As many credit unions learned recently during Hurricane Sandy, disasters can happen. Especially in storm-prone coastal areas, it’s important for credit unions to have reliable back-up plans for their data should a weather-related catastrophe strike.
That’s exactly what the $4.7 billion VyStar Credit Union, in Jacksonville, Fla., made sure of in 2012. Working with the Blue Bell, Pa.-based technology company Unisys, which had partnered with the cooperative for a decade, VyStar moved its Unisys’ FIS MISER core banking system onto the vendor’s newer ClearPath Server. It also assigned a disaster recovery role to its existing production server, and implemented enterprise-wide automation, replication and storage functionality, according to Unisys.
“We weren’t in the optimal position to recover in an untimely situation,” said Paul Bement, vice president of information technology and operations for VyStar. “Being that we’re in an adverse weather zone, we needed to be prepared.”
VyStar had a disaster recovery program in place prior to beginning the project with Unisys, but it was a program that required manual intervention and presented too many opportunities for human error, according to Unisys. The credit union’s FIS MISER core banking system ran on a Unisys ClearPath Financial Services FS1800 server, while Unisys’ ClearPath Libra 185 system served as VyStar’s backup server.
Experiencing recent growth and facing a soon-to-expire support contract for the Libra 185 system, VyStar began making plans for a new, foolproof, automated solution that it could soundly trust in the event of a disaster, Unisys said.
The disaster recovery modernization plan consisted of four parts: first, move VyStar’s FIS MISER application to Unisys’ ClearPath Financial Services FS4190 server, and then, transition the FS1800 server into a disaster recovery position. Next, Unisys and Hopkinton, Mass.-based technology company EMC developed a disaster recovery replication environment using EMC’s RecoverPoint software and VNX storage solution.
Finally, to eliminate manual processes and automate the disaster recovery process, Unisys said it implemented SMA OpCon, enterprise automation software from Kingwood, Texas-based Software & Management Associates.
“It was an all-encompassing, automated solution,” Patricia White, partner relationship executive for Unisys’ North American channel and alliance partner team, said of the plan. “VyStar has been a loyal Unisys customer for years, and we were familiar with their environment and really able to listen to the issues they had.”
Bement said VyStar ran through the plan seamlessly and named two key success factors: completing a thorough testing process and working with a reliable, understanding vendor. The IT department conducted six mini-tests before running the project’s major test, which was operating the credit union off of the new disaster recovery environment for an entire business day.
“We couldn’t test enough,” Bement said. “Our efforts stretched across the entire IT department, and it was such a good exercise for my team.”
VyStar’s revamped disaster recovery environment led to several efficiency improvements. The amount of time it takes for the credit union to fail over operations to its disaster recovery server has been cut down by more than 75%, according to Bement. It will also use two-thirds fewer resources to perform an operational fail over, the credit union said. VyStar added that the new environment is scalable and allows plenty of room for future growth.
Terry West, president/CEO for VyStar, said the project allowed the credit union to fulfill its goal of staying current.
"We’ve been fortunate to not have had a major catastrophe yet, but we need to be prepared for any situation.”