A Lesson Learned: Backing Up Wall Streets IT

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2007-09-10
 
 
 

One of myriad lessons learned in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was that a financial supercenter such as New York City had better have an excellent aggregate backup plan in case of another such disaster.

It didnt then, but it will soon.

Wall Street financial decision-makers have come together—with the help of federal, state and local governments—to come up with a project called Wall Street West.

Wall Street West is a $40 million initiative and a partnership of about two dozen northeastern Pennsylvania regional and statewide Pennsylvania economic development agencies, technology investment groups, work force development organizations, educational and research institutions and private-sector experts.

With a strategic location in northeast Pennsylvania, the program is a federal- and state-funded initiative to develop a total backup package—involving many terabytes of data storage—for New York City financial institutions in the event of another disaster.

In February 2006, the group secured a $15 million WIRED (Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help with the initiative and encourage New York City-based financial institutions to establish their back-up and back-office operations in the region.

The region involved in this grant consists of the nine counties: Berks, Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Wayne.

There is a great deal of interest among a number of New York-based banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and stock brokerages, Wall Street West Project Director Catherine Bolton told eWEEK. However, for security reasons and because negotiations are ongoing between the project and the institutions, they cannot be named publicly, Bolton said.

Read more here about companies readiness for disaster.

In June 2007, Wall Street West partnered with Level 3 Communications to build a fiber optic network connecting lower Manhattan with northeastern Pennsylvania. The optical network will enable redundant, instantaneous data transmission between the two areas, and business continuity, recovery and data replication for the financial services industry.

The fiber network will provide synchronous data transmission between the two areas and is expected to be completed in 2008.

"When finished, the fiber network will enable Wall Street West to help ensure business continuity for major financial firms in the event of disaster," Bolton said.

So far, the cable is in the process of being laid and the first data center is being built.

"Wall Street West is helping to preserve the sanctity of the U.S. financial system," Dan Summa, president of Seccas, told eWEEK.

Seccas provides computer services to banks and hedge funds and is the key provider for Wall Street West.

"It is on a separate grid from New York City," he said. "Its close, but not too close, to the city. Its the only program of its kind addressing all the recommendations outlined by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller that calls on major financial firms to have back-up operations outside of New Yorks power and water infrastructure."

With much of the nine-county region within a 90-minute drive from Manhattan, northeastern Pennsylvania is close enough to allow for synchronous data transmission and easy employee access, Summa said.

"In addition to location, the region covered by the Wall Street West program offers significant business and quality-of-life advantages," he said. "Northeastern Pennsylvania boasts a highly educated, efficient work force and low operating costs. More than 49,000 students are matriculated at dozens of local colleges and universities in the area, and many of these emerging professionals are eager to remain in northeastern Pennsylvania."

Other area benefits include excellent public school systems, a low cost of living, affordable and available real estate and a wide array of outdoor and cultural activities, Summa said.

Late last month, officials at Wall Street West said they expect to receive a work force analysis report by mid-September. The report will look at the skills required by financial companies, review the areas worker training programs and identify gaps that need to be closed.

The report will help officials decide how to allocate $15 million in training money from the Department of Labor, said Susan Shaffer, director of work force initiatives at Wall Street West. The reports conclusions will be publicly released in October, she said.

For more information on Wall Street West, go here.

Some fast facts:

  • The northeastern Pennsylvania region is a nine-county area with a combined population of more than 1.7 million, spread over about 5,189 square miles.

  • It is home to 27 colleges and numerous corporations, including Bank of America, Sallie Mae, Wachovia Bank, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Sovereign Bancorp.

  • More than 25,000 residents are employed within the financial services and insurance industries in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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