What gives an IT guy the right to offer advice to bigwig finance types on how to fix world financial networks? The answer is that networks are networks and they all behave the same regardless of whether they are data networks or finance networks (or even social networks). Any IT person with experience designing and operating data networks (LANs/WANs/VPNs/Clouds) has learned some lessons that finance people need to know about.
This came home to me one day recently as I talked with the person responsible for managing the data and telecom network that supports operations at MemorialCare, a not-for-profit healthcare organization. His name is Paul Holt and he is Director of Network Services.
Paul and his group currently support five separate hospital locations, enabling voice, data and images to move within each location, between each location, and from each location to outside parties as needed. The network connects individual devices like x-ray and CAT scan machines, PCs, laptops, servers and mobile handheld devices. They monitor and manage issues like bandwidth availability, data security and response time.
Lessons from Data Networks that Apply to Financial Networks
He told me they made major upgrades to this network in the last few years and then last summer the network started showing intermittent response time problems that affected everything from email to clinical applications. People in healthcare work under a lot of time pressure, so these problems got high visibility. They went right to the COO of MemorialCare who demanded that Paul and his group fix the problem ASAP.
Paul has been through these types of problems before. He told me one of the most important lessons he learned from past experience is that he needs real time views of network performance that show him big picture trends and allow him to drill down to point specific devices to track down root causes. In the past he did not have that kind of data available. Instead he had network monitoring systems that provided periodic batch reports showing aggregate numbers and summaries and averages and point-in-time snap shots of network status.
These reports usually told him what he already knew and did not help him see specific sequences of problem events as they happened and did not give him the data granularity he needed to investigate hunches about what was causing the problems.
So along with the network upgrades, Paul installed a network monitoring system that enables him to see real time displays of network performance data as it happens. It shows him moving displays of data that come directly from the individual network routers (applications in use, data volumes, IP addresses, etc.). He can also capture interesting sequences of real time data and play them back later for more detailed analysis during problem solving sessions (they use a real time monitoring system developed by Xangati).
In a few days they found an interesting pattern. It enabled them to be on site at the location of the problem the next time the network started to slow down. Here’s what they found: a particular doctor was downloading x-ray images (typically 100Mb JPG files) directly from an x-ray machine to his laptop and then he was attaching those images to emails and sending them to locations at other hospitals on the network.
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