When a broker’s MT4 server is down, regardless of whether it is live or demo, the impact to the business can be more than significant. It’s not all about dollars either. Whilst financial losses can run into millions of dollars per minute for high-level data transaction businesses such as online brokerages and banks, the damage to reputation, customer retention, and overall confidence in a firm, can be much harder to repair. So, what is your reputation worth?
So why do we keep hearing about MT4 downtime, server freezes and price outages at forex brokers across the board?
- The first place to look would be at the datacenter and hosting provider. In an effort to save on hosting, many brokers contract with lower grade / second tier data centers and use cloud hosting to host their trading platforms. While costs are lower in taking this road, there are a several significant drawbacks:
– Redundancy and uptime standards are not up to the accepted standard of the financial industry, where round the clock availability and connectivity is required.
– Often, hosting vendors do not have direct access to the datacenter facilities (do not have their own cage) and, as a result, there may be two, three or even four intermediaries involved resulting in slower response times.
– Security: lower level hosting providers are not able to secure the network themselves and rely instead on intermediaries.
- Hosting of mission-critical MT4 server(s) on virtual machines. You cannot get the same performance out of virtual machine as you would on dedicated, physical hardware (also known as “bare metal“, or “a bare metal machine”). Yes, virtual may cost a fraction of the costs of physical but please bear in mind that your virtual machine shares resources with other businesses/servers and cannot compare in stability and reliability to an actual physical server. Once a business starts growing, FX brokers immediately begin to feel the pain of not being able to scale while using virtual machines.
- Underestimating network bandwidth: bandwidth is critical when working with a large number of users, multiple instruments that necessitate constant price streams (derived from various locations around the globe), and transactions that need to be transmitted across the oceans in milliseconds. The hosting packages that come with a very attractive price point usually have the lowest bandwidth allocation, leading to outages, latency and an inability to scale down the road.
- Working with hosting providers who do not understand the FX business: maybe it’s ok for some businesses to have their website down once in a while each month, but that’s a big no-no for someone running an online FX brokerage operation. You will need your key vendor to understand just how critical system uptime is to your business.
- Using amateur MT4 support firms: there are a number of companies that claim to provide MT4 support or an MT4 service desk. Most of the time, however, the staff is poorly trained and overstretched between multiple clients and lacks the necessary technical background, expertise and relevant experience. Remember, you tend to get what you pay for! Talented and experienced MT4 support desks come at a price.
- Lack of monitoring: many brokers are under the impression that once everything is set up on their MT4, the server will just run on its own. That’s just like not changing the oil in your car – at some point the engine will start failing. Automated monitoring apps combined with dynamic alerts and human oversight are a must.
- Not having backups, regular backup drills and a robust disaster recovery plan: needless to say, having a backup server is your ultimate insurance policy. It’s also best to have this in a different datacenter and in a different geographical location.
- Using plugins from unreliable sources or having too many plugins on the server. Plugins, that are not coded properly, are often the major cause of MT4 server freezes & crashes due to memory leaks and incompatibility issues with other software running on the MT4. There are hundreds of plugins available for MT4 servers, however, only a dozen of them are truly reliable and include the latest MT4 and MT4 API updates.
I can go on and on with this list, but hopefully you get the idea. You need to have a professional partner that you can always rely on. One that’s located in a reputable financial datacenter (disregard sales pitches where it’s across the street from the reputable datacenter). Communication is another key point that I haven’t touched upon, but it’s a critical piece of the puzzle. Outages happen with even the biggest and the best of us, (Amazon and Twitter are recent examples) but how the hosting vendor communicates to the brokerage and how the brokerage then communicates with its clients, tells the market about just how prepared the broker is to handle the unexpected. Providing timely updates and outage reports is a must and key to client confidence.