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Embracing the Cloud

More advisors are ditching their servers in favor of the cloud, minimizing IT costs and freeing up more time for client service.

Bill Winterberg, 02/09/2012

The average financial advisor's office contains a hodgepodge of hardware infrastructure to support a wide array of ordinary business activities. It's not uncommon to find a combination of servers, varying in age and performance, responsible for all of the firm's e-mail traffic, database access, and file storage. Then there are a variety of peripherals connected to the servers, like external tape or USB backup devices and network firewall systems, all adding to the complexity of maintaining a reliable and functional environment.

Most advisors acknowledge they are not experts in managing their information technology, so they either hire dedicated employees for day-to-day administration or contract IT management and support to an outside service provider. However, finding IT professionals with practical knowledge of the financial services industry--and its obligatory regulatory requirements--is an undertaking with long odds.

When I encounter a service provider who offers an IT platform aimed at offloading much of the burden of local infrastructure management and has experience working in financial services, I am compelled to share it. One such provider is Right Size Solutions, Inc. of Overland Park, Kan.

Infrastructure Services
Founded in 2002 by Wes Stillman, Right Size Solutions offers cloud infrastructure services, otherwise known as "infrastructure as a service" (IaaS), primarily to CPAs, registered investment advisors, broker-dealers, trust companies, and community banks. In addition to taking over the administration of much of an advisor's IT infrastructure, the company creates virtual server environments that advisors access via remote desktop connections.

Right Size Solutions uses Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol to allow advisors to connect to their virtual infrastructure using Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Unix, and Android operating systems over a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. "We've used Citrix servers and VPN in the past, and have grown into and settled on Microsoft's protocol for its stability and cost-effective management," Stillman said.

The platform significantly reduces the burden of managing hardware in an advisor's office and leverages many of the advantages of cloud computing. Right Size Solutions' team performs daily backups, disaster recovery testing, virus protection, software update management, and many other services on behalf of its clients.

Financial-Services Applications
Right Size Solutions' experience with applications specific to the financial-services sector helps set it apart from many of the virtual IT service providers in the marketplace today. Right Size Solutions' clients use programs familiar to advisors, such as Junxure, Schwab Performance Technologies PortfolioCenter®, Advent, Lacerte Tax, and Quickbooks.

Right Size Solutions has also been through a number of regulatory audits on behalf of their clients, from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and FDIC for their banking clients to the SEC and FINRA for those in financial services.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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