William Buck aims to 'elevate IT' to next level
- 04 September, 2019 14:58
Financial services firm, William Buck, was on a mission to get the firm’s IT house in order - and put a stop to the ‘revolving door’ that was cycling between outsourcing and insourcing management of its IT environment.
William Buck is a firm of chartered accountants and advisors with six offices across A/NZ.
Established in 1895, it has over 100 directors and 600 professional employees providing a full range of accounting and corporate advisory services. In New South Wales (NSW), William Buck employs around 210 employees.
William Buck NSW senior IT manager, Ban Ch’ng, told CIO Australia for the past 18 months, it has been back on an insourcing cycle driven by a desire to elevate technology from an operational imperative to support William Buck NSW’s growth ambitions.
Under the plan, the company recently deployed Cohesity to provide the organisation with backup, restore, search and data deduplication.
It needed to slash restoration times, boost data and document security, maintain overall costs, and support scalable business growth.
Prior to adopting the technology, Ch’ng reviewed William Buck NSW’s IT governance, disaster recovery strategy, and business continuity planning, and it raised some concerns.
As the business grew, so did the number of documents and amount of data it handled, Ch’ng explained.
Some of that data contains sensitive financial client information, as well as the firm’s playbook which includes a series of precedents used by employees to guide them when making future decisions, he noted.
“Those precedents are the bread and butter of William Buck. Without ongoing access to those precedents, we wouldn’t have the consistency in our decision making and advisory, and we wouldn’t be able to maintain our quality of service,” Ch’ng said.
In an average week, William Buck NSW’s small in-house IT team was being asked to recover data or to roll back to the previous version of a document at least twice. This process could take IT anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
Ch’ng said there’s a host of operational benefits thanks to the deployment of Cohesity and the move to slash recovery times.
For starters, it allows seamless integration with Nutanix and other cloud providers; and restores previous file versions from backup in less than five minutes.
Bare-metal restores now run on-the-fly, he said, which means the server can now be restored in five to ten minutes, instead of two hours; and archives can be stored on Cohesity or the public cloud, while maintaining consistent security policies and deduplication across the hybrid environment.
Additionally, he said the subscription pay model lets the organisation maintain the encryption and deduplication of data sitting on-premises in the cloud. It also prevents ransomware from targeting or deleting backups while offering encryption of data at rest.
With Cohesity in place, when staff need the previous version of a file restored from backup, the process takes no longer than five minutes and is up to 24 times faster than it was before, he explained.
“Now, when we go out to do a restore, my team can just use a browser to search for the name of the file to restore, locate it, and restore it. The resource is there for no more than five minutes,” Ch’ng said.
In addition to Cohesity appliances, William Buck NSW is using Cohesity DataProtect and CloudArchive software. This enables the company to store archives either on Cohesity or the public cloud, while maintaining consistent security policies and deduplication across the hybrid environment.
“If I were to replicate to the cloud, my concern was cloud cannot do the same deduplication as on-premises secondary storage,” Ch’ng said. This would mean a much higher cost per usable gigabyte for cloud storage, offsetting some benefits of storing data there.
“A key requirement was to ensure whenever we back up on-premises and replicate that to the cloud, the amount of storage used would be almost identical. With Cohesity, we just pay a subscription and it maintains the encryption and deduplication of data sitting on-premises in the cloud. That is very cost effective for us.”
Beefed up security
Security capabilities built into Cohesity have also won William Buck NSW over. The Cohesity solution offers capabilities that can help prevent ransomware from being able to target or delete backups.
In addition, it offers encryption of data at rest, which William Buck NSW is likely to take advantage of in the future.
“Traditionally data encryption at rest requires third-party software, but because Cohesity has secondary storage, they provide encryption at rest as part of the whole solution.
“One of the questions that we constantly get asked is whether we have technology to provide encryption at rest, and I always said no because it is quite an expensive exercise. Now I have the capability if I need to use it.”
Ch’ng said now that the company is exploring new and emerging technologies and looking at what’s next on the horizon, he said the big challenge is knowing how to continue to embark on the digital transformation journey.
“That’s where all of the technology is moving to - digital transformation and AI. In order for us to move more into that space, it’s all down to the foundation of the data that we have around IT governance. So we need to have a solid foundation of IT governance and also the data.”
He said data is the key to the transformation journey. “Data can be coming from a varied source so our challenge now is to build a data warehouse, so we’re using a single source of data.
“We want to offer more value to our clients,” he said, explaining the big challenge as the firm moves into the digital world is offering value to internal staff as well as other stakeholders a modernised customer experience.
“As we move forward people want data a lot quicker, so the client is no longer waiting for a request for information, instead we can provide information instantly.”
But it’s still too early to talk about AI. “Before we move to AI, we need to collect a lot more data, see how our client will use the platform, and what our clients want to see, and what they want to request through our internal advisor.”
Instead, over the next 12 months, he said he’ll be focusing on workflow automation - internal and client-facing - as well as data warehousing.
“We humans have human error, but if we do automation we can get a consistency of experience and result, so we can improve the process as well.”