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Terms of moving: what must be considered when evacuating a business
29 September 2015
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According to UN estimates, about 40,000 enterprises in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have stopped over the past year. Their owners were forced to evacuate from the area of hostilities leaving assets and stock behind. Almost 1,500 Donetsk companies, as well as little more than 500 Luhansk companies changed registration. One third of them settled in the capital, one tenth settled in the Dnipropetrovsk region, and the rest settled in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Vinnytsia regions. Also about 10,000 companies stopped their work in the Crimea. But only few entrepreneurs were able to evacuate equipment and personnel. Only those managed to do this, who did not hesitate to move. In the new places new shocks awaited them: restarting of production, regaining of market positions, indifference of the local authorities.

Last spring, the management of the First Ukrainian International Bank (FUIB) pondered on the transfer of their head office from Donetsk to Kyiv. The decision was made in May, after cases of branch robberies and attacks on cash collectors in the city become more frequent. No one could ensure the continuity of bank's operation in Donetsk. "And once any bank stops at least for a day, its customers line up for their money. This will stop the business," said Serhiy Chernenko, FUIB's Chairman of the Board.

Transfer of a powerful data center, which provided the performance of millions of bank transactions around the clock, to a new place, became one of the paramount tasks for the financiers. No one ever has carried out similar operations in Ukraine. Therefore, we could not rely on the experience of others. Both experts of the bank, as well as external IT consultants, have racked their brains on the question. Dismantling, transportation, connection, setting up of dozens of servers – all of this, according to their calculations, should have taken about half a year. The alternative option – to buy all the necessary equipment and set it up in the new place – would take about the same amount of time. "We understood that we might not have half a year, and set a deadline: to transport everything in a month," told Chernenko. The answer of IT specialists was categorical: it is impossible. But after a series of brainstormings they did develop the concept of step by step moving, which did not disturb the continuity of operation. Servers were dismantled in blocks, transported and connected to the banking network in the new place.

Migration of servers started in early June and resembled some spy chronicles. The equipment was transported by ordinary trucks. Bankers sought the safest routes: they watched news bulletins, found out, where there are no fighting and one can pass. Before the journey, the reliability of the route was checked. First, the car without the equipment set off; and if it passed, the truck with servers set off after it. There were cases when the route was changed while moving, if the hostilities began.

In early July, the data center was launched in Kyiv. Stoppage of its work amounted to a total of only 40 minutes in the night between Friday and Saturday. Additional debugging lasted for approximately a month. At the same time, FUIB transported other equipment as well: ATMs, POS terminals, furniture and tons of documentation. Chernenko estimated the total value of the load at 60 million hryvnia. The moving itself cost the bank 4 million hryvnia.

But the Chairman of the Board emphasizes that without people all of this "hardware" would be useless, as well as expenses for its evacuation. FUIB moved 650 people from the combat zone. It would be impossible to find such a number of qualified employees. 40 branches and a central office remained in the area of hostilities. Their cost is estimated at about 150 million hryvnia, which are still on the balance sheet of the bank. The financial institution started to transport cash from storages since the beginning of spring, after branches were robbed and ATMs were opened in Donetsk. However, we could not take out everything – we had to destroy about 7 million hryvnia. Due to the war, the bank lost about 20,000 individual clients and 1.5 billion hryvnia of credit resources with them.

Relocation costs can also include 51 million hryvnia, which FUIB spent on the purchase of a new set of equipment for the data center – in case they fail to transport the old one. On its basis, a backup data center will be created for unforeseen crises. Continuous operation is a matter of survival for any business. In particular, for the banking business.

According to Chernenko, FUIB was preparing to the turmoil in advance: "In our bank we have had a program of continuity of activity for a long time, and few years ago we calculated, how to behave, if, for example, an earthquake takes place or the office is mined".

You can read a full version of the article on the website of Fobes

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