No matter the organisation, IT management are being told to reduce costs. The credit crunch has placed increased pressure on IT to reduce its costs and lower the over-heads of the entire organisation. Outsourcing and managed services are increasingly the way to achieve those much desired savings. Scott Martin told CIO UK how he saved his organisation £63,000 per annum by switching to a managed back up service.
As the name suggests, Martin Brokers is a brokerage company, based in the City of London, the increasingly global corporation buys and sells currencies, acting as the agent between international banks that are buying or selling foreign currencies. Typical customers to Martin Brokers are the major banks, pension funds, hedge funds and insurance companies. These come to Martin Brokers not only for foreign currency, but also short-term financing, certification of deposits, bonds and derivatives. The company has been growing following a management buyout adding to its staffing levels.
Head of IT Scott Martin is responsible for an array of complex trading systems, desktop computing, communications and storage, all of which have to meet the compliance regulations of the Financial Services Authority (FSA). It is a business that is totally reliant on a secure and reliable IT infrastructure.
"Brokerage data is in a central database, so every time a deal is done it goes into this database," the unassuming Australian explains. "Email is also a key a system and is managed offsite by Mimecast so that we have records going back 10 years."
The central database is the foundations for Martin Brokers though; if this fails the entire house will tumble into the nearby river Thames. Martin Brokers also has a range of tools for its brokerage staff and clients. BOSS is a ticketing system that collates all the deal data from each trader, such as the give price of a currency, the take price, the time of day the deal was done and the financial instruments used to complete the deal. Vantage is a pricing engine the delivers foreign currency prices to the desktops of traders at Martin Brokers. BOSS and Vantage have 350 users across the organisation. The London HQ is responsible for these systems across the entire company.
All of this is managed by Scott's team of just 12 developers and six support staff. "In the brokerage world we would have the lowest support to user ratio, there are companies with 50 to 100 IT staff," he says. Scott is not claiming his organisation is stretched to the breaking point, he explains that instead he manages a team that is lean and proactive and hits problems head on before his clients know about them. There are no SLAs with the organisation.
Instead he relies on constant monitoring of the network, servers and VMware environment. This is added to by two big central screens in IT that act as a central dashboard and windscreen onto the company that all members of his team can see and monitor at all times.
With financial data playing such a critical role in the organisation, back up of the central database is a key priority for Scott. The previous provider of online back-up services to Martin Brokers were offering a service that was "inflexible and the price per gig was way too high," Scott explains. He was also being asked by the senior management team to reduce annual costs.
"I tried to re-negotiate the price, but they had no interest. So I went to market, there were a few options and I wanted to make sure back-up was someone else's problem." Oncore IT, a managed services organisation that has tended to specialise in medium sized organisations provided a month-long trial to Martin Brokers. During the trial Scott said he felt that oncore IT was the "right product". He was especially impressed with the amount of rules he could put in place, the encryption, the fact that oncore IT back up to a UK site and then replicate to another datacentre in Paris. Being pressed to make savings, Scott was of course pleased with the annual savings if £63,000 that oncore IT offered. These savings were not at the cost of quality of service that Martin Brokers would receive either, according to Scott. Oncore IT provide an account manager. "We have a complete server image that we take every day as well." Client data is backed up to an oncore IT network operation centre which is located at a tier one datacentre provided by Level 3 Communications.
On a more technical side, oncore IT does not require that agents be installed onto every server at Martin Brokers. Scott has been able to archive seven years worth of data and now has a data compression ratio of 4:1 available to him, far higher than the previous contract Martin Brokers had, which is where the savings come from. Oncore IT also ensures that it is fully compliant with the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFD) legislation and FSA guidelines, it is also compliant with the regulations of the US Department of Defence.
Oncore IT now manage the back up of BOSS, CRM, databases, email, spreadsheets and Vantage for Scott via the Martin Brokers London HQ. As a result the global branch offices no longer have to carry out their own back up procedures, which Scott said speeds up the recovery of any lost data at any office.
"We removed a lot of infrastructure and the cost reduction was fantastic," Scott says. "Cost was the biggest driver, the deal on offer from our previous provider was seven times that we pay oncore IT." Scott, like many of his peers is sanguine about moving to managed services. "I would rather have someone else responsible for back-up. I don't want more devices than I need, I don't want to have to buy tape devices and manage them.
"Less man management is good, we have one console and there is confidence from knowing the back-up goes to two locations.
"My boss jumped for joy at the cost savings. We now have hourly back-ups of the database and should never lose more than an hour's worth of data. If a patch destroys a server, we can use the image of the server to reload within 15 minutes.
Scott reports directly to the managing director. This is his first role in financial services, his career, both in Great Britain and Australia has been with recruitment companies. He remarks how different the databases are, although both a crucial to the business, in recruitment it is largely static, whilst in broking it changes by the second. Scott is now looking to increase the amount of savings he offers the organisation, as are his peers.