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The big upgrade show
2009. nov. 8.

"Why can't I use my internet bank on the major holidays?"

At the end of September and the beginning of November, many banks published a notification to inform their customers: "Please note, the service won't be available from xxxx.xx.xx to yyyy.yy.yy" - usually meaning long weekends.

Why does it matter from the customers' perspective? If I can't access my internet bank, there is no banking service at all. If I don't put money on my credit-card account / card account in time, I won't have access to my money. I can't buy anything, I can't refuel, nothing.

Right away, smart people are keen on giving good advices: you have to pay attention, you have to read the small letters carefully, etc. This is a wrong approach.

In my opinion, the right one is summarized in the title of Seve Krug's book: "Don't make me think". I don't want to read anything. I don't want to pay attention. I want the service to "just work". Because of this, in a world constantly arguing about the constrained penetration of cash-replacement solutions (meaning bank-cards) it is not very smart thing to pull the additional services (like changing of card-limit, blocking, money transfer), even for a short period of time.

Upgrades are necessary. One have to upload the patches, the updates, new functionality has to be introduced, maintenance has to be done. If we are fortunate, we can get away with minimum downtime, if not, we can count even the days.

This won't be a problem of systems with good architecture - the downtime can be barely-noticeable, but we have to take it into account that an internet bank never works as a standalone application, it is always deployed into an integrated environment. Meaning: the downtime of the back-end systems has effects to the service level of the internet-bank front-end. Mostly, the operation department - as they should - seeks stability: if it is possible, it is better to shut down the system entirely and making the maintenance jobs, than having it done "under current".

What can we do? One have to aim for the radical reduction of downtime due to maintenance for BOTH the internet bank and the back-end system. Preferably: zero downtime. Well prepared, pre-maintained systems and cluster nodes, architecture developed for fault-tolerance can make the difference.

What do the customers have? Basically, a safe and operating service, nothing spectacular. But, the banks usually use these times to introduce new functionality into the system. Without being exhaustive, here are some of the new ones introduced lately:

  • Raiffeisen: It is possible to download the exact replica of the account statement
  • OTP: introduces a new functionality OTPdirekt Bróker professional investment services, focusing mainly on stock market transactions
  • MKB: the NetBANKár has new functions named "Personal Finance", which includes transaction categorization and analytic services.
  • Unicredit: Major user interface upgrade

I'm always happy to see the functionality on the internet banks grow. The development is mainly driven by the urge of competition, but it has some positive side-effects: by introducing new services, the bank is forcing itself to clear things on their backyards. This is in the long-term interest of both the bank and the customer: this is why it is worth to bare with the maintenance downtime.

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