Using SaaS to Run a Highly Efficient Board


SaaS-10-28-15.pngHistorically, the preparation of board meeting materials took hours. The organization of board documents was a labor intensive crunch involving several people sifting through, hand collating, binding and manually distributing stacked materials. This process took a tremendous amount of time, and resulted in a significant lag in getting materials to boards, thereby limiting the ability to review materials efficiently. Fortunately, technology has evolved to a point where such marathon sessions are no longer a necessity. By leveraging digital solutions, materials can now be distributed electronically with relative ease and fewer man hours. 

The Convenience
A variety of companies are offering digital board materials, usually as SaaS [Software as a Service], which means the software is delivered remotely via the Internet rather than being purchased and housed on a computer or set of computers. An efficient solution provides a level of convenience to sharing materials that is largely absent from many business processes. You will want to avoid services that pigeonhole technology with proprietary platforms and unnecessary red tape—this does not help the board, and can actually create more problems than it claims to solve.

There are instances where organizations will be sidelined to specific operating systems or specs, but effective offerings will provide wiggle room for platforms and accessibility. Some services are even offering a nearly platform agnostic setup, retrofitting the application to fit with any device worth supporting so directors can access materials from their phone or tablet, regardless of time or location. There are some applications that have circumvented the need for direct Internet access, enabling an access in almost every circumstance.

The implementation must actually save board members the time previously lost to binding and delivery. Any decent SaaS solution will add hours to the boards’ reading time, but some offer to save as much as 95 percent of the time materials once took to create. Simplifying the workflow while delivering a superior product will provide board members with more time to fully understand the materials—thereby translating to a better board meeting.

Of course, all of this is useless if the implementation of the technology opens up debilitating security gaps.

The Security
Banks are responsible for millions of dollars, so it’s understandable that many fear “the cloud,” especially since most news regarding the cloud is rife with breaches. It’s an additional concern that some SaaS products cause more security issues than they solve. As a result, partnering with a product that provides cybersecurity measures is a must.

It‘s immediately essential that data be stored on a dedicated server with thorough encryption. Many solutions will haphazardly toss all data into large servers, but the best products will ensure that data is separated from other clients and accounts. While dedicated servers ensure that information cannot be seen by another organization, encryption converts the data to gibberish, so in the event of a breach hackers would be left with nothing but a mess of letters and numbers.

Having the ability to control individual user access can also add an extra layer of security. In the past materials could be lost, forgotten and delivered to incorrect addresses, revealing materials to damaging elements. The option to digitally deliver materials to recipients eliminates that risk entirely.

Support and The Future
Customer support is key to running an efficient system. Selecting partners that respect your time and understand your business needs is an absolute imperative. A successful implementation must come with 24/7 support. Banks are complicated entities, and the value of having a human being answer the phone is immeasurable. It’s an added incentive if that person is assigned to your account, meaning you know that person and have worked with them in the past. As boards and providers work together, there needs to be mutual respect and consistent communication. Solutions can work with the boards that use their technologies to implement new features, satisfying needs as they arise, and creating bonds that serve to help both businesses thrive.

Technology can be a double-edged sword in modern business. Sometimes we find it opening up worlds of information with no cost to the user. But in some cases technology can expose sensitive data to thieves, or crash and eliminate months of work with no warning. As banks continue to become more dependent on technology to save time and money, it’s exponentially more important that boards have access to SaaS solutions that save time and money, while keeping information, and the business, safe.

Is Your Bank Ready for the Cloud?


8-27-14-cisco.pngFinancial services firms, like other companies, are running out of computing and storage space with available resources, and they are turning to cloud computing as a way to deliver information technology services on an as-needed basis. Firms are now looking for ways to stretch their existing data centers, as they often need more computing and storage capacity than their own facilities provide, especially during peak high-demand times. With the importance of this from a strategy and security standpoint, the board of the bank needs to provide proper oversight over this issue.

What is Cloud Computing?
Think of the cloud of a collection of computers where services such as compute (crunching numbers and data), and storage (a place to store the data that is being crunched and the results of that), are delivered dynamically as a service, rather than as a product. These services are typically delivered over the network, and in many cases, the Internet.

Instead of a line of business requesting 40 servers for a new data analytics software package, an IT team could deploy that software package on a cloud environment and provide access to the software. A dynamic cloud environment may give more compute and storage capacity when the application needs it and allocate less in periods of slow volume. This system of dynamic resource allocation makes the cloud an economical solution for large organizations.

Challenges With Financial Services IT Delivery
Data centers are a considerable investment to build and operate. Banking in the cloud lets banks extend their data center and current infrastructure when needed, while also providing additional data storage and computing capabilities offsite. In many cases, additional computing capacity is needed only for a short time in order to run certain risk models or to provide additional reporting for regulatory requirements. In this instance, a cloud-based infrastructure could be used to augment current big data and risk/analytics environments that banks have deployed.

The Trend to Hybrid Clouds
Today’s banks are in various stages of their cloud journey. Some have built their own private cloud hosting, defined as a single-tenant environment where the hardware, storage and network are dedicated to a single client or company. The resources and equipment required to run it are usually deployed in the firm’s own data center and managed by their own IT staff. Others utilize third parties to augment their own in-house application development efforts, a hybrid approach. A hybrid cloud service is a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services, from different service providers. Typically in this environment, a firm may have its own in-house private cloud environment, but may connect its private cloud to another provider’s cloud. In some cases, these facilities are located off-shore in foreign countries, and are not permitted to connect to, or utilize the bank’s internal network. In these instances, banks can benefit from using cloud solutions that allow temporary computing capacity, without a significant capital expenditure or time.

The Cloud’s Differentiated Services
Financial institutions can build secure hybrid clouds that only allow certain credentials to access bank data. Private cloud solutions provide a purpose-built, secure environment in which financial services institutions can very efficiently expand their compute capacity at a very low cost. In addition, the institution has full transparency to the environment from a monitoring and systems management perspective. When the bank needs additional space, it can use a public cloud, which shares data from a number of different sources and will require a higher level of security or care in what kind of data is housed there.

Board Oversight
Given that banks are increasingly turning to cloud computing, it makes sense for the board to know whether and how the institution is using cloud computing, and provide proper risk management oversight. Questions the board should ask include:

  • Is our bank currently using cloud computing services?
  • Do we intend to?
  • Do we have a private “cloud” or do we use third parties?
  • What security do we employ?
  • What kind of data is housed there?
  • How do our regulators view the use of cloud computing?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of cloud computing?