Author: Adam Rambo

27 Jun 2019
Migrating Email to the Cloud

Migrating Email to the Cloud – How Financial Institutions Can Leverage Microsoft O365 for Efficient Business Email

Migrating Email to the Cloud

Many financial institutions are finding the Cloud to be very appealing for their business objectives. Migrating server workloads and applications to the cloud provides many benefits for banks and credit unions alike, but it can also seem overwhelming to some who are introducing cloud services to their organizations for the first time. Today, many banks and credit unions are taking the first step of moving or looking to move their email hosting services to the cloud. Traditionally, email services have been hosted on-premises, but now financial institutions can take advantage of hosted email solutions to simplify email management and make processes more efficient for the entire organization.

Cloud hosted solutions, such as Microsoft O365, can dramatically simplify business email management by eliminating the need for manual intervention and management which enables the IT staff to focus on more revenue-generating tasks. In addition, the experience for end-users is essentially the same, creating a seamless transition for the institution.

In addition to increased efficiencies, there are other key advantages of moving email to the cloud such as:

  • A secure email environment – the cloud is a secure environment for data storage.
  • Reduced costs – there is no need to purchase and maintain costly servers.
  • Reduced manual intervention – with cloud solutions, bank staff no longer needs to manage the email network including email migrations, upgrades, backups, and general maintenance.
  • High reliability and availability – cloud-based solutions have redundant systems to ensure email services are consistent and run properly every day.
  • Built-in backups and archiving – cloud-based solutions automatically perform backups and archive tasks. The backups are also stored off-site, which is an important aspect of any disaster recovery plan.
  • Ability to access email from anywhere – cloud-based email solutions can always be accessed, from any location, using any device, improving the productivity of employees.

Not all cloud-based email solutions are created equal

Community Banking and Hosted EmailView Community Banking & Hosted Email infographic

Financial institutions require an industry-specific email solution that adheres to strict cybersecurity regulations to remain in compliance with regulatory guidance and expectations.

In addition, community banks and credit unions place increased importance on the availability, uptime and security of their email solutions. Some aspects of a cloud-based email solution that banks and credit unions should consider include:

  • Ability to meet strict cybersecurity regulations
  • Can create customized reports for regulators (e.g., compliance, user, and encryption)
  • Reliable up-time and redundancy
  • Unique layers of security, SPAM filtering, antivirus, and on-demand encryption
  • Multifactor authentication

To eliminate some of the unnecessary headaches and costs associated with system implementations, management, redundancy, security, and recoverability of email solutions, we developed SafeSysMail, powered by Microsoft O365, that includes SPAM filtering, antivirus, and on-demand encryption designed specifically for community banks and credit unions. To increase security layers, SafeSysMail also provides the option to turn on multifactor authentication which requires more than one method of authentication to verify a user’s identity to log into the system. This helps prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to accounts even if a password or security answer is compromised. This fully compliant, hosted email solution is ideal for any institution that wants to eliminate the burden of running Microsoft Exchange internally. Essentially, SafeSysMail can help institutions ease into the Cloud while simplifying email management and maximizing productivity.

03 Aug 2016

Advice on Adding New Applications to Jack Henry Core Banking Systems

Let’s face it, keeping up with evolving banking applications, meeting customer and regulatory demands and managing and securing a network can be a huge challenge for any financial institution, especially community banks. Today, in an effort to bring customers the best features and options banking technology can provide, banks are adding applications to their networks that must integrate seamlessly with their core banking system. Each core has its own complex product matrix comprised of layer upon layer of acquired companies and products. Because of this each core has its own specific application set and standard practices, most of which have been developed in separate silos from each other.

As a result, we typically see the core-provided solutions built in a modular fashion requiring little to no analysis of the existing environment. This can result in a disjointed network comprised of extraneous hardware and licensing that are difficult to manage and do not fit into the bank’s future strategic plans. Working with an independent IT provider who understands core providers can be a huge benefit when it comes to incorporating new core systems into the existing network and wider vision for the network’s growth.

As a Jack Henry customer you may have first-hand experience overcoming some of these same hurdles. With over 100 Jack Henry clients, Safe Systems has implemented many of the JHA and various Profitstar applications in many different environments. Here are some suggestions to help you identify and avoid common implementation challenges in the future:

Adapt Your Network Configuration to Support New Applications

When you are adding an application to your network the core will often require that the application be housed on its own designated server. They will often quote you physical hardware for the application to reside on as this fits their modular one size fits all mentality. Depending on your network infrastructure, new designated servers and/or suggested physical hardware may not be necessary to support the new application. Be sure to review your bank’s specific network configuration before licensing /acquiring any new hardware. This review can be a challenging endeavor unless you have a team familiar with both the product requirements and the existing network configuration.

Once you determine the optimal set up and new servers are required, there are many tasks that must be performed to ensure they are being managed properly. These servers must be set up on the network and added into the bank’s inventory of technology assets. They must also be enrolled in a credible patch management program and accounted for in the network disaster recovery plan and backup process. Working with an experienced bank IT network provider that has a holistic view of your entire network will help ensure you are not purchasing and running unnecessary hardware and that you avoid creating network management issues.

Ensure Compliance and Security Day One

What happens after new products and services are implemented in the bank? All new applications must be secure and in compliance with FFIEC regulations (How will this impact business continuity planning? How does it factor into the incident response program?). The right outsourced IT provider should have teams that work extensively with the core provider and the bank to ensure the new product is fully implemented correctly at the bank and meet all operations, compliance and security objectives.

Ensure Patch Management Out of the Box

Patch management is more important than ever! The lack of an effective patch management process has contributed significantly to the increase in the number of security incidents in financial institutions. An effective patch management program should include policies and procedures to identify, prioritize, test and apply patches in a timely manner. The longer that a system remains unpatched the more vulnerable the institution becomes. If you choose to work with an outsourced service provider, be sure they can offer your institution a comprehensive patching program that delivers quick, accurate, and secure patch updates to all applications. This process will help mitigate the multiple risks associated with running unpatched programs and automate the time-consuming process of testing and deploying new patches.

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Get The Right Help

Working with an experienced outsourced IT provider such as Safe Systems helps ensure your integration with Jack Henry core systems will be smooth and efficient. Safe Systems is a banking-specific technology specialist with more than 20 years in the industry and relationships with more than 600 financial institutions. We have a unique understanding of critical components such as Jack Henry core processing, 3rd party banking applications, financial industry best practices, information security, business continuity and FFIEC guidance.

We have been working with and supporting more than 100 Jack Henry core banking clients for more than 20 years. This experience has provided us with a thorough understanding of Jack Henry’s core banking solution, best practices for working with the solution and how to efficiently add applications in a secure environment. Our holistic approach to financial services ensures our financial institutions are running an efficient and secure network.

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18 Aug 2015

Your IT Administrator Goes on Vacation: Now What?

Your IT Administrator Goes on Vacation: Now What?

Summer is nearing an end, and many employees are getting out of the office for their last vacation before school starts. For the community bank IT network administrator, this can be a challenging time. If you are the only person in the IT department, it can be daunting for both you and the financial institution.

A community bank’s technological assets are every bit as valuable as the money in the vault! Today’s community bank relies on the IT department to maintain its hardware and software and to ensure all systems are available when needed. The department is also responsible for monitoring an array of on-going IT concerns like antivirus status, patch compliance and email security to name just a few.

The FDIC encourages mandatory vacation time for bank employees of all levels, so taking some time off may not be a matter of choice. So, what happens when the key individual who is responsible for this crucial aspect of the financial institution is on vacation?

Many financial institutions are turning to IT and security service providers to act as an extension of their organization and help augment internal IT resources. The right solution provider can serve as a true partner and work alongside current IT staff to manage the network and streamline technology needs. When the IT staff is out or unavailable, outsourcing select IT business processes helps fill the personnel gap and provide added peace of mind to all.

An IT and security service provider can help automate and control many of the administrative functions that normally fall to the IT department, making it less daunting for IT personnel to take time away from the office. These service providers can automate Microsoft and third party patch management and reporting, hardware and software inventory management, vulnerability remediation, and compliance-focused documentation and reporting. Providing the ability to actively monitor network information for diagnostic or security issues not only saves time and improves efficiencies, but also helps the bank extend its hours of support beyond the traditional 9 to 5 hours. This expanded presence is key for IT departments with limited staff.

The right technology service provider should offer your bank full support for the demands of today’s banking technology requirements and truly act as an extension of your internal IT department. At Safe Systems we understand the ever-growing complexity of community banks’ IT operations. By making the decision to partner with Safe Systems, your organization will benefit from time saving automation, an in-depth view of your IT network environment, and additional support in co-managing your IT operations. We want to provide you with assurance that the institution’s IT network is functioning efficiently, optimally, securely, and is in compliance with industry regulations at all times; but, especially when your institution’s key IT personnel are out of the office.

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11 Aug 2015

How Sound is Your Bank’s Hardware Infrastructure?

How Sound is Your Bank’s Hardware Infrastructure?

Community Banks and Hardware Warranties

While there are many factors that can play into your definition of soundness, some would say your bank’s network is only truly stable if you are fully covered by hardware warranties. In the most basic sense these warranties exist to mitigate the risk of a critical hardware failure. The hardware components you rely upon to provide a stable computing environment are themselves a highly complex amalgamation of numerous subcomponents; unfortunately, it is inevitable that some of these parts are destined to perish before their rightful time. While your community bank’s network users will likely not notice any impact from an all-too-common failed hard drive in a server’s RAID array, everyone will be painfully aware if your SAN experiences a critical failure.

Safe Systems believes that maintaining active hardware warranties for the full life of your hardware is as critical as keeping your Windows Operating System patched. A valid hardware warranty provides two incredibly valuable guarantees for your bank including faster replacement of failed parts and expedited hardware replacement times. When combined, these two benefits can drastically reduce downtime in a critical hardware failure scenario. Without an active warranty on hardware, any failure may cause the IT Administrator to scramble to find the right replacement part, and that can waste valuable time when your financial institution is trying to recover from hardware woes; furthermore, if the necessary part is backordered or otherwise unavailable, then the institution may be forced into completely replacing an entire piece of hardware.

Hardware warranties also allow your financial institution to better plan hardware related expenses. The costs associated with replacement hardware components, expedited shipping, and/or specialized installation labor can quickly add up. The total price tag of an emergency hardware repair can represent a significant unscheduled expense. Rolling those potential expenses into the cost of a hardware warranty allows bank IT managers to budget hardware maintenance in a tidy, predictable package.

Hardware Warranty Coverage Notes:

  • Standard coverages sold as 1 or 3 year
  • Standard warranty is 9×5 – Support Monday thru Friday 9 am – 5 pm with next day hardware replacement

Depending on the criticality of the hardware, consider these warranties:

  • 13x5xNBD – 8am-9pm and replacement part next business day
  • 4x7x4 – 24/7 support. Once it has been determined that there is a hardware issue, replacement part will be delivered within the hour
  • 24x7x6 – No Diagnosing. 6 hours to have replacement hardware onsite

Of course, the price goes up for the upgraded warranties.


Community Banks and Software Maintenance Contracts

Just like a hardware warranty, maintaining software maintenance agreements is critical. The importance of a valid hardware maintenance agreement is perhaps most apparent when discussing critical security patches. Keeping your systems secure is not the only reason to keep them fully patched. An estimated 60% of the lifecycle costs of producing software systems come from ongoing maintenance and patching, so without an active maintenance contract a software user may miss out on a number of software enhancements. While different providers vary in their policies, software maintenance is generally released for 4 different reasons:

  • Adaptive – modifying the system to cope with changes in the software environment
  • Perfective – implementing new or changed user requirements which concern functional enhancements to the software
  • Corrective – diagnosing and fixing errors, possibly ones found by users
  • Preventive – increasing software maintainability or reliability to prevent problems in the future


The Bottom Line

Hardware warranties and software maintenance are relatively inexpensive insurance policies for banks and credit unions. I would challenge any bank executive who tells me that a couple of hundred dollars is too much to keep critical pieces of your financial institution’s network performing optimally. Without hardware warranties and software maintenance, thousands of dollars in lost productivity could occur at any time with no warning.

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