First Commonwealth was founded as a community bank nearly 40 years ago. Today the bank is big enough to deliver all of the services of a large bank, yet small enough to allow for one-on-one, know-you-by-name relationships with customers.
The customer experience is critical for First Commonwealth. It’s critical for all banks. According to analysis conducted by Kantar, banks that lead the way in customer experience have a recommendation rate that is 1.9 times higher than banks at the lower end of the index. Additionally, their share of deposits is 1.9 times higher and their customers are 2.1 times more willing to adopt new products and services. Therefore, banks can grow their share of deposits up to 16.5% by improving customer experience.
For First Commonwealth, nearly all data related to customer experience is part of a data warehouse system. It feeds other business-critical systems including Synapsis (for customer relationship management) and the call center system. The bank’s IT team makes sure every system can be recovered quickly in a disaster situation to maintain business continuity. The team’s challenge was replicating the data warehouse for disaster recovery (DR).
“We were using Arcserve to replicate, but it was inefficient,” said Eric Kubla, IT Server Manager at First Commonwealth Financial Corporation. “If replication was interrupted for any reason, Arcserve wouldn’t pick up where it left off. Instead, it would replicate from the beginning, which meant replication didn’t complete overnight and continued into the next morning when our branches were opening. Employees experienced delays when they accessed business-critical systems, and those delays could impact their ability to serve customers. If customers visited our branches or phoned our call center to ask questions about their accounts, employees sometimes couldn’t provide answers quickly.”
Inefficient replication wasn’t the only challenge. DR testing was another. Kubla said failover and failback were somewhat complex and timeconsuming, which was frustrating during onsite compliance audits. First Commonwealth complies with several regulations including Dodd-Frank, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and the Sarbanes- Oxley Act (SOX).
“Replication should be a gateway to DR, but it was an obstacle for us,” Kubla said.
First Commonwealth replaced Arcserve with Veeam® Availability Suite™. Veeam provides efficient, reliable replication and a robust DR solution. Veeam simplifies and expedites DR testing with 1-click failover and rapid recovery, and it supports compliance with Dodd-Frank, PCI-DSS and SOX.
“Veeam does what Arcserve failed to do,” Kubla said. “Veeam provides a DR solution that helps us maintain business continuity so we can continue serving customers.”
Veeam replicates 40 TB across 200 virtual machines (VM) off-premises to Pure Storage. If a VM supporting a business-critical system fails, the IT team can immediately fail over to a standby replica and recover quickly to avoid downtime.
“One of the things we like best about Veeam is knowing we can recover fast anytime—not only in a DR situation,” Kubla said. “When there was a problem with an FTP server in our production environment, we used Veeam to recover from a replica rather than use our backup solution to recover from a backup. Veeam is faster, and speed matters in banking. That FTP server enables file transfer with customers for whom we provide automated payroll services. Knowing we can recover it fast means their payroll won’t be interrupted.”
Kubla used Veeam Instant VM Recovery® to recover the FTP server. He uses Veeam Explorers™ for Microsoft Active Directory and SQL Server to recover individual items and tables in other critical systems. He said granular recovery during DR testing was slow and complicated before Veeam.
“Simplifying and expediting DR testing is another big benefit with Veeam. “I recently did a DR test for our accounts payable department, and they assumed failover and failback would take at least 30 minutes, but the entire process took less than three minutes with Veeam. Upper management is always impressed when they hear how fast and easy DR testing is, and that’s good for the IT team.”
Veeam also provides advanced monitoring, alerting and reporting so the team can proactively resolve issues affecting replicas before they become problems that impact the business.
“It’s so great to be able to address high CPU and memory usage or low disk space before the damage is done,” Kubla said. “This is one more way Veeam helps us avoid downtime and protect critical data.”
The banking industry is heavily regulated to protect data. Dodd-Frank and PCI-DSS require that transaction records be preserved for a sufficient period of time so audits can be performed. SOX demands that data storage, access and retrieval are strictly controlled and that transaction records be maintained.
“Every year we go through internal IT audits to prove replication works,” Kubla said. “We show the audit team Veeam emails and reports that confirm replication completed successfully, and if we’re asked to demonstrate recovery, that’s always fast and easy too.”
First Commonwealth Financial Corporation, headquartered in Western Pennsylvania, is a financial services company with 147 banking offices in 28 counties in Pennsylvania and Ohio. With assets of $9.3 billion, First Commonwealth provides a full range of commercial banking, consumer banking, mortgage, wealth management and insurance products and services to nearly 500,000 customers. Founded in 1982, the bank employs more than 1,500 people.
Banks are long-time users of data analytics to optimize the customer experience and increase their competitive advantage. First Commonwealth’s challenge was replicating the source of data analytics (a data warehouse system) so it could be recovered quickly in a disaster situation, enabling branches to maintain business continuity and serve customers. Replication should be a gateway to DR, but it was an obstacle for First Commonwealth.