Automating Data-Centric Credit Unions
We live in a data-centric world. With the shear amount of data flowing in, as well as strict compliance policies, credit unions are required to handle complex data storage environments. More and more, credit unions are turning toward automation to improve processes and reduce human error.
The term “automation” is thrown around various industries as a magical solution. Yet, any data storage administrator who has worked on implementing a fully automated data storage backup and recovery solution knows that it can be a logistical nightmare. Getting it right requires proper preparation, solid partnerships, comprehensive solutions and a thoughtful implementation.
Every data storage environment is different. Some credit unions use manual tapes, some use virtual tape storage, while others use off-site cloud storage; whatever the scenario, determining exactly what the current configuration looks like and identifying the ideal end result is imperative to implementing an automated solution. Here are three key steps to take:
- Perform an internal data audit to determine how data is currently flowing through the credit union. This can vary greatly depending on the business operations being performed by individual departments. Data coming from the loan department might be handled differently than data coming from the marketing department. Take the time to examine what data types are coming from each department.
- Now take a look at how the different data types are being backed up, replicated and stored. Most credit unions will use multiple storage methods, creating layers of “data insurance.” Make a data life cycle diagram that shows where the data starts, how it’s collected and processed, where it rests and methods of retrieval.
- Analyze the information collected from the internal data audit and the data life cycle diagram to determine areas that could be improved through automation. Credit unions may have individuals from the IT department coming in on the weekends to manually move data from tapes, or there might be a manual log of data stored. Or maybe someone is driving tapes containing valuable data to an off-site storage facility. Given the number of hours and risk involved with human intervention, each of these scenarios would improve with the use of from automation.
Credit union operations rely heavily on their data to continue business operations. A credit union’s data storage partner is important, not only because this company ensures the health of valuable data, but also because it has experience with many different storage configurations and can be a resource for best practices. When choosing an automation partner, a credit union would be well advised to do the following:
- Interview several data storage providers with automation hardware and software offerings that integrate seamlessly into your operating system(s).
- Share the information collected during the three steps of the preparation stage above with a shortlist of selected data storage vendors. Likely, the storage provider will have additional questions to help fill in any gaps.
- Ensure the vendor will assist throughout the implementation process, provide hardware and software training, and have a responsive customer support staff.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to choosing an automation solution. Partnering with a vendor that provides customized automation offerings will allow for increased flexibility in designing a solution that fits the unique requirements for each credit union.
- A chosen solution should integrate with the current data storage and operating system environment. It should also accommodate future storage and automation needs with ease.
- Sample automation features include:
- track storage usage to monitor remaining capacity
- delete data once it has reached a required retention date
- track content on physical or virtual tapes for easy audit access
- direct data restoration capabilities
- auto-exporting data
- reporting of data inventory, movement and pending expiration
- replication of data
- archiving of data
- messaging data administrators
- ability to implement specific data policies
- data encryption
- data monitoring and alerting for quick intervention
Once a solution has been selected, determine an implementation time that will cause limited interference with credit union operations. Work alongside the solutions provider to develop an implementation plan that includes the following:
- current configuration
- configuration goal
- final configuration
- implementation team (credit union and solution provider)
- responsibilities for credit union staff and solution provider
- schedule of implementation, including these phases:
- installation of new hardware and or software
- migration of existing tasks and or data
- cutover to new solutions
- solutions training
Implementation of the right automation solution will allow storage requests to be fulfilled more quickly and accurately; lighten the burden on data storage administrators; provide significant reduction in time spent on manual data management tasks; and offer better control of data by implementation of policy-driven solutions. As credit unions continue to establish new physical locations, use new tools to improve customer experience, implement analytics to make well-informed business decisions and address data security issues, it will become critical to automate as much of data backup and recovery as possible. Done right, automation can be a data management game changer, freeing up IT departments to focus their efforts on the increasing demands of growth and innovation.
Leo Salvaggio is president of Dynamic Solutions International, a Denver-based data storage company specializing in providing complete storage solutions to highly regulated environments.