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Innovation and competitiveness: Fintechs must move to the edge

Source: Finance Derivative

By Simon Michie, CTO, Pulsant

Data-driven innovation has been one of the hallmarks of fintechs, along with the ability to identify areas that banks neglect or where new capabilities will transform financial services.

Now, however, the fintechs have arrived at a crossroads as edge computing changes IT in the global financial landscape. The edge is a major advance, moving data processing closer to the end user or customer. Working in combination with 5G wireless connectivity, edge computing delivers fast, low latency processing, even with the high volumes of data needed for artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

For financial organisations, this has obvious advantages. Customer-facing trading platforms, for example, can use edge computing to enable faster and more complex mobile execution anywhere in the UK. There is no longer any significant disadvantage in being a long way from the hubs of the major cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, or Google. Fintech mobile apps are already highly developed, but once they run on an edge infrastructure platform, they will be capable of far more. They can, for instance, offer a new range of services based on, or triggered by, the user’s location, or deploy more sophisticated security, including facial recognition, to enable larger-scale or more frequent transactions on a mobile device or PC.

Edge infrastructure will become the platform for fintech innovation, to the extent that those failing to grasp the opportunity may well lapse into irrelevance. They will lack the responsiveness and streamlining the efficiency of their competitors who, for example, will vastly accelerate approvals of loans or credit extensions, drawing on historical and current customer data.

Many AI-driven anti-fraud technologies also stand to make significant progress as real-world solutions, using low latency data processing to detect anomalies or suspicious behaviour in near-real-time. AI in combination with edge data processing is also set to ease the burden of compliance with banking regulations and data sovereignty laws. These use cases are among the reasons why market research company IDC estimates global cloud spending by banks will increase by more than 16 per cent each year up to 2024, hitting $77bn annually. It is why Mastercard, the global payment giant, is pushing forward its Next Edge network – a good example of how edge computing is entering the financial mainstream.

Fintechs need the edge to sustain innovation

As banks invest heavily in edge computing, fintechs will need to accelerate innovation. Competitiveness is about more than loan rates or current account interest – it’s about providing a great experience, whether for payday loans or niche services on trading platforms.

Fintechs also need the ability to adapt rapidly to any future pandemics, the sudden imposition of financial sanctions, interest rate rises or new laws or regulations. Since most are cloud-natives, they already have the advantage of a more flexible infrastructure than incumbents in the banking sector who still have critical applications and vast datasets that cannot function properly in the cloud.  The more wide-ranging use of AI and the integration of crypto currencies, cardless payment platforms and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will make edge adoption a necessity. The question facing many fintechs, therefore, will be about the nature of the edge infrastructure they should adopt.

Using the edge to provide a high-quality user-experience

Because edge computing has several configurations, deciding which infrastructure to build on can be difficult. For ubiquity and low latency, any edge infrastructure platform must comprise a network of regional data centres with fast connectivity to and between the major cloud providers’ hubs in metropolitan areas. This of course must be supported by low latency 5G transmission to end users and their devices. Whichever financial services market a fintech addresses, it must provide a slick interface and total reliability. For mobile applications, this means providing the same quality of experience in northern Scotland as in the South East of England.

At the same time, the data any fintech must transmit to the hyperscalers’ compute or storage capacity must also transit in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible. In the UK, this requires a network of well-dispersed data centres and fast, seamless connectivity for all data flows.

Fintechs, along with their banking or enterprise clients, should also appreciate that digital transformation in finance outside the major metropolitan areas will also require more than fast, high-bandwidth connectivity. Solutions that apply beyond the City of London will demand true edge capabilities from a purpose-built edge infrastructure platform, so they deliver to the entirety of the country.

Making hybrid architectures work with edge

The crossroads in financial IT that banks and fintechs have reached requires them to make some decisions about direction of travel. Established banks are now considering their hybrid cloud strategies, placing data and workloads where they work best and are most cost-effective, whether on-premise, in colocation, or with hyperscalers.

Increasingly, edge computing is part of the hybrid architectures banks are adopting. Fintechs should take care not to be left behind, nor to be limited by their choice of edge infrastructure partners. They must avoid vendor lock-in or being bogged down in the complexities of managing increasingly opaque or complicated and costly hybrid deployments.

Fortunately, the next generation of cloud management platforms is on hand to maximise implementation and management across hybrid and edge infrastructures. These solutions offer the ability to gain the full flexibility and innovation of edge computing while maintaining access to the most sensitive data and workloads in secure locations, as required. These more advanced edge platforms are compliant with payment card industry (PCI) data security and encryption standards as well as the EU and UK data protection and sovereignty laws. They may also comply with US regulations such as SOC 2 and the Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, governing the confidentiality, integrity, and privacy of customer data.

As fintechs take stock and decide which way to go with their IT architecture, they must consider all these points. Fintechs that address the world outside London must at the very least ensure they have a genuinely national and resilient low-latency edge platform with rapid connectivity to the major hyperscalers’ metropolitan hubs. By making informed decisions and choosing to work with best-qualified edge partners they can continue along their fast track to innovation and widespread adoption within banking and finance.

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Business

Five Enterprise Storage Trends for 2023: Vendors must rise to the challenge

Author: Eric Herzog, Chief Marketing Officer at Infinidat

Looking ahead, 2023 will be a very exciting year for enterprise storage, here are 5 trends we see emerging. In each case vendors will need to respond quickly with the right solutions, but do they have the right foundations in place to do so?

#1: Convergence of cybersecurity and storage as a cornerstone of an enterprise IT strategy

CIOs and CISOs continue to increasingly realise that, if they don’t combine storage with cybersecurity, they’re leaving a gap in their corporate cybersecurity strategy. IT leaders are accustomed to protecting the network and endpoints, deploying firewalls and looking at the application layer. However, all of their data ends up on storage. The great awakening in the enterprise market, heading into the new year, is that, if an enterprise storage solution does not have the capabilities to help combat a cyberattack, the C-suite and the IT team are leaving the organisation severely exposed. The trend emerging is for storage that is buoyed by cyber resilience to be part of the overall comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in every large organisation.

This means vendors must – if they don’t already – offer storage solutions that perfectly align with cybersecurity solutions and strategies commonly used to protect enterprises, as well as cloud hosting providers, managed hosting providers and managed service providers. It will require a vendor and its partners to work closely with CIOs and CISOs, along with other IT leaders and administrators, to make cyber resilient storage a key part of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, plugging vulnerable gaps and securing the data against cyberattacks.

#2: Boosting the ability to make a near-instantaneous recovery from a cyberattack with the highest level of trust in the data

The question is not “if” your organisation is going to be hit with a cyberattack; it’s a question of “when” and “how often.” Your organisation will get attacked, and it could get attacked multiple times. At that point, it’s a matter of how you respond to that attack. Cyber resilience is among the most important and highly demanded requirements of enterprises today to combat cyberattacks across the entire storage estate and data infrastructure.

Even if your endpoint or your network security keeps the cyber criminals out once or twice, there will surely be times when they get through. When that happens, one of the critical things for an IT team is to get a known good copy of the data and make a speedy recovery. It’s crucial to use an immutable snapshot of the data to ensure that the data has not been compromised. In other words, the data can be trusted. Finding a known good copy is done by curating the potential candidates to restore in a fenced forensic environment. The last thing you want to do is just start restoring data that has malware or ransomware infiltrated within it.

Vendors will need to offer solutions that combine immutable snapshots of data, a fenced forensic environment, logical air gapping, and virtually instantaneous data recovery – ideally with a rock-solid cyber storage guaranteed SLA. Once a cybercriminal gets through an enterprise’s line of defense, it’s all about resilience and recoverability of the data, building on a known good copy of the data. A cyber resilient storage infrastructure helps you more easily identify threats with automation and put data into a safe, fenced forensic environment. The cyberattack is nullified.

#3: Harnessing the capability of anomalous pattern detection to do cyber scanning on secondary storage

We’re seeing a trend emerging more broadly in 2023 around cyber scanning with the ability to do anomalous pattern detection, particularly on secondary storage. In the longer term, we see an expansion onto primary storage over the next 2-3 years. This cyber scanning is another tool in the storage admin’s tool bag, along with cyber resilience, to be proactively strengthening the data infrastructure to handle the ever-increasing sophistication and deceptiveness of cyberattacks. Whether for money, power or perverse entertainment, these attacks are designed to take down your business.

Vendors will need to provide anomalous pattern detection capability, possibly through partnerships with backup vendors as part of a wider ecosystem. This is an evolving area of technology and it gives customers the ability to do scanning on secondary storage, adding further value for enterprise customers and partners.

#4: Growing demand for ease of deploying cyber storage, resilience, and advanced security technologies

Enterprises and service providers are increasingly seeking easy-to-deploy and easy-to-use solutions that meet their needs for cyber storage resilience and integrated security technologies. They want not only automation, but also the next level up with autonomous automation. End-users don’t want complex set-ups anymore. They want to be able to quickly and efficiently access forensic environments, and when it comes to recovery of data, they expect two or three clicks, and then be done with it.

Vendors will need to respond with a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ approach to cyber storage, offering advanced technology that is also easy to deploy and use.

#5: Cyber resilience is being recognized as necessary for both primary and secondary storage as a safeguard against cyberattacks and internal threats

People often think that cyber storage resilience is only about backing up data. That’s not true. Cyber storage resilience is more than backup. This is an important distinction that speaks to a trend for the next year because smart cyber criminals won’t only attack your secondary datasets, like backup, but also attack your primary datasets. In recognition of this reality, enterprises and service providers are heading into the new year injecting new levels of cyber storage resilience into both their primary and secondary storage environments. There is a shift in the enterprise market starting to happen from being reactive – waiting for the cyber criminals to attack and then doing something about it – to proactively prepare for recovery, likened to disaster recovery. Companies usually have elaborate disaster recovery plans and business continuity measures. There is a growing awareness that “cyber disaster plans” need to be put in place with the right set of capabilities to initiate and execute rapid recovery.

Vendors need to help customers rethink their approaches to cyber storage resilience, shifting approach reactive to proactive. Cyber storage resilience enables an enterprise to nullify a ransomware attack, as if the attack didn’t even happen. No ransom, no disruption and full protection against attacks.

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Business

The power of a proactive customer service

Source: Finance Derivative

By Delia Pedersoli, COO, MultiPay

2023 is shaping up to be another challenging period for B2C businesses. While the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic has for now largely disappeared, new challenges like the cost-of-living crisis have arrived. As economic uncertainty impacts every consumer business from retail to travel and leisure experiences, service providers and suppliers must double down on their customer service to help clients through these challenging times. One area of customer service that is particularly important – and often overlooked – is proactivity.

A move to a more proactive customer service approach should not come at the expense of reactive measures. Regardless of how well-prepared customer service teams are and how detailed processes are, there will always be unforeseen and unexpected issues that need to be addressed. But by working in tandem, B2B service providers can deliver the service that customers now expect.

In recent years, the landscape has changed. Customers expect proactivity and for suppliers to understand what they want. Data from Salesforce that covered both consumers and business customers identified that two-thirds of respondents expect the suppliers they buy from to understand their needs and expectations. Not only this, but those that do take a proactive approach to customer service see a full point increase in their NPS.

Delivering a first-class proactive customer service is therefore a key requirement for businesses wanting to build and develop long-term relationships with their customers. However, for many businesses, it can be hard to know what to focus on and improve to attain the proactivity required. At MultiPay we have made proactivity a core part of our customer service, which has allowed us to identify several important factors.

A proactive process

The first area to focus on is getting close to customers. The more you know about a customer, how their business works, what the goals are and where there are challenges all helps in identifying areas to support with a proactive customer service. A good method to structure these insights is to conduct a SWOT analysis. Knowing the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities of a client helps identify areas that may need support soon. On top of this, it is important to invest time in speaking with clients. Not only will this help with the SWOT, but it can also highlight areas for operational improvements. Speaking with people from across the business allows you to truly get under its skin.

Knowledge is power when it comes to enhancing the proactivity of customer service. In addition to getting under the skin of a business, it is also important to understand its industry inside and out. Staying on top of key trends, themes, and issues affecting a client’s industry and sector helps with remaining on the front foot. Recently at MultiPay, we experienced a scenario that brought this home, working with one of Europe’s largest tourism operators, The Travel Corporation (TTC) which needed to bounce back quickly following the Covid-19 pandemic. With consumers excited to travel again, TTC needed a customer service and payments solution that could quickly scale and support its on-the-move workforce of travel directors. Working closely with TTC’s team along with monitoring the news and industry trends like the lifting of travel restrictions we were able to be proactive in scaling up operations in anticipation of key markets reopening. Staying ahead of the curve meant we were prepared to deliver new or replacement payment terminals at very short notice to travel directors anywhere in Europe. As a result, we eliminated the risk of downtime and loss of earnings that TTC could have suffered if there had been delays.

Planning for success

In addition to knowing a client’s business and their sector inside and out, it is also important to remember that no two businesses are ever the same. While some tactics and strategies may work for one, they may not translate to another. By getting to know clients, customer service can be tailored to them and their unique needs. Working with TTC for example, we learnt that its travel directors when out in the field, often lack an internet connection. Consequently, they needed to be highly self-sufficient. To achieve this, we developed a bespoke handbook that provided a step-by-step guide to setting up payment devices and solving common issues. On top of this, a dedicated hotline was launched, allowing travel directors to quickly gain help if needed when they did have connectivity. Taking the time to develop tailor-made services specific to TTC and its travel directors, helped provide the agility the business needed and removed pressure from TTC’s internal team.

Of course, before developing a user guide or establishing a hotline a plan needs to be created. Taking the time to meticulously map out the strategy and tactics to support a business is key. Factoring known events or challenges into a plan is vital in getting ahead of them. For instance, as well as navigating the reopening of travel destinations, our work with TTC also meant we had to work around the global chip shortage causing delays in device deliveries. To plan around this, we purposefully pre-ordered additional handsets that could be kept on standby. Then when a request for a new terminal came in, we didn’t have to let the client experience the delays caused by the chip shortage. In doing so we could ensure a smooth flow of devices to travel directors.

With so much uncertainty in the world currently, there has never been more of a need for proactive customer services from B2B suppliers. By building up a knowledge basis of a client’s business, their industry, and then planning and tailoring approaches accordingly, B2B suppliers can help their customers thrive in 2023 while also emerging as true partners. When uncertainty hits as much as we are now seeing, planning, and proactively become more important than ever.

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Business

Using consumer technology in business should be a thing of the past – and here’s why

By Joanna Jagiello, head of marketing at The Barcode Warehouse 

Who hasn’t had that heart-stopping moment when your phone slips neatly out of your hand, bounces three times and lands screen-side down on the concrete? Or what about the time you were balancing your tablet atop your pile of paperwork and an errant elbow sent it hurtling towards the corner of the desk, and on to the floor? While these are costly and frustrating accidents to have with personal devices, these mistakes are having an impact on businesses too.  

With a sharp increase in the number of workers operating across hybrid environments and, therefore, requiring more devices in order to stay connected and successfully complete their work, a businesses’ device estate has grown significantly. With this comes a number of new challenges. 

Not only do organisations need to consider, with greater detail, the range of equipment required by their employees such as headphones and headsets, keyboards, mice, and charging devices, but managers have also been forced to think about the physical durability of their chosen tech. 

Safeguarding their investments from any adverse working conditions and tough environments will only serve to maintain, and even improve on, productivity by reducing the downtime in the break/fix cycle. 

As a business, if you’re considering a refresh of your device estate, then weighing up the cost/benefit of investing in more appropriate technology, such as rugged devices. In this article, we discuss the differences between existing consumer-grade, and rugged devices, along with the advantages and disadvantages of investing in new technology. 

What’s the difference between consumer and rugged technology?

Firstly, both rugged and consumer devices cover items including smartphones, desktops, tablets and laptops that employees use to complete their work. 

Consumer-grade devices can be purchased off-the-shelf and are often used both in a personal and professional capacity. Simply adding a hardened or rugged case does not ‘ruggedise’ a device though; such devices have been built and designed to withstand harsh environments and the more rigorous demands of commercial use. Rugged equipment protects internal components too and often has additional built-in protection against dust, moisture, and extreme hot and cold temperatures. They can also have additional features built-in such as barcode scanners and longer-lasting batteries. 

There are three grades of rugged device; semi-rugged, fully rugged and ultra-rugged, with the latter being close to indestructible. Different businesses will require different levels of ‘toughness’ depending on the severity of the environment that they will be used in. For example, someone working in sales that often finds themselves working in the field would benefit from a semi-rugged device, whereas construction workers would benefit from fully rugged or ultra-rugged devices. 

So, why is now the time to consider investing in new technology? 

Equipping employees with appropriate technology improves productivity 

Research by Microsoft Surface, conducted with YouGov, found that 66% of employees with a work-related, company-owned laptop or tablet have been working with the same device since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, with the figure increasing to 71% for frontline workers. The same research suggested that older devices could be impacting productivity after 33% of employees who received new tech devices reported an increase in productivity. 

When thinking about the most important features of a new device, 58% of employees reported that reliability was their number one most desired feature, closely followed by responsiveness when working (56%), battery life (45%), screen size (43%), and start-up speed (36%). 

This statistic may be because businesses are demanding more from their employees’ devices than ever before. With the increasing usage of cloud applications, big data, AI and the Internet of Things, organisations need to ensure that the devices they are supplying to their employees are suitable, and have the capability to deal with these more significant data sets, workloads and environments. 

Why choose rugged devices over consumer-grade? 

When considering the devices to equip their workers with, businesses have to take into consideration a myriad of factors ranging from cost to functionality, and operating systems to device types. However, despite the heavier workloads required from devices, many organisations continue to use consumer-grade technology, which may be proving a false economy. 

Key considerations

If your business is still using consumer-grade technology then you are exposing your team, and your organisation, to unnecessary vulnerability. Let’s discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing rugged devices. 

Cost efficiency 

While updating your device estate may seem like an initial outlay your business is hesitant to make, continuing to use consumer-grade technology may prove to be a false economy.

Businesses considering rugged technology are often looking to maximise efficiency, improve productivity and reduce the cost of maintaining, repairing and replacing their device estate over time. When you consider how rigorous the physical testing that rugged devices are put through is, it’s easy to see how they would outlast consumer devices. This leads us in to our second consideration – durability.  

Durability

From shock-mounted hard drives and floating system components to high IP rated dust and moisture protection and all-magnesium casings, rugged technology is designed to withstand harsh environments and bounce back from drops, slips, and temperatures that would otherwise render consumer devices useless. 

By investing in technology that can operate efficiently in all-terrain environments, you are ensuring that profitability and productivity can be maintained – no matter where your employees may find themselves. Time spent adjusting elements like screen brightness due to poor visibility, or waiting for devices to come up (or down) to operational temperature is all time, and money, lost.

In addition to this, while one-off repairs or maintenance tasks for consumer-grade devices certainly won’t break the bank, it’s another expense that can build up over time. With more devices waiting for repair, the more downtime your business will experience; so while investing in rugged devices may seem more expensive in the beginning, the reduction in downtime due to enhanced durability and the option to introduce buffer and repair management to your estate means that repairs, maintenance and replacements take much less time, and money, out of your day! 

Business future-proofing

If you’ve missed the roll out of 5G, where have you been? The new superfast network started rolling out in the UK back in 2019, with full deployment by 2023 which will see the 3.5GHz, 5G, network cover 68% of the population, and 12 % of the geographical area in the UK, according to Statista. With 5G set on becoming the standard in mobile connectivity, so too will the number of manufacturers supplying 5G compatible devices.

In order to keep up, businesses will need to think forward to what the state of technology looks like. If firms continue to invest in consumer tech, they are already committing to making further purchases, and increasing costs. Investing in rugged technology, on the other hand, is most likely to deliver improved return on investment due to its increasing popularity and ability to help workers stay better connected and, therefore, more productive. 

Final thoughts

Aside from being cost-efficient, rugged devices can be implemented seamlessly into your work environment. With functionality and accessories that accentuate the abilities of the device, and your workers, they are a worthwhile investment that will save you money in downtime while providing a more reliable, long-term solution to your tech needs.

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