As we near the end of Q1 2013, hedge fund managers continue to generate higher returns. Following several years of sub-par performances from global hedge funds, investment managers have turned to cloud computing and infrastructure-as-a-service providers to not only cut costs, but also boost productivity. Many of the concerns that managers once had about migrating to cloud-based IT solutions, such as security, privacy and application performance, have been alleviated, and the benefits, such as cost predictability, business continuity and scalability, are tangible.
As small- to medium-sized hedge funds look to do more with less in the face of today’s regulatory and investor pressures, they need to be able to anticipate and account for their expenses. These firms don’t typically have the budget to absorb surprises related to building and maintaining on-site data centers, which can bring major distraction, a budgeting nightmare and significant risk. A cloud services model offers an out-of-the-box functional infrastructure, deployment in days and drastically reduced start-up risk. Cloud providers own all the equipment and are already used by other funds, so the manager doesn’t need to write the big check up front or worry about any potential missed details.
Unpredictable expenses don’t stop once the data center is built. Equipment can break or simply need to be replaced, and firms face mandatory system upgrades, data corruption and hard drive failure, among other challenges. Adding or removing capacity can also result in hard-to-predict costs, and staff levels must be adjusted at certain thresholds — preferably before workloads reach critical levels. Cloud service providers hedge this risk in exchange for a predictable monthly subscription fee, where even the added or lowered costs of Scaling the needed capacity is predictable, since the cost and required lead time for making that change are known ahead of time.
Hedge funds are held to high standards when it comes to their business continuity plans. A technology failure can be disastrous for money managers, yet more firms than ever are entrusting cloud Service Providers to “disaster proof” their business. This is because dedicated cloud service providers benefit from economies of scale and can offer a product that is constantly validated by others using the same service. Relocating and replicating IT resources to off-site locations also protects businesses from disasters in primary offices. Funds can tailor solutions to their specific business needs, or outsource “a-la-carte,” moving all their IT resources off site, or outsourcing only key components.
Key man risk is also common in hedge funds with only one or two IT people that are qualified to trouble-shoot technology issues. If those individuals are unavailable at a time of emergency, the result can be disastrous for the business. Consultants can help in an emergency, but they still require time and money to gain familiarity with the IT environment. Having just a few key IT individuals also poses the risk of their own limited capacity; it’s not feasible for one person to monitor the health of an on-site data center 24/7 with very short response times. Conversely, cloud service providers employ teams of dedicated staff that monitor the network 24/7.
Cloud providers offer the unique ability to quickly and cost-effectively meet changing business needs. Hedge funds no longer need to worry about how to expand their IT capacity, technical staff levels or server space, or fund new hardware and software resources to grow or enter new markets. Instead, managers can embrace an outsourced model that lets them focus on their core business rather than invest time and effort into solving IT problems. “Scaling down” can be as simple as a phone call, meaning fund managers no longer need to focus on staff layoffs, reselling hardware, or low data center use.
By using these services, hedge funds no longer have to spend the time and money required to build an in-house platform. Cloud service providers can offer an established infrastructure to get managers up and running within days instead of weeks or months. While some managers still perceive cloud computing as an emerging trend in the financial space, it has undoubtedly become an integral part of many hedge funds’ business strategies. It has become evident that IT outsourcing services run day-to-day operations more efficiently and offer managers the chance to scale more effectively, enabling firms to turn over the hassle of managing IT to a trusted partner and focus instead on their core business.
By Chris Grandi, CEO, Abacus Group