Balancing budgets

Lebanon’s Bank of Beirut reveals how it conquered the challenge of balancing its IT budget between maintenance and new projects.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  October 12, 2008

Lebanon's Bank of Beirut reveals how it conquered the challenge of balancing its IT budget between maintenance and new projects.

Running the infrastructure of one of the Middle East's leading banks is far from an easy job. It is absolutely crucial to strike a healthy balance between implementing the latest developments in information technology and maintaining your current infrastructure.

But when you are on a tight budget, how do you decide on the best way to split spending between these two important areas?

We have 45 sites across Oman, Cyprus and the UK, and we have other branches abroad that are connected through VPN.

For the Bank of Beirut IT team, this decision turned out to be exceedingly simple - split it 50/50. This has the benefit of providing considerable funds for system health and maintenance issues, while still leaving plenty over for more advanced projects such as virtualisation.

IT manager Najib Ghanem, offers a helpful glimpse at the scope of the organisation's IT infrastructure, and the hardware and software he employs to manage the bank across its various sites around the globe.

"We have 45 sites across Oman, Cyprus, and the UK, and we have other branches abroad that are connected through VPN. The branches in Lebanon are connected through communication frame relay, that means we have leased line connectivity. We have a data centre in Oman that was used as a disaster recovery site but we use it as the primary site now," says Ghanem.

"The centres are linked through a VPN and we have a transfer of data between both. The data centre in Lebanon is used to serve the Lebanese branches and is acting as a data centre for Cyprus. The centre is hosting the internet and the exchange for all the branches. Oman has its own data centre but the email and exchange is centred in Lebanon," adds Ghanem.

Such a large undertaking requires reliable infrastructure and appropriate supporting software, especially when it comes to international banks - where the collapse of a network affects thousands of people worldwide.

The bank selected software vendor CA to provide the majority of its products. The company has become its major pillar of support when it comes to maintenance of its systems.

Ghanem says he was familiar with CA's products, and knowing what kind of quality of service it provides gave them a good chance of being selected for use by the bank.

The Bank of Beirut began implementing CA products in 2001, starting with antivirus and Unicentre, and has continued to rely heavily on the company throughout the new millennium. It currently uses around 10 CA products ranging from mail and web filtering to service desk. Ghanem says choosing a company to provide these services were a relatively easy decision to make.

"We compared CA to a number of other available products and we picked up CA. I know the product. I know the type of service it supports, and the quality of service it has, from previous experience with their other products," says Ghanem.

Bank of Beirut technology infrastructure

Core banking system - HP Unix

ATM card management system -IBM AS/400


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