Blog Entries from 03/2014
Earlier this week, it was reported that Nasdaq was reconsidering its Amazon-based cloud product, FinQloud. According to the Financial Times, FinQloud has failed to gain significant traction in the marketplace amongst financial services firms including broker-dealers and exchanges. If Nasdaq pulls out of the deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS), it would be a major disappointment to Amazon, who is actively pitching AWS to large financial institutions and enterprises.
Whether the limited adoption of FinQloud is a sign of a product flaw or a larger industry trend, we feel it important to draw attention to a longstanding debate within the financial services industry – a debate that we’ve shared our thoughts on here on Hedge IT many times: public vs. private clouds.
It’s certainly possible that the slow adoption of FinQloud is a result of concerns over mass public cloud usage – a stern reality for many financial services firms who expect and demand that their critical applications and data be stored in a highly secure and available environment. Hedge funds and investment firms, in particular, cannot afford unexpected downtime, and unfortunately, we’ve seen several public cloud providers experience major outages in recent years. Just last week, Dropbox users logged in to find the service was unavailable, and Amazon and Google have both found their services in the headlines in recent years over very large and public disruptions.
Earlier this week, we hosted a webinar on the topic of application hosting in the cloud and featured our newest partner, Black Mountain Systems. Our speakers looked at the benefits firms can realize from hosting their hedge fund applications in the cloud as well as the future of cloud adoption. Let’s take a closer look at what was covered. If you’d like to watch the full event replay, click here.
Here at Eze Castle Integration, we see the adoption of cloud computing continuing to grow in a significant way, particularly among new startup firms. Realizing the operational and financial benefits of a cloud infrastructure, nearly 95 percent of new startup funds are opting to utilize the cloud. Existing firms are also shifting in this direction (though at a much slower pace), and we’re seeing on-premise infrastructure deployments starting to decline.
Feeling lucky that your business has never been impacted by a disaster? If so, now is the time to evaluate everything from your call tree to your disaster recovery solutions. Most studies show that up to 40 percent of businesses fail after a disaster. That means that almost half of firms reading this article will not recover if not fully prepared.
So what do you do to ensure that you will be more than just lucky to successfully recover from a disaster?
Start with your documentation. What do you have? You should have a current Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and Employee Quick Reference Cards (QRCs). If you have those two items, be sure to review them and make sure any recent changes to your business have been captured. Once you’ve validated the information is current, it’s time to test the documentation.
What comes to mind when you think of Miami, Florida?
Beaches and sun, exciting nightlife, a popular Will Smith song. These are typical associations with Miami. How about finance? This might not be the first thought that comes to mind, but the city of Miami is hoping that will change. Miami is a major financial hub and growing, and according to the president of the Miami Finance Forum, it’s the second most concentrated financial hub behind New York City.
Currently home to over 60 international banks and 100 alternative investment companies, Miami and its busy Brickell Avenue has emerged as “Wall Street South,” and according to Forbes is luring many financial firms away from more traditional hubs such as New York and Greenwich, CT.
Back in October of last year, we learned that Microsoft was ending support for its XP operating system – a move that would force users to upgrade to its more current software. Fast forward to today, and more than 29% of PC users are still using XP (according to NetMarketShare). In an interesting move, Microsoft announced recently that it will continue to provide updates to its antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015. Microsoft did caution that its research shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited.
We can assume this is a move at least partly fueled by slow adoption of software upgrades, based on the figure NetMarketShare has provided. Beyond private PC users, however, there may lie an even greater reason for extending security support. Reports suggest that more than 90% of ATMs across the United States are operating with Windows XP – a potentially crippling situation if hackers were able to breach the operating system. Last year, “a high-profile criminal group in Europe took advantage of a security vulnerability in XP that allowed them to use flash drives to infect ATMs with malicious software, emptying the machines of cash one-by-one. Researchers estimate that they may have gotten away with millions of Euros."
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which prompted a call to stricter regulations across the board, the European Commission decided to develop the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD). The European Commission pointed out that managers of alternative investment funds are responsible for the management of a significant amount of invested assets and can exercise an important influence on markets and companies in which they invest. Furthermore, the Commission believed activities of such alternative investment funds may amplify risks through the financial system. The directive has been developed to address a number of risks identified by the Commission relating to alternative investment funds, including systemic risk, through a single set of rules that would apply across the board.
The Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive came into force on 22nd July 2013. Since then, the alternative investment fund managers, including managers of hedge funds, private equity firms and investment firms, have been working on submitting the 35-page application form to get registered under the directive before it comes into effect in less than four months.
The Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive will most likely affect private equity funds if they are located in or have investors in the European Union and are identified as the alternative investment fund manager. Fund managers at private equity firms will need to obtain and comply with transparency and the reporting requirements of the directive in order to manage and market private equity funds within the EU.
Is Dropbox becoming a noun? For the sake of this article, let’s say it is.
With over 200 million users, Dropbox (and similar services) is gaining popularity based on its ability to allow users to share files and sync data between devices. These capabilities are very appealing but rely on a public cloud platform that can introduce security and compliance concerns for hedge funds.
Dropbox made headlines last year when it was discovered by security researchers that the service opens some files once they are uploaded. While Dropbox provided an explanation, this can be a serious issue for businesses where employees are using Dropbox to share sensitive company and investment data.
So are your employees using Dropbox? Probably. A study conducted by Gigaom of 1,300 business professionals found that one out of five use public file sharing services, such as Dropbox, with work documents. And, half of those users know their companies have rules against it. This raises the question, how do you give employees access to a valuable tool in a way that meets compliance and security protection obligations?