brampton, Ont.

The firm needed to make sure that if the host server went out, the target server would be able to automatically take over operations, avoiding a disruption to users who needed ongoing access to information.

GGOF’s first challenge was that it did not have a lot of documented plans, Hodge said. “We couldn’t tell if we were going to be up in eight or 48 hours.”

That posed a risk to the company’s customer service reputation – in addition to about 115 employees, the firm has more than 13,000 financial planners and brokers who need 24/7 access to accurate information. “You just can’t call back 13,000 advisors and tell them you don’t know when you’re going to be back up again.”

GGOF had also added applications to its systems over time that were dependent on one another. “If one goes down, that’s a whole piece of the puzzle missing,” Hodge said.

The solution, Hodge said, was delivered by Unisen, an outsourcing partner GGOF employs for its unit holder record keeping software.

GGOF asked Unisen to locate a disaster recovery solution, and Unisen suggested DataMirror’s High Availability Suite (HAS), an integrated data resiliency software solution that captures objects and database transactions from primary systems and mirrors them in real-time to one or more backup iSeries systems. HAS can detect primary system failure and invoke high-speed switching to enable continuous business operations and quick recovery from downtime. GGOF conducted an evaluation of High Availability Suite and decided to implement it in its production environment.

“We can’t afford to keep upgrading and sinking a lot of money in to our systems, but at the same time, we need to ensure updated technology,” Hodge said. “This solution is a total ASP – I don’t run it, but this software keeps me up.” The solution replicates on average 5,000 transactions per day to the firm’s Brampton target server.

Since the implementation, GGOF has experienced one hard-ware/disk failure that Hodge described during her presentation. The failure occurred on the server housing GGOF’s production environment.

“Normally, 12 to 48 hours to recovery is conventional,” Hodge said. But with High Availability Suite in place, the recovery time was “decreased to approximately 30 minutes” by performing a switchover, Hodge said, adding that she was impressed with the “ease and timeliness of the transition back to the production environment.”

In an earlier presentation to DataMirror customers about how to create a disaster recovery strategy, Glen Sakuth, director of development for DataMirror, acknowledged that creating a full disaster recovery strategy can be “one of the biggest challanges” for a large organization. It can very expensive; it takes some understanding of exactly what costs will be associated with it, and what expectations there are once it’s in place, he said.

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