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<p>GLENDALE, Calif. – No phone lines? Power out? That’s no problem for 1st City Savings FCU here. The credit union may be a bit ahead of its time, at least conceptually, in its usage of wireless Web modems as part of disaster recovery. 1st City Savings, recently highlighted in Wireless Week and the subject of a Sprint PCS customer case study, is getting noticed for its wireless ways of handling disaster recovery. It has Sprint PCS wireless Web modems installed on 10 laptops that are dispersed among business development staffers at its five branches in Los Angeles County. This wireless arsenal, coupled with a Virtual Private Network and encryption technology means the credit union can still serve members in a disaster as long as it can fire up its laptops. Put in use last April, the credit union has had to use the laptops in a disaster-like mode four times. “We’ve had phone lines cut, rolling blackouts. Just being here in Southern California there’s going to be problems. With the wireless modems our branches can still connect here to the main office,” said Nancy Bryant, CIO for the credit union. Bryant said wireless modems solve an important security issue of remote access. The credit union does not have to leave a modem port wide open on its system to allow employees to dial in. “We have a private third company handling Internet traffic. We specify with them what IP addresses can come in through the Internet, through the firewalls. Not having to have a modem port open in the system is a security plus,” said Bryant. 1st City chose Sprint, said Bryant, because their wireless modems have both TCP and IP functionality. “Most had the TCP, but not the IP,” said Bryant. She said this wireless functionality is especially important for 1st City because it drives its own ATMs. Certain employees are given pagers on off-hours so they can be reached if there’s a problem with the ATMs. Using the wireless modems from the laptops, employees can then dial in from anywhere and see what the problem is. “We had one staffer at a Laker game paged. He dialed in to our network with the laptop to verify what the problem was, then with a cell phone called Diebold to go out and fix our ATMs. Employees used to have to be around a land-line to verify the network,” said Bryant. Bryant said if the pluses of the wireless Web modems ended there she would be thrilled, but they now serve another vital function. The credit union takes them to remote sites such as car lots to do loans. In its first expedition, the credit union funded $200,000 in auto loans through applications taken on-site using the wireless Web-enabled laptops. On its second venture, it funded $500,000. “This has really opened things up. It doesn’t require a lot of IS. You don’t have to link landlines,” said Bryant. Bryant said for cost and ease-of-use wireless Web modems are something more CUs should look to for a variety of uses. The modems cost $250, with a $55 monthly charge. They can be plugged into any PCMCIA slot of a PC laptop. Right now there’s still one primary downside to the wireless Web modems – speed. “The new technology will be faster, but even if they have a slow connection, they still have a connection.” [email protected]</p>

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