Bank Satisfies Feds' Security Mandates With A RAID - InformationWeek

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7/19/2005
11:29 AM
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Bank Satisfies Feds' Security Mandates With A RAID

Security National Bank was under pressure to get its check data duplicated from its central Sioux City, Iowa, office to a remote secure vault to conform to banking regulations.

An Iowa bank pacified regulators and fortified its backup and restore strategy by investing in iSCSI-based RAID.

"Federal examiners were always concerned that we couldn't get our check processing data copied offsite quickly enough," said Mike DeVos, vice president of technical services at Security National Bank in Sioux City, describing the challenge bank officials faced last year as they assessed upgrading their storage infrastructure.

At issue: The bank was under increasing pressure from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to get its check data duplicated from its central Sioux City office to a remote secure vault to conform to banking regulations. Security National, a 116-year-old locally owned bank with assets of $700 million, processes up to 200,000 checks each day for its main office, four branch sites and five smaller banks owned by its parent company. While the bank did transport the data to a vault within 24 hours of its creation, that wasn't fast enough for regulators, who wanted that critical information mirrored almost immediately after it was stored.

"We had the information, but examiners were concerned that we couldn't get the (data) offsite quickly enough," DeVos said of Security National's circa 2001 client-server architecture built around a pool of Hewlett-Packard servers directly attached to DLT tape drives that store the check processing data.

Security National quickly ruled out storage area networks and Fibre Channel-equipped RAIDs as possible alternatives it could pursue to meet OCC demands, citing the technology‚s cost and administrative headaches. In fact, DeVos said Security National executives were at a loss to pinpoint how they would speed up the transfer of data until DeVos attended a user group meeting held by Advanced Financial Solutions Inc., the vendor that supplied the bank's check processing software.

While at the meeting, DeVos saw a demonstration of iSCSI storage arrays from EqualLogic, and he knew he found the answer.

"I hadn't even heard of EqualLogic," DeVos said. "But I liked that that (the array) was easy to use, that it used SCSI technology and that all I would need is a switch and a few IP addresses."

Security National ultimately purchased a single PS200 5.6-terabyte array from EqualLogic, installing it last March at its remote backup site located about 15 miles from the downtown office. The bank also purchased a backup app from NSI Software to permit it to mirror processed checks‚ images and send them directly from the main office to the remote site via a dedicated 512-megabit frame relay network.

The bolstered infrastructure enables Security National to capture checks' images at the vault within moments, satisfying regulators.

"Within a day I had the array up and running," he said of the device, which is connected to a 100-megabit Ethernet network and managed through a 12-port gigabit switch from Cisco Systems Inc. DeVos said he spent about $55,000 for the upgrade, including the backup app from NSI.

The EqualLogic-anchored infrastructure yielded Security National another benefit: faster restores.

With the original tape-based system, a user who needed to retrieve a particular image might have to wait hours before the daily backup allowed technicians to find the requested document from the tape. Major system glitches, in which servers or part of the network crashed, might have required up to 24 hours before the data could be restored, DeVos said--an unacceptable option.

"If I shut down right now, my information is now current within seconds," he said of his current backup design. "Instead of losing 24 hours of data, I might only lose a minute or two (of data). Once the image is captured as production data, it's sent out to the EqualLogic (RAID) immediately."

Finally, the array also gives Security National the network firepower it needs to conform to Check 21 check clearing regulations that went into effect late last year. The law permits banks to transmit electronic images of checks to other financial institutions for processing instead of requiring them to deliver the original paper documents. The array "puts us in the right place" to meet those regulations, DeVos said.

Now that the bank has its check imaging data management under control, DeVos said executives will begin examining the role RAID storage might play in archiving check data. Banks now must keep customers‚ checking information for seven years, with the most recent two years of activity stored on disk and the remainder on optical jukeboxes. "We were looking at how we want to handle this, and we certainly would look at EqualLogic to provide us with an online (RAID) device" to replace the optical storage.

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