Business Continuity as an Everyday Activity

Terry Flanagan

For investment firms, the ability to reconcile positions, cash, and transactions is a critical business activity. Any interruptions, even for a short time, could seriously disrupt a firm’s operations.

Electra Information Systems, a provider of reconciliation services, has bolstered its backup and recovery plans, adding a new office in Florida to serve as a backup to its New York headquarters. The move is indicative of a broader trend since ‘Superstorm’ sandy flooded the New York City area in the fall of 2012.

“Before Sandy, most people in their wildest dreams didn’t imagine that not only would the office be down, but everything for 200 miles would be down,” Scott Rhodes, Electra’s chief operating officer, told Markets Media. “You had the entire Northeast region being down without power and without communication. That’s what made us decide that we needed to have a facility that was geographically quite remote.”

Electra’s customers depend on it to provide the information needed to reconcile accounts and determine that trades are proper and correct. “Without that information a fund or other entity is unable to properly use their cash and reinvest it during the day,” said Rhodes. “For us, who supply data to hundreds of institutions, it’s important that we are able to provide the data from counterparties to our clients and to make sure that that data is not delayed by adverse conditions.”

The key to successful business continuity planning is to make it part of the core business, not something that’s created merely to satisfy regulatory requirements.

“Business continuity planning and security both can’t be an afterthought,” said Rhodes. “The only way to make an effective business continuity plan, or a DR, or a security plan is to make it part of the ongoing practice such that the practice itself supports those activities.”

Netflix, for example, has a policy of taking servers offline in such a way that customers see no difference in activity.

“That’s a great practice and it’s one of the things that we do in every phase of our operations,” said Rhodes. “You have the opportunity to fail in lots of different ways–your facilities can fail, your people can become unavailable, your data communications can fail, and the data itself can become unavailable. The only way to prevent any one of those failures becoming a single point of failure and it collapsing your business is to have at least a bilateral approach to every one of them.”

Electra continuously streams data from its primary infrastructure provider, Rackspace, to its back up provider, Amazon, which allows it to have a relatively fast recovery time objective.

“If you look at our facilities and operations in general, what you see is that we have a primary data facility which is 3,000 miles away from our back up data facility,” Rhodes said. “We have vendor independence in the sense that the primary facility has a different vendor than the back up. At each place in our operations, we try to look for an opportunity for diversity so that our running operations are always exercising in what is essentially DR or BCP mode.”

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