Ongoing Operations, LLC Performs First Disaster Test, Drake Calls it a Success
HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- A little over one year since it was formed as a multi-owned business continuity CUSO by seven Mid-Atlantic credit unions to offer a turnkey solution for business continuity, Ongoing Operations, LLC held its first disaster test last month at its Hagerstown facility for charter member Northwest Federal Credit Union.
Despite revealing what were described as "minor information technology issues," Ongoing Operations President/CEO Kirk Drake considers the test successful.
Northwest FCU is one of the seven original investors in the CUSO. The other six include: Department of Labor FCU, HEW FCU, NIH FCU, Synergy One FCU, Transportation FCU, and Agriculture FCU.
Since Ongoing Operations was formed in March 2005, Fort Belvoir FCU and Quorum FCU have also come on as investors.
In addition to its nine investors, Ongoing Operations has 11 additional clients who are not investors.
Drake explained the purpose of the disaster test for NWFCU was to demonstrate that by dedicating key resources and pre-staging key items, a credit union could reduce its recovery time through the CUSO.
The credit union tested a combination of facilities, people, technology and processes. Drake said NWFCU developed a testing plan in advance and was able to execute on the testing plan, consequently proving their recovery strategies and procedures worked as planned.
Specifically, NWFCU simulated a disaster by telling its staff its main facility in Herndon, Va. was no longer accessible and they had to depend on Ongoing Operations' facility in Hagerstown. About 25 of NWFCU's staff, representing six departments, came to the CUSO's building used the computers in various cubicles and got to work on a day's worth of credit union business. Drake said the staff was doing transactions from Hagerstown by 9 a.m.
NWFCU President/CEO Juri Valdov said the test "provided valuable information for improving our business recovery processes. We look forward to expanding our tests within the next several months when we would post live transactions."
Drake explained the disaster test was fairly advanced in its testing of key technology systems as well as its involvement of a wide range of NWFCU personnel. Although the testing turned up several minor informational technology issues--one of the phones was unplugged, someone didn't know a password, or an access card didn't allow someone access to an area they needed access to --Drake said those problems were all resolved on-site.
One of the biggest challenges Drake has had to deal with in forming Ongoing Operations as a CUSO service provider is having to create a technology environment that supports multiple credit unions and multiple methodologies. "When solving problems for many credit unions, they can be four or five approaches that solve the same problem," he said. The Ongoing Operations facility provides three primary services: consulting services to create, maintain and support a full business continuity or disaster recovery program; infrastructure to support and fully replicate most credit unions' IT infrastructure and normal facilities; and key partnerships to enable full-blown business continuity so that the credit union remains operational during the disruption. To determine the best disaster recovery solution for a credit union, Ongoing Operations looks at the CU's environment and infrastructure and performs a business impact analysis that looks at the risks associated with every business process the credit union performs in four to five criteria.
"When we look at the aggregate data, we can tell the credit union what their financial risk will be if they're down for a certain number of days, which business process would cause them the most pain, and then make recommendations," Drake explained.
He added, "Fortunately we haven't had to implement any real disaster plans yet since none of our credit union investors or clients have declared a disaster."
All nine of Ongoing Operations' CU investors and clients are located in the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia area.
"As we grow and expand, I'm sure we'll hit an actual enactment," said the CUSO president.
Drake said plans are in the works to expand Ongoing Operations nationally. He said the CUSO can open other facilities where it can find five or six credit unions in a region that want to go in on it. The CUSO will do all the marketing and sales, and will be tied to the global network.
"Every credit union has to deal with disaster recovery, and most credit unions don't have the expertise to deal with that. It takes unique technical challenges, and credit unions have to be willing to take unique approaches than they have in the past," said Drake.
In the coming months, Drake will be focused on putting out a pricing guide that charges credit unions for disaster continuity or disaster recovery services based on the number of members in the credit union.
"It's a very different issue solving problems for 5,000-member credit unions than it is for credit unions with 40,000 members. We've come up with a pricing structure that's tiered for credit unions and charges by the member. Our new pricing guide will make our services affordable for any credit union, regardless of their size," said Drake, noting that of the CUSO's clients, 18-20 have more than $100 million in assets.