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Vicki Gerson
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Better Safe Than Sorry

Banco Santander secures its data with data replication solution from VERITAS.

For some banks, business continuity planning is driven by regulation. For Madrid-based Banco Santander International, the decision to pursue an ambitious BCP plan was driven by internal risk exposure analysis. "We decided that our time to recover from a disaster should be measured in hours," relates Agustin Abalo, VP, CIO and director of operations at the bank.

"We face several risks in case of involuntary stoppage of operations," Abalo continues. "If there are failed trades or a failure to make payment to clients, we are liable for compensation."

To mitigate these risks, Banco Santander ($756 billion in assets), the largest commercial bank in South America and the tenth largest bank in the world, needed a way to ensure uninterrupted protection of business-critical customer data at its Miami-based private banking center. Seeking an automated solution in 2002, the bank entertained presentations from three vendors. At the time, the bank relied on a manual process to back up its systems, shipping data tapes daily to its New York backup center.

According to Abalo, Banco Santander selected a solution from Mountain View, Calif.-based VERITAS Software Corp. "because the software was totally compatible with the infrastructure we had." The bank relies on HP9000 and Compaq servers. The VERITAS Volume Replicator application allows Banco Santander to automatically replicate data between its Miami and New York sites over its IP network.

The software was installed at each location in just one day during the third quarter of 2002. Though no new hardware was required for the deployment, "This is by no means a plug-and-play installation," Abalo notes. "Even with compatible systems, getting two different databases 1200 miles apart using a standard T1 line in sync requires a certain amount of fine-tuning." It took two weeks for the bank to achieve a comfortable confidence level with the replication process, he adds.

During the first six months, "We conducted continuous performance analysis," Abalo continues. The bank realized that the single T1 line it was relying on was not sufficient; the lag time between Miami and New York was approaching minutes, not the desired seconds. Rather than implement a costly T3 line, Banco Santander solved the problem in mid-2003 with Peribit Network's (Santa Clara, Calif.) Sequence Reducers, which utilize compression algorithms to expand the capacity of the T1, according to Abalo.

Getting In Sync

"We were able to get back in sync," Abalo says. To make sure both locations remain in sync, the bank tests the system twice a year. Control is transferred to New York and then back to Miami. Abalo says the test is effortless and takes only minutes to complete.

Banco Santander's business continuity planning proved fortuitous during the 2004 hurricane season. Situated facing the ocean, the bank's Miami facility was evacuated each time a major hurricane warning was issued. As the hurricanes approached the coastline, the bank transferred primary operations to the New York computer until the threat passed.

Abalo believes the VERITAS solution has already proved its worth, and a maintenance agreement with VERITAS allows the bank to receive enhancements to the software automatically. The product was competitively priced, he notes, and it effectively has reduced risk and cut the cost of data replication. "This system is like having an insurance policy for the bank," Abalo says.

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Snapshot

Institution: Banco Santander International (Madrid).

Assets: $756 billion.

Business Challenge: Ensure data protection and data availability during business interruptions.

Solution: VERITAS Software Corp.'s (Mountain View, Calif.) VERITAS Volume Replicator and Peribit Networks' (Santa Clara, Calif.) Sequence Reducers.

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