Voice of Experience: Total Recall

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-04-06 Print this article Print

Ray Zamora, Mid America Bank's vice president of network operations, says the bank needed a way to get its 73 branches back in operation less than four hours after a major outage—without losing any data.

Ray Zamora
VP, Network Operations
Mid America Bank
Clarendon Hills, Ill.

MANAGER'S PROFILE: In charge of information-technology operations for the regional bank, which has $9.7 billion in assets and 73 retail banking branches in Illinois and Wisconsin.

TALE OF THE TAPE: Mid America's core banking applications run on a Unisys mainframe at a data center in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. Two years ago, the bank's contingency plan in case of a total system failure involved trucking backup tapes every day to a third-party service provider, from which it leased space on a backup mainframe. If the mainframe died, Mid America would have had to shuttle personnel to the site to reload the data—already a day old. The process, Zamora says, would have taken more than 24 hours to restore banking operations.

THIS TELLER CLOSED: After an internal review, the bank's business units determined they could tolerate no more than four hours of downtime. "We asked them, 'How long can you live without your applications before we start losing money?'" Zamora says. Mid America decided it could cut the risk of a devastating outage by having a fully configured second system, with up-to-the-second copies of the data, managed by the bank's own technical staff. "We wanted to control our own destiny," he says.

HIS PROJECT: Early in 2004, Zamora and his team established a backup data center at the bank's headquarters in Clarendon Hills, 12 miles from Naperville. Mid America uses software from EMC to copy the mainframe data from its primary EMC Symmetrix disk system to a redundant one, over a dedicated fiber-optic circuit leased from SBC Communications that provides 1 billion bits per second of bandwidth. Zamora estimates the bank's backup mainframe applications could be brought up in 30 minutes, with—theoretically—no data loss.

PRICELESS DATA: While he won't provide an exact figure, Zamora says the cost of setting up the backup data center was more than $1 million. The bank justified the costs, he says, based on assumptions of the losses it would incur if its financial data vanished: "You just can't put a dollar amount on losing customer accounts."


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