David Brooks, Vice President of Account Management

Vacations are ending, the “back to school” sales have started and, as the hot summer days drag on, our thoughts turn to the next season. For most of us down south, that season is College Football Season. Well, there is another big season just around the corner…Budget Season.

Now I know most of you just had a shiver run down your spine at the thought of budget work; but, with the proper preplanning work, your budget meetings can run more smoothly. Believe it or not, there are some similarities between college football season and budget season (OK, it’s a stretch, but stay with me on this). Right now, your favorite college football coach is going through his preseason checklist to make sure his team is ready, and now is the time for you to start going through your budget’s preseason checklist.

Standard items that should be on your list every year should include:

  • Annual Subscriptions Fees: It is important that you keep your annual subscriptions current for programs like your Antivirus, Data Backup and Recovery, Email, and your Firewall content filter. It is important to keep them up-to-date so you will have an easy upgrade path when new releases come out.
  • Normal Wear and Tear: Each year a couple of computers will die, so you need to make sure you have money set aside to replace them.
  • Backup Tapes: Most tapes have a life span of about one year. Depending upon the number of servers you are backing up on a daily basis, this is a great time to think about moving to a centralized backup solution.

Items that will appear every three years (or so) include:

  • Server Upgrades: Nothing lasts forever (especially servers). If you want to keep your servers past a normal three year life span, make sure you extend the manufacturer’s warranty. Since most servers now are built with 64 bit architecture, make sure your software programs are compatible before you upgrade any servers.
  • Workstation Upgrades: This is beyond the normal wear and tear. New software programs and operating systems (e.g., Vista) require bigger and faster computers, so make sure you are taking that into account when preparing your budget. What you are paying for computers this year is not a good barometer for estimating future costs.

Now, I would like to turn your attention to an item you may not have on your 2008 Budget List, but it needs to be—Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity (DR/BC) readiness. It is no secret that the regulatory agencies are increasing their focus in this area, and I expect that trend to continue next year. Most banks have been working on updating their plans but just having an updated plan is not enough. Since you need to be able to react to both large and small business interruptions, you really need to answer these questions:

  1. Do I have a single point of failure for my Internet connectivity and my Host Vendor connectivity (i.e., if my main office is down, are all of my branches down as well)?
  2. How long can my bank function without Internet access? There can be two possibilities for this failure, firewall failure of loss of Internet connectivity. What will I do if my firewall fails? What will I do if my Internet line goes down?
  3. How long can my bank function without email?

Your answers, as a Network Administrator, may be different from those of Senior Management or other departments in the bank; therefore, these are questions that need to be discussed in a Technology Committee meeting which should include qualified representation from all areas of the bank. After you throw out the above questions to your Technology Committee, be prepared to answer some follow-up questions, like these:

  1. Can you set-up a branch as a DR/BC site?
  2. Do you want to have separate Internet and Host connections at this location?
  3. Do you want the Internet connection to be hot or cold? If it is hot, will it be fail-over only or used to help load balance with the primary connection?
  4. Does your bank have an adequately sized IT staff to perform your test? If your Network Administrator has other responsibilities in the bank, what will be his/her primary area of responsibility during a real DR/BC situation?

The answers you receive can have a major impact on your 2008 budget.

So, let’s get back to my college football analogy. As coaches prepare for the season, they will visit other college and professional coaching staffs to compare and trade ideas. And, I would encourage you to do the same, especially in the area of DR/BC readiness. I would also encourage you to contact your Safe Systems Account Manger for assistance in the area of network DR/BC readiness. Your Account Manger is available to lead your Technology Committee through the budget process. Your Account Manager will also make sure that one of our technical experts is on hand to make sure all of your options are clearly defined based on your network architecture along with the “pros” and “cons” of each.

I can only assume no one will ever argue that Budget Season is as much fun as College Football Season, but with proper preseason preparation, your department will come out on top at the end.

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