Why the London Stock Exchange's digital infrastructure needs a backup - in Leeds

Adam Beaumont
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"A London-based trading exchange only needs to go down for half a day for it to hit the UK economy significantly" (Source: Getty)

We all have to prepare for the unexpected, with a Plan B to fall back on, and this isn’t just true for day-to-day life. It applies to the business world as well.

With that in mind, it’s worrying that the UK’s trading systems can be so exposed. Most of the global connectivity into UK trading systems relies on Internet infrastructure mostly located within a small radius of London. Most of the data passes through just a few main data centres in the City.

This is a huge exposure: A significant portion of UK internet traffic, including the London Stock Exchange and most other key UK financial infrastructure, passes via just a handful of buildings in London Docklands.

Let’s take a closer look at how the internet works in the UK. Businesses connect via internet service providers, which connect their networks into internet exchange points hosted in data centres. All customer traffic traverses these critical pinch-points.

The UK only has three of these critical standalone internet exchanges: two in London and one in Leeds. All financial infrastructure based in London has to traverse the two London centres.

We need an independent backup – and there’s a simple solution.

London-based internet exchanges tend to connect to the rest of the world via south-coast optic fibre cables. Leeds has the same model, except that those optic fibres leave the UK via the north east and north west coasts, in a separate route to those used by London-based operators.

In other words, Leeds has an internet infrastructure directly connected to the rest of the world, establishing London-independent connectivity for companies with a presence in Leeds.

As the threat of cyber attacks grows, London is likely to be increasingly compromised. A London-based trading exchange only needs to go down for half a day for it to hit the UK economy significantly.

Financial exchanges have previously tended not to have their backup situated geographically far from their main presence. The further away the backup is, the harder it is to keep both copies of the data perfectly synchronised. The transfer depends on the speed of light down a fibre, which, whilst fast, is finite. When you switch over to a backup location, there is a small risk of some data loss in those milliseconds.

But now that the risk of losing entire chunks of regional internet infrastructure is real, it’s important to have a geographically separate location for backup. Such as Leeds.

Leeds has been building a strong internet ecosystem and infrastructure over the past five years.

We can now connect to all worldwide markets via data connections that don’t have to pass through London-centric connectivity.

The message is simple: Increased financial infrastructure resilience from a digital perspective will make UK companies more resilient. This in turn will make the economy more stable.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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