What kind of company is Direct Finance?
Direct Finance, known in Hebrew as Mimun Yashir, is a consumer credit company in the Direct Insurance – Financial Investments Ltd. group. We specialize in overall solutions in the consumer credit field, financing car purchases in Israel and loans for the consumers’ various personal purposes.
The IT systems at Direct Finance serve 160 users and run on some 120 servers. The virtual server environment resides on a VMware infrastructure and is equipped with the most advanced technological solutions for data security, communications, and storage.
As the company’s Infrastructure Manager, I clearly recall the process that led Direct Finance to choose MedOne as the site to host its DRP configuration.
Why is DRP necessary in the first place?
Because of the continuing growth in data volume and the extensive interdependency among the various IT systems, significant challenges arose regarding how to ensure business continuity. Direct Finance wanted to guarantee that the IT systems would work properly at all times. For that purpose, an alternative system had to be set up as part of DRP (disaster recovery planning), to make a quick restart possible after a shutdown or a disaster affecting the central system and to enable routine work to recommence efficiently.
The role of Direct Finance is to provide credit in considerable sums, so it can’t risk a system shutdown that would prevent the funds from “arriving back home.” Thus our main challenge was to set up a DRP facility that, when necessary, would be at the company’s service with an immediate response to any internal or external emergency.
As a company that generates thousands of large-scale business transactions a day, Direct Finance needs a so-called hot backup system that can be used at any given moment to restore data. Until we approached MedOne, our backup system was based on data cassettes, and they require a relatively long period for reloading.
Direct Finance had estimated that a disaster or a serious system shutdown — one caused by flood, fire, cyber attack, or damage to the building — would mean a matter of weeks before the system could return to full functioning.
It’s important to understand that any halt in our day-to-day activity, even if it’s “only” for 24 hours, would lose us millions of shekels. It simply can’t be allowed. So our management committed itself to setting up an alternative site for stable, assured business continuity with no ifs, ands, or buts.
In view of the variety of risks, it was clear that we needed a remote DRP system with an emphasis on the ability to continue operating at a distance even if the server farm at the main site is damaged.
After examining the available options, the Direct Finance management decided to set up its DRP site at the MedOne facilities. They understood that it was the environment with the highest level of secured hosting services: guaranteed availability of 99.99%.
Among the other benefits that attracted us, it’s worth pointing out the geographical separation of MedOne’s installations. We were able to select facilities outside the center of the country. And there’s the installation’s security system, which is considered the strictest and most advanced one of its kind in Israel. And of course the infrastructures, which include all the most advanced features for obtaining maximum advantage.
The decision process was thorough and complex. Quite a few proposals were laid on the table, and from among them we examined a number of DR site options. Some proposals actually suggested that we keep using data cassettes and send them to a secured site. The option of using the cloud for DR came up — and even the option of creating a cloud of our own.
It bears noting that we very quickly eliminated the option of constructing the site ourselves. We came to the conclusion that if we set up and operated such an IT center, we would have to deal with the whole assortment of operational problems that go with construction, floor space, air conditioning, electricity, generators, physical security, communications, and more. It was clear that those matters would demand a great deal of administrative resources and time from us, without contributing anything to our core business activities. So offsiting the DRP to the sort of installations and infrastructures that MedOne offers emerged as the safest, most economical option, and it had clear technological and business advantages.
More reasons that Direct Finance chose the MedOne solution
- The MedOne installations are supported by one of the world’s strictest physical security systems, operating to the highest of standards both in terms of the installed equipment and in terms of the security procedures prevailing on site.
- The MedOne IT installations resolve a wide variety of threats and dangers.
- The installations are surrounded by reinforced concrete, which is again surrounded by reinforced concrete and guarded 24/7 both by trained security staff and by advanced security systems (entry control and CCTV).
- There are overlapping circles of external and internal security, numbering eight in total.
- The various sections of the facility are highly isolated from one another.
- The team of guards had to pass many examinations before being hired, including thorough tests of their reliability.
- All the doors and entrances are monitored, and people entering need to use proximity cards and biometric handprint readers. In addition, sally ports ensure that the facility’s different areas, and different visitors, all remain unaware of one another’s doings. (A sally port at MedOne is a space that you advance into by using one means of authentication and advance out of by using another means of authentication.)
- The installation is photographed throughout the day and night by a closed-circuit surveillance and recording system that covers all the external views as well as the interior.
How is Direct Finance set up for DRP today?
We now have a full DRP site at MedOne, with a complete, comprehensive solution giving Direct Finance survivability and business continuity, so that even if our main server farm is entirely destroyed, we can immediately go right on with business operations.
The configuration is located inside a special-purpose cage that houses servers and communications equipment fully owned by Direct Finance and accessible only to its employees. The equipment inside the cage includes VMware ESX servers, NetApp storage servers, a backup server, and in addition a robot for duplicate backup on data cassettes. In addition, the system is equipped with Cisco communication switches and with advanced data security solutions.
By setting up the DR site at MedOne’s facilities, we achieved our goal of business continuity as we’d conceived it. With the solution now implemented at facilities that are secured according to the world’s highest standard of its kind, we can sleep soundly in the certainty that even in an extreme scenario of complete shutdown at the main site, we can return to full operations within a number of hours without harming business continuity.
In order to understand the level of the security and survivability standards, you would have to visit the site. There’s no doubt that if we wanted to achieve that level by ourselves, the investment would be enormous. Not many companies could afford it.
In addition, once our main servers were linked to the servers hosted at MedOne, we could start receiving DRP services at maximum levels of survivability and at a low, predetermined cost. And this DRP solution allows for flexible growth in keeping with the company’s needs with respect to floor space, electricity, air conditioning, and the other infrastructures.
At the end of the day, implementing DR at MedOne gave us the ability to recover in hours instead of weeks. That’s a real revolution in our business continuity and survivability. It makes a big difference in how we function and in our readiness to measure up against the strict standards applied to financial systems.
In our business world, system shutdown means the collapse of working relationships with the car agencies, and consequently the loss of deals and profits. It’s a significant business risk that we couldn’t ignore. When we set up and implemented DR at the secured facilities of MedOne, we put an end to those fears and we opened a new era of business continuity for the company.
I can’t conclude without mentioning the extensive professional support we received from MedOne’s team of experts all through the process. And we still enjoy that support today. Support from MedOne personnel enables dozens or projects to proceed with safety and confidence to a prompt and trouble-free launch.
Further benefits from the project:
- Tremendous savings in physical infrastructure investments
- Maximum flexibility and room for growth at the highest available levels of survivability
- Potential savings of millions of shekels by preventing server collapse that would cause days of system inoperability
- Guaranteed continuity, with no loss of revenue — or of information necessary for financial reporting