EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Software as a service is helping Continental Federal Credit Union cut IT costs and keep its far-flung staff working together.
The $179 million CU is using the StreetSmart 7.0 solution from Tarzana-based InfoStreet to consolidate much of its individual network services into a single intranet site, including e-mail, calendars, directories, file sharing, a knowledge base and its intranet portal.
The decision to commit to the InfoStreet solution came as the El Segundo-based credit union was deciding whether to upgrade its existing Microsoft Exchange Server system.
"When we started putting budget numbers together, Exchange became a very costly service for us," said Don Nora, Continental FCU's vice president of technology and CIO. "Functionality also drove our decision."
Nora said the credit union began using StreetSmart in December. He expects to save $50,000 to $60,000 in the first year of using StreetSmart, which cost about $10,000. Hardware savings also should compound over time because server upgrades are not needed as soon, he said.
An organization the size of Continental FCU would need two servers to run Exchange Server, including the software, network and firewall and associated IT staff costs, but just one to run the Web-based StreetSmart suite, InfoStreet said.
Economics drove the decision, as well as functionality.
"One of my favorite things about it is being able to develop an interface within the application yourself," Nora said. "We're developing our own timesheet application, for instance."
InfoStreet also is open for suggestions.
"When clients ask for a service or feature, we put it in our workflow system," Siamak Farah said. "We then assign it 200 points each time a client asks for it. When it hits 1,000 points, we figure five people have asked for it, so it's probably something the market needs, and we go ahead and develop it."
A recent example of that was the addition of e-mail archiving, to help financial institutions meet compliance requirements.
While such software delivery is typically called an ASP (application service provider), Farah prefers "software as a service."
"An ASP really is associated with one function, while in our case we're actually developing all the applications as Web-based applications delivered by browser. We've been using the software-as-a-service model since our first release in 1997," he said. InfoStreet currently has about 100,000 licensed users, representing thousands of companies and other organizations. Only a handful are credit unions, but the InfoStreet CEO says that niche is becoming a new focus for product and market development.
"One area in which we do particularly well is serving those organizations where all the employees are not under one roof but are connected using centralized services," he said. "That's true of a lot of credit unions."
Continental FCU, with branches at airports in California, Texas, Arizona and New Jersey, fits that bill.
InfoStreet also offers its services purely online or through an appliance version that sits behind the client's firewall.
That's the option Nora chose for Continental.
"I want everything where I can see it," said the CU's CIO. "They download and run processes overnight and it's worked great for us with no issues.
"We have 65 users and I'm about to open it up to my board of directors so they can pull management reports and all that good stuff by directing them to just a local point of contact on the server," Nora said. "It's a wonderful thing." --firstname.lastname@example.org