Protecting your connection to members is vital in all situations, which may range from weather-related events to more common telecommunications issue, says Kirk Drake, CEO of Ongoing Operations, a CUNA Strategic Services provider. This credit union service organization provides business continuity services for credit unions.
Drake says members tend to be understanding about temporary disruptions due to a natural disaster affecting them at the same time it hits the credit union.
But when the problem hits at the point of demarcation or “demarc”—where the credit union’s telecommunications equipment connects with telephone carriers—members are less understanding because they are not experiencing the same disruption in their personal lives.
“We rarely have an event that impacts all credit unions, but about once a week we help handle an event that impacts one credit union,” Drake says.
Being ready for all types of disruptions is essential, Drake says. One credit union that recently lost power due to an electrical issue relocated its call center and some essential equipment to an Ongoing Operations site so members could stay in contact. Similar approaches have been used when credit unions’ ability to connect with members was disrupted by snowstorms and hurricanes.
Drake says the biggest mistake credit unions make when crafting a business continuity solution is assuming they know what would happen in a particular situation based on their own preferences and assumptions.
That can lead to vulnerabilities. For example, a credit union located in a tornado-prone zone might use a disaster recovery/back-up site in the same geographic area, which means one tornado could wipe out both sites.
“My advice is to hire an expert and let them tell you what happens in a disaster,” Drake says, “rather than trying to make that decision based on your perceptions.”
Genisys CU takes hybrid approach
Genisys Credit Union, Auburn Hills, Mich., is putting the finishing touches on a fully redundant, real-time backup data center in Grand Rapids, Mich., says Jackie Buchanan, CEO of the $1.45 billion asset credit union.
Buchanan notes that the new site is on the far side of the state and on a different power grid from Genisys’ primary data center. This will provide protection from natural disasters.
“This co-location will be connected to our multiprotocol label switching so in the event we lose our primary, all branch activity can be directed to the backup data center,” Buchanan explains. Genisys has also contracted with Co-op Member Center to provide back-up services for its call center.
The new solution replaces a real-time redundant system housed at a Genisys branch a few miles from the credit union’s primary data center, as well as a contract with an out-of-state, third-party provider for disaster recovery services.
Buchanan says Genisys went with a “hybrid approach” for co-location services that involves leasing rack space from its vendor and then bringing in the credit union’s own servers. The vendor provides the security, power, and other elements of a secure data center.
Relying on a partner that Genisys “knows and trusts” was important, Buchanan says, noting that members expect 100% uptime today.
“Find a partner that can keep your data secure,” Buchanan advises. “When developing your strategy, look at the big picture and how everything fits together, rather than one system at a time.”