Data from the British Bankers Association has found that the use of internet banking has fallen, with customers now switching to mobile applications instead. App usage in the banking sector has grown considerably in the last few years, up from over 7 million logins per day in 2014, to an astonishing 11 million per day in the last year.
Not only are apps changing the operating models of established banks but the market is seeing the rise of numerous new players – such as Monzo and Atom Bank – which are completely based on apps. Essentially, operating as a ‘virtual’ bank, they offer a more personalised and supportive user experience that is optimised for smartphones.
This is not isolated to the banking sector. Apps have been gathering momentum and are steadily changing the way our society and workforce interacts – from communication to shopping, healthcare to entertainment. Apps are now big business: the Apple store saw over 100m app downloads in 2015 alone, while Google’s equivalent store sold over 200m. Clearly, apps represent a serious opportunity for revenue, as well as a crucial component in any modern business’ go-to-market strategy.
Apps vs Applications: A Short Aside
But apps only form part of the ecosystem behind the successful running of a business. Enterprise applications are also necessary; much more complex and multi-functional, they are responsible for running back-end processes, as well as collecting, storing and analysing data. Both apps and applications need constant availability and robust security measures, one of the areas where they differ is in the resources needed to deliver against these demands. And while it is simple to keep an app up and running, the fact that applications require an enterprise level of infrastructure – and that these applications support the app – means that having the right infrastructure is vitally important.
And what happens if the infrastructure upon which they are hosted suffers an outage or disruption, slowing business to a crawl, or worse, a screeching halt? The loss in revenue, reputation and productivity can be severe and, for some organisations, terminal. To put the threat into context, research has previously estimated that disruption due to downtime and data loss has cost enterprises across the world over $1.7 trillion. In the UK alone, these issues account for £10.5 billion in lost earnings.
Yet despite this tangible impact, these issues still occur with alarming frequency. Earlier this year, on the approach to the most important vote of a generation, the EU referendum website crashed. The consequence could have been devastating: this isn’t just a customer being unable to buy a new pair of shoes, or missing out on concert tickets, this outage could have potentially barred citizens from having their say on the future of their country.
The private sector is not immune either. For all the hype surrounding the retail sector’s participation in Black Friday, last year saw one in five retailers suffering website outages. With disruption blamed on high levels of customer traffic – including a 660% spike between midnight and 1am – this was not altogether unexpected. Many of the affected retailer advertised sales and deals ahead of the event, and after the traffic increases seen over the last few years, it was clear their IT infrastructure was going to be put under heavy pressure.
Building a Strong Foundation
Getting the infrastructure right is, therefore, critical, offering a strong and robust foundation from which applications can be delivered to an exponentially growing and enthusiastic market. It is, however, easier said than done.
When it comes to ensuring your organisation has the right infrastructure to support its applications, there are four key questions to ask…
Firstly, what are your performance demands? For example, if you’re simply storing databases then you don’t need resources required for mining and analysing data. Similarly, if you’re using the application to support a data archive, then performance is a far lower priority than if users are regularly accessing the application.
Next, what level of protection does the data require? Do you have the appropriate security protocols in place? Clearly, employee details, financial results, and the like, must be kept under heavy encryption but your organisation is unlikely to require the same level of protection for its canteen menu or Christmas party plans, for example.
Another question to ask is whether your organisation is operating in a field where compliance is an issue? If you require customers to share credit card data then you need an infrastructure that can support PCI DSS regulation. Additionally, are there any geographical restrictions placed on where your data must reside based on the regions in which your organisation operates?
Finally, what are your recovery needs? Should the worst happen, what applications need to be prioritised to ensure the organisation can move forward? Which can wait? It’s important to consider not only impact to revenue but also reputational damage, for example – prioritising the recovery of a customer on-boarding system over the existing accounts of current users is likely to do untold harm in the long term.
Ultimately, businesses run on IT and nowadays that means apps and applications – both traditional and agile. In the plainest language: downtime in these applications means the business does not function. Having the right infrastructure is crucially important to the future of all organisations, regardless of sector or size.