Information Network Services Uses Secondary Storage To Save Costs

Service bureaus for large banks are processing customer statements, reports, and check images at astronomical rates. While RAID array storage is still used for on-demand data, a method to store critical, less-frequently-accessed data has become paramount. Due to its low-cost per MB, security, and portability, service bureaus are finding that CD is the ideal method for archiving and sharing secondary data to their clients.

Information Network Services, Inc. was once an IS department within First Citizens Bank in Billings, MT, but the department branched off to form a service bureau that provides data processing and document-imaging services to banks owned by INS's holding companies, Citizens Development Corporation and United Bancorp. The number of items the service bureau processes reaches upwards of 15 million annually. INS updates the banks' data nightly, with a strong emphasis on timeliness and accuracy. But according to Kevin Morrow, Systems Analyst at INS, maintaining and storing information on the service bureau's RAID array system has become increasingly laborious and expensive. As a result, INS has turned to CD for archiving and providing access to information that is over a year old. The solution the service bureau uses to provide data access to the banks' employees is SmartStor Archive v. 3.0.

Information Network Services Reduces Its Use of RAID
The first step INS is taking to reduce the cost and maintenance of RAID storage is to move less-frequently-accessed customer data from RAID to a CD file server, which is attached to a CD-Recordable jukebox. The CD-R discs are then placed in a Cygnet id100, controlled by SmartStor software, for central, secure access. Bank employees, who need to retrieve data from the CDs in the jukebox, use an application that is installed on their individual workstations to access INS's wide area network (WAN). Receiving the data stored in the jukebox is just as seamless as it is from RAID—the end-user doesn't notice the difference between on-line and near-line access. "It only requires a little bit of management on the database, pointing the database to look at the jukebox instead of the on-line information," explains Morrow.

CD Technology a Nice Fit for Information Network Services
For secondary storage, INS finds CD technology to be ideal. At less than one cent per MB and $1 per disc, CD is the least expensive form of optical storage. Security in the banking arena is extremely important, so CD's indelible nature fulfills this requirement. "The data that's out there must not be manipulated, and with CD, there's no security risk in that regard." Finally, Morrow points out article imageCD's portability. Bank employees can access data from a central location, but in some cases banks request that INS send them CDs for distribution. With CD, the banks can then access the media in any CD-ROM reader.

SmartStor Proves Cost-Effective and Fast
Morrow chose SmartStor based on recommendations from their VAR, Innotech USA, and information he obtained from Cygnet's Web site. The software/hardware match worked out well for the service bureau, as there were no problems with installation to speak of. "I've had problems with other installations, such as device driver conflicts and DLLs that didn't match. I didn't even have to reboot with SmartStor," says Morrow. Morrow also explains that the software provides end-users with fast access, "SmartStor allows customers access to data, timely and cost-effectively. In most cases it takes only five to 10 seconds." SmartStor's speed in conjunction with the Cygnet jukebox can be attributed to advanced caching features. Another benefit of SmartStor was one that can be taken for granted—the documentation that came with the software. Says Morrow, "After I read the manual, it was a snap to install. It was nice to have printed manuals instead of online documentation."

Where Information Network Services is Going from Here
In the future, INS plans to expand services to include check imaging for banks in and outside the holding company. This will allow the banks to research check items in an on-line environment instead of retrieving them from microfilm, thereby reducing time and money. As well, a Web connection will eventually be implemented in order to eliminate the need for the client software that is required to gain access to the service bureaus' WAN.